Directed by: Oren Peli
Written by: Christopher Denham; Oren Peli
Released: 2015, Paramount Pictures/ Paramount Insurge
Reid Warner as Reid
Darrin Bragg as Darrin
Ben Rovner as Ben
Jelena Nik as Jelena
Immediately, I was pretty pumped about this. A found-footage film with aliens?? Sign me up twice! Write an ok script with some alright acting and some rad alien jump scares. Sounds easy enough. This film has these things…but for me, it misses the mark. In all honesty, most found-footage films miss the mark these days. Mostly, they just make me appreciate The Blair Witch Project more. That being said, this film crash landed in my living room, so let’s dissect what’s inside
The Back Story
I ran across the trailer for this back in April. I’ve been a fan of some of Peli’s work. Mostly just the first installment of the Paranormal Activity franchise (the only other film he’s directed) and the television mini-series The River he created had promise. But most of my fan-dom comes from his ability to throw money at fantastic movies, namely the Insidious films and The Lords of Salem. That’s right, I said it…The Lords of Salem is amazing. It’s beyond artistic and looks so damn amazing! But that’s not what we’re here for. Area 51. Hmmm. Armed with a budget of $5 million, Oren set out to make his sophomore film.
The film opens with three friends, Reid, Darrin and Ben, getting crunk at a house party, complete with shots, beer pong, skinny dipping, bad game and an exciting 3 seconds of karaoke. After a few bars of 8-mile-esque freestyle, the house goes black. When the lights come back on, Reid is gone. We catch a glimpse of him in the woods behind the house and then finally reappears in the middle of the road as Darrin and Ben drive home.
Cut to 3 months later. Reid is now obsessed with aliens and has planned a mission to break into Area 51. He has convinced his 2 pals to tag along and is armed to the teeth with breaking into restricted government army base gadgets. The 3 take off on a road trip to Vegas to meet Jelena, a girl who’s father worked at area 51, then “killed himself” after he was fired. She, also, has to know what’s going on there and ends up meeting up with them when they get there.
These 3 guys go through quite a bit in order to get onto the base. Breaking and entering, meeting up with some “experts” and talking to a lot of locals that claim to have seen ufos. And even more narrow escapes. They literally make it look a little too easy to get into one of America’s biggest “secrets”. Not to mention that this Reid kid must be loaded to have access to these devices he’s brought with him.
Once inside, they progressively make their way down; a mile underground. This is said to be where the actual base is and everything above ground is all a cover. Their main objective is S4, a level of the base where the true holy shit stuff is held. Easily thwarting security guards and workers, Reid, Darrin and Jelena make it to S4, but stuff begins going sour. Finally discovered after running around this top secret base for 2 hours, Darrin makes a break for an escape while the other 2 push forward. Turns out…Ben is the only smart one as he opts to stay at the car…but it ends up not mattering. The climax is done well. Some creepy scenes and some really well done effects help push this film back from the edge of just terrible.
The found footage sub-genre has steadily been on the rise in quantity, but the decline in general terror. Don’t get me wrong, there are still some very terrifying found footage movies being released, but it seems like a low ratio of great compared to forgettable. This film has its moments, but ultimately falls into the latter. I, personally, didn’t care for any of the characters whatsoever. I wanted to. I tried to jump on the Reid, Darrin and Ben train. I couldn’t. Still…to this very second, I can’t wrap my head around just how easily it was for these twenty-somethings to wander around this base. It took some clever work to get in, but just some ducking and running once inside. I don’t know. Call me nit-picky, but it threw me for a loop. Like I said earlier, there are some pretty amazing special effects in the finale. Big ups to Nick DeRosa, Chris Hampton and Bryan Smith. Oren as well, for that matter. Also, some pretty great acting happening in some scenes from Warner, Bragg, Rovner and Nik. Just not all the way through. In my opinion, check it out if you’re a completist. If not, watch Digging Up the Marrow. Yeah…I said it.
My Rating: 3/10