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 inspiration behind its formula to recreate an episode of ‘The Twilight Zone’ on a very low budget. And as much as I wanted to give AREA_407 kudos for bringing that unique ‘found footage’ perspective into monster and/or science fiction, I really wish someone would’ve showed these filmmakers how to use a tripod or a track mount for much of it.
See, AREA_407 – for all its strengths – I found very difficult to watch. The camera’s constant bobbing and weaving and shaking and climbing and arcing and dropping became nauseating by the second half. At 90 minutes, that’s a bit too long for the average viewer to stomach without a healthy dose of Dramamine to tide him over. The chief problem – unlike some of the other forays into ‘found footage’ – is that quite a bit of AREA_407 takes place at night, in very confined settings, and under the tightly focused spotlight beam on a video camera. You don’t have anything to look away at, to momentarily refocus your field of vision, and, as a result, you’re forced to concentrate on a screen too intently for too long a time.
After boarding a plane on New Year’s Eve, two sisters begin videotaping their encounters with fellow passengers. It doesn’t take long for the audience to realize that this plane is going down. Once on the ground (and for reasons that really defy storytelling logic), the girls continue videotaping their continuing attempts to frustrate those bruised and bloodied around them by capturing it all on videotape. And, once it becomes clear that they’re being hunted one-by-one for what would appear to be dinner by some monster, they still maintain the presence of mind to keep videotaping it all, each and every painful second. Now, I realize some could make the argument that the girls didn’t know the video camera was on – that maybe they were only using it for the light – but the problem that they keep admitting to videotaping EVERYTHING debunks that argument.
And that’s what’s a shame about AREA_407: I really WANTED to love it. Not only does it have everything a good ‘found footage’ flick should have, it’s also composed of equal parts LOST (the TV show) and JURASSIC PARK and CLOVERFIELD. These folks are trapped – in the dark – and there’s a monster out there. No, they don’t quite know what it is, but they see it in fleeting shots of light, and, thus, they can confirm that it’s big, it’s scary, and it’s hungry. And it isn’t going away! It’s an edge-of-your-seat thrill much of the time … but, creatively, it should’ve gone the way of ‘found footage’ films like DISTRICT 9 did. They should’ve used ‘found footage’ for only the parts of the film that needed it; then, when it became a traditional monster movie, they should’ve laid the handi-cam aside and used traditional film equipment. They still could’ve preserved the ‘shock’ ending by going back to ‘found footage,’ and, in my estimation, they would’ve had a modest hit on their hands. All of the right ingredients were here … they just had them in incorrect amounts.
AREA_407 was produced by Suzanne DeLaurentiis Productions and Cloud Nine Pictures. DVD distribution is being handled by MPI Media Group. How does it look? Well, I think I’ve covered that in pretty great detail, no? How does it sound? For the most part, I had no problem with the audio. Sure, given the nature of the method the filmmakers decided to tell their story, there’s some predictable and deliberate problems with it. Sadly, there are no special features to speak of on the disc. Shame on you, filmmakers. Shame on you.
RECOMMENDED with modest reservations. I’m giving it a solid two-and-one-half stars based on the finished product, but I do so not without warning. As I’ve tried to make abundantly clear, this is one of them there “found footage” variety flicks. If you’re not into the herky-jerky camerawork, then AREA_407 is probably not for you because the herky and the jerky are front and center throughout all of it. Still, there’s a great story here – with some truly great scares – all given respectable life through the magic of film. When someone remakes this, let’s hope they get it right.
In the interests of fairness, I’m pleased to disclose that the good folks at MPI Media Group provided me with a DVD screener copy of AREA_407 by request for the expressed purposes of completing this review.
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 … more
* 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