Tag Archives: Blair Witch Project

Grizzly Review: Chronicle

The genre of superhero movies is one of my favorites, as is the sub-genre known as the “found footage” genre, so I think you can estimate my level of excitement when I saw the brilliantly edited trailer for the new film, Chronicle. Now, there’s quite a bit of hate for the found footage genre, and I can definitely see why. The shaky camera, the sometimes phony looking thrills, and the overall bad reputation the genre has had since its inception all sway the public opinion far enough so that found footage films border on hated.

Both 2010 and 2011 brought us seventeen found footage films each year, and in 2012, the number is up to about ten. I think I can fairly assume that found footage is here to stay, at least for a couple more years. The Paranormal Activity films have grossed an insane amount of money with minuscule budgets, and other horror films like the Spanish found footage film REC, as well as films like Cannibal Holocaust, Man Bites Dog, The Blair Witch Project, August Underground, and the original Paranormal Activity are considered to be modern horror classics. On a side note, my favorite found footage movie is definitely Trash Humpers, and I definitely recommend that to any film buffs who haven’t already seen it.

Getting back on track (I could talk about found footage for days), 2012 probably has the biggest variety of found footage films. Chronicle is a superhero movie, Paranormal Activity 4 is a horror movie, Area 51Paranormal Activity director Oren Peli’s follow up film, is a sci fi flick, and Project X, is the first of its kind as a comedy found footage flick. Now, you nitpicky bastards out there are going to cite The Virginity Hit, right? I honestly don’t think that counts, as there are some regular steady cam shots in the film, which is essentially breaking form. With that criteria in mind you could call American Beauty a found footage film.

Chronicle follows three teenagers who probably wouldn’t have become so close if not for a hole in the ground. Emotionally damaged teenager, Andrew Detmer (Dane DeHaan) decides to purchase a camera to record everything in his life, but mostly the drunkenly violent tendencies of his alcoholic father. After sustaining an injury while working as a fireman, Richard Detmer (Michael Kelly), spends his time at home taking care of Andrew’s sickly mother, Karen (Bo Petersen).

Andrew’s cousin, Matt Garetty (Alex Russell) convinces Andrew to go to a rave one day. Andrew insists that he bring his camera, and begins to film the party. There, he meets Casey Letter (Ashley Hinshaw), one of his classmates who is also filming the party for her blog. The two meet briefly, but it’s obvious that Matt is the one interested in her, not Andrew. He walks away and begins filming more, and after a physical altercation with a man who thinks Andrew is filming his girlfriend, he resigns to the parking lot, accepting the fact that he really just can’t make any friends. Suddenly, Steve Montgomery (Michael B. Jordan), who is front runner for class president, approaches Andrew and asks him to come film something that he and Matt found.

Now I don’t want to spoil what the object in the ditch is, because it’s pretty freaking cool. What I can say, though, is that the boys develop superpowers, and begin to flex what they theorize is a mental muscle. In short, it’s telekinesis, and it makes them virtually indestructible. But instead of using the powers for the good of mankind, they just decide to do cool and often stupid things with them, but as they get stronger, complications in their relationship arise, causing Andrew to inherit rage that is sometimes beyond his control.

Chronicle is equal parts origin flick, accurate high school comedy, and harrowing family drama. With an excellent script and equally impressive direction by first time filmmakers Max Landis and Josh Trank, Chronicle manages to be a low budget superhero movie that actually works, and goddamn does it work well. Everything from the performances to the pitch perfect dialogue rings absolutely true despite an odd and rather rehashed plot line. The depiction of a modern high school is near perfect, capturing both the angst and a glimpse of popularity all through the eyes of a troubled teen.

Make no mistake of Chronicle‘s motives, because the film isn’t here to tell a story of good and evil. It’s here to tell a story of good intentions through a troubled mind, and the abuse of power in a time of desperation, as well as the importance of family in a difficult and confusing situation. The central performance by Dane DeHaan is absolutely fantastic. Only 24 years old, you may have seen DeHaan on the HBO series In Treatment, but if you haven’t, you’ll be seeing a lot more of him in the future. With four 2012 movies on his roster, including my most anticipated film of the year, Wettest Country, DeHaan is going to be getting both A-list billing and treatment in literally no time.

In a world of YouTubers, Microbloggers, iPod, iPad, iPhone, video cameras, camera phones, and even basic things like surveillance cameras are all integral parts of today’s society. We feel an inherent need to document everything, and I think that Chronicle accurately portrays that. It never breaks form, but instead uses various forms of handheld cameras to get its point across, and with a surprising amount of finesse, too. Director Josh Trank could have just switched to regular film and filmed the climactic action sequences that way, but he decided to not take the easy way out and stick with the method he began the film with, and it really does actually pay off.

On a budget of only $15 million dollars, Chronicle does more with the little it’s given than most other similar movies, ($200 million for Green Lantern?! What is that?!), and the CGI is near perfect in my opinion. Walking in I expected an entertaining teen superhero flick but I walked out realizing that I’d just viewed not just a movie, but a film that has meaning and isn’t meant to just be. I recommend Chronicle to anyone who really just likes movies. It’s got the wide spread appeal of a blockbuster, with the mind of an indie flick, a perfect marriage if you ask me.

