There a few events in recent history that have clearly influenced what we find scary. This is in turn has re-directed our beloved filmmakers to set their sites on our panic button. The events of September 11th, 2001, the tragedy at Columbine High School, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. We’ve got emotional baggage out the wazoo. We’ve got plenty to be scared of. That’s why we love horror movies, right? Because they help us deal with latent fears that our conscious minds aren’t willing to handle, can’t handle or don’t know that they need to handle. Well, Chronicle is an example of Hollywood understanding just what scares us, turning on the societal EEG and going to town on what makes us tick, un-tick and afraid to tick. It gets it right. I’m strongly suggesting that you see this movie especially if you have kids, were one of the falsely accused potential Columbine kids post-shooting or, if you haven’t been inundated with that documentary Bully yet, this might be a nice choice to discuss social interaction between peers.
Abused, outcast Andrew Detmer has taken up a new hobby, recording every moment of his daily life with and outdated VHS camcorder. As he struggles to find his place among his peers, he, by chance, finds himself the cameraman to a very strange phenomenon underground. A luminescent rock formation underground that generates vibrations and sound has piqued the interest of his cousin and a fellow student. When they explore further the rock formation knocks them out, destroys the camera and leaves them a little different; each one of them now has a telekinetic abilities. Armed with a new camera this group of teenage boys attempts to understand this new found ability/gift… if it is in fact a gift.
The phenomenon that creates this telekinetic ability in these young men represents absolute power, and we all know that “absolute power corrupts absolutely”. What happens when an abused youth is offered an endless wealth of power? Well isn’t that why we fear our children? One day they’ll rule the world. They’ll have the power. More than that this is a story of the cycle of abuse. Not just of the telekinetic abilities afforded by said rock formation, but how the victim of abuse can easily become the abuser. Great, now I ruined the fun horror flick with the neat-o special effects by making it seems all super serious. Everything I say here is pretty true, but that’s only one side of the coin. The reason that Chronicle works, the reason that I enjoy it so much is because it does place a value of a moral lesson while entertaining.
Ya’ll know how much I love CGI. I adore it. It’s just my favorite. I love when blood looks well polished like the effects guys used Pledge and Windex on it along with their Karo concoction. I can assure you CGI-haters that this film uses CGI intelligently and in place of practical effects in a way that makes sense. There are things action sequences that simply could not be performed in an affordable way in this picture. There are effects that might never be obtainable in a practical environment. This is precisely where computers can aid a film production and used properly. Thanks Josh Trank for making the right call at the helm of this production.
There’s been a great deal of discussion concerning the unique use of “found footage” style photography in Chronicle. We can all agree (can’t we) that this shooting style is burning out and fast. This production did take a novel approach to the style, but every so often you get that vibe… you know the one. “Why do they have to film everything?” “Maybe they should put the damn camera down already.” That feeling isn’t overly obtrusive, but it was sitting in the back of my mind. This might be my own prejudice against the style although I’m happy to see that indy folks have caught on to the craze and have started modifying the style to be more intelligently infused into their productions rather than being overly [insert your favorite modern found footage flick here]. If we’re getting a sequel and the filmmaker try to capitalize on the success of the use of this style get ready for a disappointed Doctor.
Beyond the social implication with which I started this review, there’s excellent “camaraderie” with early films about Telekinesis. Every nose bleed made me think of the movie Firestarter. Remember when Andy McGee would use his psychic powers. The guy was always blotting his nose with a tissue. This same “trick” is carried over into Chronicle. Some of the vengeful, angsty moments had me putting our lead in a prom dress and calling him Carrie White. That is not hate that you find underneath my words. Intentional or not, the parallels are there. It’s as Trunk was helping to create a mythology or lore around telekinesis much in the same way that we have vampire or werewolf lore. He turns the individual with telekinesis into a new breed of monster; beyond the Universal stereotype. It’s less homage and more compiling a list of common attributes of the psychic in the modern revisionist, horror screenwriter’s repertoire.
So pay attention to the social commentary, enjoy the special effects and stay for the story. It’s a short one (only about 80 minutes if my DVD counter was correct) so if you dislike it, you won’t have to sit through much. What it’s not? It’s not the psychic version of Twilight or the Hunger Games. It’s not just for teenie boppers going through puberty and it’s not just for the sci-fi horror geeks. Sure they’ll like it the best, but Chronicle is a well done movie. Non-Horror fan approved.
Chronicle is hitting DVD and Blu-Ray May 15th. That’s coming up fast kiddies, so get your pre-orders fingers moving and make sure to enjoy this before a sequel ruins it (bite my tongue).