Life of Belle (2024) Movie Review - Surprisingly Watchable Found Footage Horror

Horror | 72 Min
Life Of Belle (2024) Horror Movie Review
  • Director: Shawn Robinson
  • Actors: Sarah Mae Robinson, Matthew Robinson, Syrenne Robinson, Zachary Robinson
  • Writers: Shawn Robinson
  • Country: United States
  • Language: English
  • Parental: Distressing Scenes
  • Horror | 72 Min

On July 18th 2018 Annabelle Starnes went missing. What was found in the home would shock this small town of South Carolina.

Welcome to Knockout Horror and to another horror movie review. I haven’t actually reviewed anything for awhile. I really don’t see the point adding my two cents about popular, well known, horror movies as who the hell is going to see it? I prefer to talk about low budget movies that are less well known. That brings us to today’s movie, Life of Belle from 2024.

Before we begin, if you have already watched this movie and need the ending explained. Check out our Life of Belle Horror Ending Explained article right here. Be warned, unlike this review, the ending explained article does contain spoilers.

I’m going to start off by addressing the title of this article. I know that might sound a little condescending – “Surprisingly Watchable Found Footage Horror”. But context is important here. So many of the low budget found footage stuff doing the rounds over the past 15 to 20 years has been utter garbage. And when I say utter garbage, what I really mean is that they are almost insulting to the viewer.

Movies like Something Walks in the Woods and The Sleepless Unrest take massive liberties with the viewer’s time and patience. Dragging them, ball sack first, through a proverbial thorny bush of poor filmmaking and even worse storytelling. Demanding that they sit there and smile while they weave a tale with no beginning, no middle, and no end. It almost defies belief how little effort some of these found footage horror makers put into their films. And I say that as a found footage horror fan.

But There is Hope

It is not all doom and gloom, though, despite how it may seem. Every now and then, a micro budget found footage horror movie comes along and legitimately surprises you. Lexi is one of those movies, The Andy Baker Tape is another. It is just so easy to tar all of these films with the same brush. So when one appears that is genuinely watchable and easy to enjoy. It’s a pleasant surprise.

Life of Belle is one of those movies. Distributed by Terror Films completely free on their YouTube channel. I have to admit to a tiny bit of trepidation when I saw that logo. The only other film I recall seeing the Terror Films logo on was The Death of April. A movie I really didn’t enjoy but I honestly didn’t need to worry. Life of Belle is a significant step above The Death of April.

Life Of Belle (2024) Horror Movie Review

It follows the story of the disappearance of a young girl. The movie kicks off with the police arriving at an apparent suburban residence in the wake of a horrific crime. Multiple family members are deceased and a child is missing. We then witness the events leading up to the tragedy through the medium of surveillance cameras located around the house and home videos made by the family.

Pretty Familiar Stuff

It is a pretty recognisable setup. You have seen it all before and it is impossible not to think of some of the Paranormal Activity movies when watching. The film, primarily, focuses on the, supposed, mental decline of the matriarch of the family. We see her struggling with everyday life and eventually declining to the point of having conversations with, seemingly, imaginary people.

The children’s father has left the house on a work trip but he appears to be keeping tabs on the goings on through the cameras. He is aware of something untoward taking place and it is hinted to us that the mother has suffered from some form of mental illness in the past and should be taking medication regularly. 

Life Of Belle (2024) Horror Movie Review

So, again, it is all pretty familiar and not exactly original. But we have logical reasons for why the cameras exist as the father wants to watch his children when he is away from home. And we have some pre-existing factors to create a degree of uncertainty when it comes to the strange things taking place. 

Why It Works?

The thing that makes Life of Belle different from so many of these micro budget found footage horror movies is the commitment to presenting a believable, realistic, scenario. There’s nothing too ridiculous going on. There’s no Ouija boards catching fire or characters floating above their beds. It’s all quite believable and fairly restrained.

Life Of Belle (2024) Horror Movie Review

Much of the events are seen through the lens of our child stars of the show Belle and Link. Something which works tremendously well to pull the viewer into the role of a concerned onlooker. Nobody wants to see anything bad happen to children and Belle and Link are just so damn good that it is incredibly easy to buy in. You worry for them and feel tremendously sorry for the situation they have found themselves in. 