4.5/5 Bears

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Grizzly Review: Grave Encounters

The era of found footage films is in full flux right now. The surprisingly successful Paranormal Activity series, which has grossed almost $300 million dollars domestically, or The Blair Witch Project that grossed over $154 million dollars are both prime examples of this phenomena (no pun intended). Found footage films are successful because to be honest, they’re scary as hell, whether you want to believe it or not. It’s not always such a conscious recognition of the fear, but you have to admit that after you watch a Paranormal Activity movie, you tend to find yourself double-taking a little more than you usually do.

Recently, a film called Grave Encounters, which garnered positive reception at the Tribeca Film Festival, hit On-Demand as well as video stores soon after its initial festival run. The film, which was directed by The Vicious Brothers (who are neither brothers nor have the last name Vicious) for under $500,000, follows a camera crew who host a show called Grave Encounters, an intentional spoof of the popular show, Ghost Adventures. They decide to do what’s called a lock-down, a familiar procedure among fans of Ghost Adventures. The location? An abandoned mental institution that still maintains upkeep for some unknown reason. I presumed tours at first, but since there was no mention of this, I had nothing to go off.

The show, which is hosted by ghost expert Lance Preston (Sean Rogerson) and teched by his crew T.C. (Merwin Mondesir), Matt (Juan Riedinger), and Sasha (Ashleigh Gryzko), was in the middle of filming its first season when they decided to shoot in the location. Accompanied by “ghost expert” Houston Gray (Mackenzie Gray), the crew gets ready to go nowhere for an entire night of the hauntings that await them.

Grave Encounters makes it very clear that the entire “paranormal television” era is completely a sham, and that even the cast and crew don’t believe what they’re filming, which makes what they’re encountering that much more surprising. For the first 45 or so minutes, nothing too crazy happens. Tension is built amateurishly and then given up on just as quickly. If you decide to go and watch this movie, get used to the whole “so-much-tension-for-nothing” feel of the movie, because that’s the entire movie. In fact, anything resembling a good scare happens in the last half hour, and if you watched the first twenty minutes, and then skipped it to about 55 minutes, you really wouldn’t miss anything, I promise.

At 95 minutes, Grave Encounters is actually a tad longer than most other found-footage films, but half as scary, and most of the time, twice as boring. As I mentioned before, nothing scary happens until the last 30 minutes, and even then, it’s not the kind of scary that stays with you for weeks and weeks upon end, but rather a more instant jump followed by possibly a nervous giggle, and then it’s completely forgotten mere minutes later. The directors, who also penned the script, set up every scare so uniformly that when the punchline to this bad joke finally comes, you feel like it’s something you’ve heard, or in this case, seen, a million times before.

That’s not to say that Grave Encounters doesn’t have its moments. The surprisingly committed performance by the lead, Sean Rogerson, drives the film very well. He plays the part of the “ghost expert” perfectly, investing us into the story as he would in an episode of his show. The rest of the cast falters in comparison, though, except for Juan Riedenger, who plays Matt, the most Canadian character in this horror film made north of the border. His eventual slip into deep psychosis is enough reason to watch this movie for just that alone.

The lack of believable acting is what sets this film and other films like it (Paranormal Entity) apart from great found footage films. The acting is what turns the film from entertaining into believable. For months after seeing movies like The Fourth Kind and the Blair Witch Project, I was absolutely convinced that the things I was seeing on screen were as real as it could get. I honestly thought that Blair Witch was a documentary.

As a horror film, Grave Encounters fails, and almost miserably at that. I’m the type of person who s**** their pants when they see one of those scary videos on YouTube, and not even the barrage of stuff popping out during the last 30 minutes could scare me, let alone entertain me. It’s almost depressing that in a genre of film that is so easy to scare with, Grave Encounters can’t even do its one job right, which is a shame considering the massive amount of potential it had.

2/5 Bears

New Trailer: The Hunger Games

The newest trailer for The Hunger Games is out and thank God it’s not another spinning acid trip in the woods.  For a while there I thought I was watching daytime outtakes from The Blair Witch Project.  With slightly less snot.

I will say from the top that I like the trailer.  It encapsulates the character of Katniss quite well, and I am more than pleased with Jennifer Lawrence in the role with what I’ve seen so far.  That and Donald Sutherland is basically a badass, so you know he’ll be awesome.  I can make my peace with Lenny Kravitz, I really can.  I’m sure he had the best acting coaches money could buy that auto-tuned his on-screen performance.  I’m sure he knows some guitar hypnosis voodoo to get what he wants.

I really have a hard time making my peace with Woody Harrelson because of what an obscenely awful actor he is.  He wasn’t exhibited much in the trailer, but I think this role should be a cinch for him.  He’s like Keanu Reeves.  Keanu has solid performances when he plays someone who has no clue what’s going on; because Keanu has no clue what’s going on.  In this film, Woody portrays a crazy drunk who tends to lash out in a violent rage.  Three shots of Tequila and he just has to read the script.

Anyhow, here it is…

I have high hopes for this film because I did thoroughly enjoy the book.  There is a wide margin of screw-up possibility, as in any book to film adaptation.  However, being that this was the only book in the trilogy that was actually worth reading, I’m excited to see it.  This new trailer really gave us a glimpse into Katniss’ life before and leading up to the games; her bravery in volunteering to die to save her sister’s life, her friendship with her fellow tribute, Peeta.  It felt inspiring.  Hopefully the film lives up to the hype.

Hunger Games will be released on March 23, 2012.