Friday, October 2, 2015

Film Review: Area 51 (2015)

Area 51 (Review)
United States/2015
Format Viewed For Review: Netflix Instant
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: Yes
*A 31 Days of Halloween Special Review!

"The concept is oozing with uniqueness, but, for whatever reason, Peli opts for the same old tricks."

Friends Reid (Reid Warner), Darren (Darrin Bragg), Ben (Ben Rovner) decide to infiltrate Area 51...

Area 51 is a very simple film. The story begins with a mockumentary covering the sudden disappearances of Reid, Darren, and Ben. It then proceeds to the same old home videos of our trio of friends — they go to a party, act like douchebags, then something happens. Fast forward three months and these friends are now planning their infiltration of Area 51. Nothing really happens in this drawn out segment, which consists of at least two-thirds of the film, but there are some interesting tidbits here and there. The film kicks it up a notch for the final act, where stuff actually happens, but it is also hindered by the same old flaws — an annoying shaky cam, a malfunctioning camera, and a predictably abrupt ending. I did enjoy the setting and the technology, though, and, aside from the annoying technical aspects, the actual ending was okay.

I'm always grateful when I find a found-footage film that is not another supernatural horror movie. I'm always disappointed when the film ends up being the same found-footage film in a different outfit. Area 51 is the latter. It's a science-fiction found-footage horror film that is essentially a supernatural found-footage horror film. With that, it adopts the same fatal flaws. The characters are cliché and obnoxious, the story is thin and stretched out, the camerawork is atrocious, and the horror is nearly nonexistent. It's not a complete lost thanks to some interesting information about Area 51 sprinkled about here and there — I actually enjoyed hearing about the security and such. Also, at least the setting was a change of pace — it's far better than the haunted house and haunted asylum.

The acting was okay from the entire cast. They can play regular people fairly well, but they all suffer when the scenes become demanding. Fortunately for them, the scenes hardly ever become demanding. This is a found-footage film and I've already mentioned how I felt about the camerawork — it's bad. I can't stress how annoyed I become when the camera becomes nauseously shaky or when the camera conveniently malfunctions when something is about to happen. Writer and director Oren Peli has a very interesting concept and some great ideas during the final act, but the film is incredibly formulaic and the direction fails to conjure any significant scares. The concept is oozing with uniqueness, but, for whatever reason, Peli opts for the same old tricks.

Overall, Area 51 is a mediocre film. It has some interesting ideas and scenes, but it ultimately never escapes its found-footage clichés. The film's unique concept, at least for the found-footage genre, is hindered by the generic, annoying characters, bad pacing and balance, flawed narrative, and lack of scares. I didn't absolutely hate it, but it certainly failed to leave an impression. I feel like a cliché parent right now. "Oren Peli, I'm not mad, I'm just disappointed."

Score: 4/10
Parental Guide: Some violence and blood, nudity.

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