From Blair Witch through Paranormal Activity to Troll Hunter, “found footage” has become a become the genre of choice for low budget filmmakers seeking to make a splash, reflecting the ubiquity of cameras, from CCTV to Iphones, from You Tube to entire careers based on reality television shows. Wes May reports on Chronicle, feature directorial debut of Josh Trank from a screenplay by Max Landis, son of director John Landis, which combines the style with teenagers with superpowers, asking whether this is in the same league as the similarly themed show Misfits, or whether this footage should have remained lost?
As the latest entry in the rapidly losing lustre genre of “found footage films”, Chronicle is the film to least effectively or convincingly use the gimmick. It follows the story of the high school archetypes (the bullied, the popular kid, the brain) who stumble upon an energy source of unknown origin (is it biological or alien? Who knows?) which imbues them each with telekinetic abilities.
For a film produced on just twelve million dollars, the effects are impressively effective. The plot follows an all too familiar path of people developing abilities, followed by one of them being corrupted by said power, then ultimately being confronted by their former friends who must now battle to end an escalating and destructive situation.
The ever present video camera is addressed by characters ad nauseum, likely as a means of explanation, but it only serves to further make the endlessly rolling camera feel more and more out of place and distracting. The lead actors, Dane DeHaan, Michael B. Jordan and Alex Russell, are mostly unknowns, but capably carry their thinly developed roles. There’s no real connection to any of the characters, and the film feels rushed even within its 83 minute run time.
A climactic battle finally pumps some life into what has simultaneously seemed rushed and overly slow, but even still it teeters on over-dramatic and campy. While Chronicle isn’t without it’s pleasures, I’d recommend a DVD movie night over a trip to the theatre.