There seems to be a good deal of backlash these days towards the relatively new medium of "found footage" horror flicks. Ever since the early days of Cannibal Holocaust, The Last Broadcast, and (of course) The Blair Witch Project, we've seen, heard, read, and spoken on this spooky style of storytelling. Lately the "found footage" indies are popping up with alarming frequency, which is pretty cool if, like me, you've enjoyed movies like Grave Encounters, Atrocious, Undocumented, or The Tunnel -- but it seems that the horror fans are growing a little weary of the visual gimmick, possibly because of outrageously bad examples like Apollo 18 and (dear lord) The Devil Inside.
Let's just say that the micro-budget indie horror flick known as Area 407 will do nothing to sway the naysayers; indeed it's so rotten it makes a found footage fan like myself start to reconsider my position.
One always likes to approach a low-budget horror film, even one without an original idea of its own, with a handful of kindness. Indie filmmakers don't have the resources that the big boys do, so it is sometimes only right to forgive some sloppy acting, some poor effects, or a deadly-dull narrative. But what about when an indie film has nothing to offer besides other peoples' ideas, wedged into a premise so dry and boring that you actively begin to despise the film? Well, then you just have to be honest: Area 407 looks like it was slapped together in one week simply because (yet another) someone realized "how damn easy!" it is to produce a found footage horror movie. So the film is a success in one area: it sure looks like it was easy to make.
We open with a handheld video camera that's being held by, easily, one of the most annoying young girls you'll ever meet. I'm sure she's sweet in person, but in this film, her voice will make you want to claw your ears out after five minutes. (Area 407 runs about 90 minutes, and this kid is in most of it.) The setting is an airplane that's headed from New York to Los Angeles, but after a nice airy chunk of skimpy character development, the airplane (in the film's coolest sequence, to be fair) crashes.
A few survivors climb out of the wreckage and find themselves in a deserted patch of nowhere, with no rescue in sight, but plenty of video cameras. There are a few good people and one particularly obnoxious windbag... and then a monster attacks. Unconvincingly. The remaining survivors run to a cabin, stay there and bicker, and then run to another cabin. More bickering, screaming, and absurd words ensue. And then we get a finale so clueless, it's actively irritating. Again, I like found footage and I love indie horror films, but this thing is a merciless chore to sit through.
The specific problems are myriad: the decent characters are vague and dull, the hateful guy switches emotional gears at the drop of a hat, the lead little whiner simply won't stop screaming, and the monster simply vanishes for long periods of time, thereby demolishing any sort of mystery, excitement, or tension. And without the monster all we're left with is someone's sketchy video footage of fields, cabins, and actors who are left to scream each others' names over and over and over. Simple lines of dialogue are also repeated frequently, which makes one think the cast was left to "improv," with nothing in the way of actual direction or motivation.
With a laughable monster, a character stable not worth caring about, and a lazily slipshod approach to found footage and scary storytelling in general, Area 407 might not be the worst of its kind that I've ever seen, but it certainly is the most grating.
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