Monday, July 30, 2012

Horror Film Review

Chronicle (2012):  There weren't many things about this movie that didn't piss me off.  I know...not really a horror flick, but audiences and critics loved it, so it's gotta be awesome, right?  I mean, sci-fi thrillers are my favorite after horror.  How could it not kick ass?  Oh, let me count the ways. 

Three high school kids discover a sink hole and decide it's a good idea to investigate.  Booze may have influenced that decision.  Andrew (Dane DeHaan), who looks disturbingly like Leonardo DiCaprio, is abused at home and bullied at school and for reasons not explained, has started video taping his life.  Yes, the whole film is in the mockumentary style.  It's essentially Andrew's "chronicle."  Andrew's cousin and only friend, Matt (Alex Russell), is one of the cool kids.  And Steve (Michael B. Jordan) is the consummate politician who's running for student body president.  Andrew reluctantly follows Steve and Matt into the hole.  They discover a big glowing...thing.  Steve touches it, the camera goes wonky, then goes black.  Next, we see the three guys in a backyard making a baseball levitate.  After that, Legos.  Soon, they graduate to playing pranks using their new telekinetic abilities.  Steve discovers they can fly so then they're off playing football a few thousand feet up.  Steve also turns Andrew popular via a clever talent show skit.  But after an embarrassing encounter in which he was to lose his virginity, Andrew pulls away and starts brooding...and convincing himself his powers are proof he's an apex predator.  When his sick mother needs meds they can't afford, Andrew dons his asshole father's old firefighter garb and tries robbing people.  A mishap at a gas station involving a pissed off owner, a shotgun, and a fireball lands the fledgling thief in a coma.  His dad visits, informs him his mom has died, and then proceeds to blame it all on him.  Andrew wakes up, snaps, and we're off to the races.  Think Godzilla and Tokyo.  And the only one who can stop him, of course, is Matt.

I think the filmmakers were shooting for realism here, how real kids would act if suddenly empowered with these abilities.  They failed.  First of all, there is not one mention of any comic book superhero.  You know somebody would at least bring up Superman if not, more likely, the X-Men.  If this happened to a real high school kid, he'd be out shopping for colorful spandex and a mask the day after.  And would high school seniors sit around playing with Legos?  I mean, really.

Chronicle was meant to fresh and different.  The mockumentary style peaked with Cloverfield a few years ago, and the content is about as new as a Greek tragedy.  Up until the final, and, admittedly, impressive battle sequence, it's pretty boring.  A few more dollars and the traditional shooting style and this could have been, well, super.


Acting:  Most of the performances are simply annoying.  DeHaan isn't bad as the moody and damaged teen but by the climax, he's chewing on the scenery like Jack Nicholson in Batman.
Story:  Pick a comic book, any comic book.
Direction:  Like they read every other page of  Mockumentary Direction for Dummies.
Production Values:  I guarantee the majority of the $12 million budget was spent on the climax scene.  The rest isn't cheap-looking or anything, just...ordinary. 
Gore/FX:  The CGI in the big fight is very well done.  The flying effects...not so much.  There is blood, mostly from noses, and an unpleasant scene where Andrew gets revenge on a bully.  Let's just say the tooth fairy would have been busy. 
Scares:  There is a jump or two, strangely enough, but they're cheap "gotcha" jumps and in my opinion, don't count.
Ending:  Predictable and very Hollywood.  I'm pretty sure my eyes rolled.
Verdict:  Should you see Chronicle?  If you're still into mockumentaries and like depressing morality tales, then sure.  In all good conscience, I can't call it a bad movie.  But I can say I didn't like it.

Rating:  3 out of 5

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