Belle and Link are care free, easy going and, clearly, happy children. So to see their lives turned upside down while one of the people they love the most is falling apart is incredibly effective. The whole thing plays out like a believable portrayal of a true crime case and that makes it much easier to buy in. Which brings us on to our next point.

It’s a Family Affair

Much of the chemistry here can be attributed to the fact that the actors are part of the same family. I can’t find concrete details but I can only assume this is an actual mother, father, daughter, son team. With the mother being played by Sarah Mae Robinson, the father by Matthew Robinson and the children by Syrenne Robinson and Zachary Robinson.

Life Of Belle (2024) Horror Movie Review

Life of Belle is, also, directed by Shawn Robinson so, likely, another family member. This really offers up a unique air of legitimacy to the family setting and a sense of real comfort that helps you to buy into the story taking place.

I’d point to the brilliant Exhibit A as another example of a micro budget found footage horror centred on family turmoil. Though Life of Belle doesn’t quite manage to hit some of the same heights as Exhibit A it is genuinely disturbing in parts. Thanks largely, in part, to the feeling that this is something happening to a real family and two utterly likable children are the victims.

The kids, Syrenne and Zacharay, are fantastic. Without question, two of the most natural performances I have seen from children in a horror movie. Much of this can, likely, be attributed to the family setting and the fun atmosphere created by their parents and director when making the movie. But even scenes where the kids are simply playing together or filming videos for Belle’s vlog feel extremely organic.

It’s great stuff and harkens back to the recent Skinamarink in a lot of ways. They really manage to turn it on when scared, as well, which is commendable given the situation. Special nod to the director for the children’s height camera shots and lighting. Placing the viewer, effectively, into the shoes of the children. Sarah Mae Robinson does a nice job too but how natural the kids are makes her performance fade into the background somewhat.

Obviously Not Perfect

This is starting to sound a little bit like one of those paid reviews you read on IMDB and that is not my intention. I just think it is important to give praise where praise is due. Especially when it comes to a genre that is polluted by low effort crap. But I thought Life of Belle was a legitimately decent film. There are issues, though.

I am not sure whether you can class the movie as “scary”. There are scenes depicted from the perspective of the children that are quite effective. But there are no real high points outside of one particularly nice jump scare facilitated by some clever camera placement. It is generally quite uneventful and lacking in chills.

Life Of Belle (2024) Horror Movie Review

The movie moves slowly in much the same way as Paranormal Activity, and the like, but with less reason to watch the background. The plot is fairly derivative, let’s be honest. And the use of infrasound was a little overdone. Leading to a distinct sense that the movie is not so much inspired by Paranormal Activity as just completely copying from it.

The ending is going to piss people off, as well. I can guarantee that. It’s one of those endings that’s not exactly ambiguous but raises enough questions to frustrate viewers. It is incredibly common to end horror movies like this and it almost never works. Critics don’t mind but viewers often take exception to it. Something which can provoke a bit of resentment. Especially if the movie is rather slow moving.

Should You Watch Life of Belle?

I genuinely think that you should, just go into it with an open mind and an awareness of what type of movie this is. Context is so important here. I always point this out when reviewing low budget movies. It would be easy to look at the score here and compare it to a big budget horror that I have afforded the same score and ask “what’s the deal?”. I don’t review in a vacuum. I am comparing high budget horror to high budget horror and, what is essentially, DIY horror movies to other DIY horror movies.

It would be fruitless to compare Life of Belle to something like The Descent. Their scores are similar but the context is important. We are comparing Life of Belle to other low budget movies. Things like Reset, Lexi and Death of a Vlogger. Don’t expect the next Paranormal Activity that will break the box office. Simply expect a legitimately decent, DIY, horror.

With that in mind, Life of Belle is a genuinely enjoyable, micro budget, found footage horror movie that actually surprised me. The family dynamic is utterly believable, the kids are fantastic, the story is effective enough to remain interesting and director Shawn Robinson never tries to do too much. Forgoing overt eccentricities and, instead, opting to craft a realistic portrayal of family turmoil that feels authentic and, at times, fairly disturbing. It has its flaws but it would be ridiculous to expect any different. I think this is a movie worth checking out for anyone who appreciates do it yourself horror.

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