Super Scary

By Carl Kozlowski

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Posted February 9, 2012 in Film

Ever since The Blair Witch Project blasted into the American moviegoer consciousness in 1999, en route to a $150-million gross built upon a mere $30,000 budget, the genre of “found footage” films has provided some pretty inventive scares. And with the smash success of the Paranormal Activity series, these films are hotter than ever, although one might argue it’s time for a twist on the shaky-handheld-camera genre.

That twist has come via Chronicle, which so impressed filmgoers last week that it took the top spot at the box office with a big $22-million gross, despite having literally no stars in it. The story depicts what happens when three teenage boys outside of Seattle stumble across a gaping hole in the ground that emits disturbing noises and contains what appears to be a spaceship composed of brightly-lit crystals, and then eagerly jump in and absorb the powers it seems to confer upon them.

The lead boy, Andrew (Dane DeHaan), has recently bought an old video camera in order to scare his alcoholic father off from abusing him. Soon he’s taking it everywhere, documenting the cruelty he suffers from most of the student population at his high school as well. This is before he follows the other two guys—his cousin Matt (Alex Russell) and student body president Steve (Michael B. Jordan)—into the hole and films the strange lights within.

The next day, the trio discovers they have the ability to bend physics, space and time to their will. They start off playing goofy pranks on each other before realizing their powers seem to know no bounds, at which point they’re soaring through the skies at the same speed and height as jet planes.

But as Spider-Man learned, with great power comes great responsibility. And so it is that we soon see the disturbed Andrew abusing his powers in an ever more sinister fashion. Forcing a truck to slide off the road in a rainstorm, telepathically ripping the teeth out of a bully and smacking his dad into a wall are just the beginning—and writer Max Landis and director Josh Trank have great fun making Seattle blow apart at the seams.

Chronicle digs deeper than it has to, creating a timely and empathetic warning about teen bullying and its consequences, while providing an apt metaphor for the kind of heartache and frustration that drive some teens to the kind of madness perpetrated at Columbine. That combination of genuine emotion, coupled with unpredictable thrills and sheer excitement, makes this a film that could easily ride a wave of positive word-of-mouth and lead its trio of actors to star status.

Chronicle blends charismatic yet realistic lead performances with mostly impressive effects and a strong sense of the pull between good and evil to create a film that will prove popular, now and for years to come, rather than having to be “found” as a lost relic of its time.


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