It appears like the “found footage” gimmick have really picked up since the days of “The Blair Witch Project”. Not really sure what brought this on; I mean it took them a little longer to really pick up on this (“Blair Witch” was released in the late 90’s), so I guess the box-office successes of the original “Paranormal Activity” and the Spanish intensely fantastic horror hit “[REC]” has a lot to do with it. Be that as it may, while some films succeeded with the ‘documentary’ -POV style cinematography most especially in the horror genre, most movies fail.
I like low budget independent horror films because they usually have no choice but to be more creative and focused in what they need to do. Directors/co-writers Dale Fabrigar and Everette Wallin film “Area 407” (also titled "Tape 407") tries to do some low-budget horror filmmaking and try to achieve something that we’ve come to call as a ‘sleeper hit’. I guess the ‘found footage’ thing has become the best way to make a quick buck.
The film brings a group of people who come into a very bad situation. The film begins with two sisters Trish and Jessie (Abigail Schrader and Samantha Lester) boarding a plane to Los Angeles after a Christmas vacation in New York. It is New Year’s eve, and everyone is either eager to get home, or in a bad mood for some reason. Well things are about to be much more complicated as the plane crashes in a very remote unknown area in between New York and L.A.. Trish and Jessie find themselves around the wreckage of their plane with only a few survivors left (James Lyons, Brendan Patrick Connor, Ken Garcia included). Flight attendant Lois (Samantha Sloyan) and air marshal Laura Hawkins (Melanie Lyons) do their best to keep everyone calm, but once they come under attack by huge monstrous creatures, all they can do is try to keep things together to survive the night.
Movies with the hand-held camera style of cinematography can be a little challenging. If one makes it too smooth with no cuts in what you see, it gets a little silly. Then, if one makes it too rough and dirty then it can get really annoying. The direction in “Area 407” does have the right idea, but then it misses on several things that could’ve made the movie much more effective in generating suspense and credible scares. The direction uses two handhelds this time, with Jimmy and Jessie’s cameras; sure, they were necessary at first since they were their source of light. But there is something that just does not fit in the film. I mean, when I watch this type of movies, I usually try to find some point where I can relate as to why shooting the experience would be necessary and wonder up to what point should one stop shooting what is being seen. I am not sure, the style is very rough when it did not need to be and it gets smooth when it does not need to be. The way it is edited wasn’t able to give me that feeling of realism and I felt that I was watching a movie even though the cinematography suggests that it is ‘found footage’.
The characters in the film are pretty much the standard ones we find in a low budget film such as this. There is the panicky dude, the cool dude and the sisters who were supposed to be the main protagonists were incredibly dull and annoying. The only character that proved interesting was that of the air marshal (played by Melanie Lyons) as she was the strong female type of deal. Melanie Lyons, James Lyons and Brendan Patrick Connor were decent with their roles, but the rest of the cast were obviously ‘acting’ for the camera.
The plot is pretty simple and the script was nearly your usual ‘play by play’. The group flee from one spot to the next, trying to establish a safe point, and the rest is all about bad decisions and stupidity to make them fall one by one. As a viewer, you can pretty much tell that there was no way that this was going to end well. The first half of the film was effective in bringing some feeling of claustrophobia but it all becomes rather monotonous and redundant after they flee one spot. There were some revelations around its way, but none of them were used to expand on its premise.
The budget may have really hampered the success of the film. I’ve seen several footages of plane crashes and the plane crash here is a little too neat. I mean, sure the survivors had some wounds and they were bleeding, but where are the flames? I mean, jet fuel burns for a long time. The creature effects were your practical effects (puppets) and I usually love this kind of shit, and besides the showing of teeth, several of the creature shots looked like they were cut from card-board with very little dimensions added to them. The direction knew he had a shoe-string budget and so he shoots the scenes under the cover of darkness to try to make the scenes a little more scarier. They had the right idea, I mean an unseen assailant can do wonders, but the limitations of the script just could not pull it off.
“Area 407” is obviously a film about a government conspiracy (as the title suggests) and this is the kind of film that would leave a lot of questions unanswered. But I am not sure, there are questions to be left hanging, and there is also something to be said for a flimsy plot. This is flimsy plotting. There is nothing much that happens here, and all it served is a bunch of people running around and making bad decisions. The final act does reveal that there is something much more sinister at work, and it made sense why there was no rescue crew to be seen in the movie. But why would they crash in a restricted air space to begin with? I guess a large suspension of disbelief is needed to buy into a film like this, and I just didn't buy it. It feels more like a cop out to me. Good idea, bad execution.
* out of **** I'll never understand what IFC Films sees in half the films they help distribute; especially the films that are a part of their IFC Midnight sub-chain, which specializes mostly in horror movies or movies of a darker nature in general. Once in a while, they'll help get a pretty good or even great genre flick out there but that feels like merely once in a blue moon. Most of the time, they're either assisting Tom Six in spreading his cinematic hate-letters (and … more
At the risk of tooting my own horn, I’m comfortable admitting that I’m far more forgiving of these “found footage” films than most reviewers. I’ve no problem saying that I’ve enjoyed the PARANORMAL ACTIVITY franchise, even find them modestly creative in their own way. Also, that APOLLO 18 flick wasn’t all that much a failure, certainly not so much as the critics would have you believe. And, yeah, even THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT had some solid … more