In the wake of The Blair Witch Project, found-footage horror has become a go-to for filmmakers with ideas as grand as their budget is small. The shaky, lo-fi approach to filmmaking is beginning to show signs of wear. Mehran C. Torgoley, along with his co-writer, producer, and star Llana Barron, don’t necessarily revive the fledging sub-genre with Curse of Aurore but inject it with enough charm, wit, and creepy moments to keep it from perishing entirely.
Similarly to Blair Witch or Paranormal Activity, not a lot happens until the finale – I’m talkin’, the last 10-15 minutes – that some will find shocking, while others may deem abrupt and preposterous. Real-life YouTube personality Casey Nolan unravels mystery boxes from the Dark Web, all of which contain disturbing things, like matted child’s hair or a doll with a USB drive. He plugs the latter into a laptop, therein revealing to us the film’s plot.
Kleptomaniac Kevin (Jordan Kaplan) and lovelorn Aaron (Lex Wilson) accompany recently-injured Lena (Barron) to rural Quebec. They’re aspiring filmmakers, eager to make it in the harsh industry. They think that the local legend of Aurore, a girl abused and murdered by her parents in 1920, might be their ticket to fame. Locals meet them with harsh glances and scowls. It’s freezing-cold. But our heroes are not fazed, cracking jokes and proceeding with their investigation.
The trio crashes at Lena’s relatives’ house. They smoke pot and brainstorm. They visit the local church and cemetery, where Aurore’s tombstone is almost entirely covered by toys, left by residents. They go to the house where she died. In the meantime, the neighbors keep lining up eerily for some sort of secret gathering on a nightly basis. Our heroes find out about human sacrifices, observe haunted street lights, witness reflections of spectral faces in tombstones, get spooked by rotating crosses, and attend a final, Grand Guignol séance.
“…aspiring filmmakers…think that the local legend of Aurore…might be their ticket to fame.”
Despite warnings of disturbing material and the Dark Web connotations, Curse of Aurore is pretty tame when it comes to gore or overt shocks. Torgoley favors building an atmosphere of dread, which would be commendable if he actually succeeded at it. Aside from intermittent moments of suspense, when your eyes frantically search for things that lurk and appear in reflections and shadows (the most effective being a face in a distant mirror early on), what the movie really amounts to is a moderately engaging pseudo-documentary, bolstered by the lived-in chemistry of its three leads. There’s no feeling of impending doom or rapid-fire momentum.
What I found most intriguing is the meta nature of the story. It’s based on the real Aurore Gagnon, tortured to death by her step-mother and father. Reality and fantasy blur as our crew films her grave, house, and relatives. The framing device – a YouTuber showing unfinished footage of a movie – though slightly forced, further accentuates that muddying of fact and fiction.
The shaky cam, natural lighting, and the improvised dialogue all come hand-in-hand with a found-footage film. Torgoley could have toned down on the constant glitchy interruptions, as if some celestial force were messing with the pixels. But his earnest, infectious enthusiasm, along with the game cast and surprising moments of humor, elevate Curse of Aurore above all the other clones, if slightly. “Keep filming!” Kevin screams hilariously at one point, as demonic forces are carving evil messages into his belly. Now that’s commitment.
"…pretty tame when it comes to gore or overt shocks."