Posted by: chance47 | 08/05/2012

Home Viewing: “Chronicle” – or “Carrie” for boys

“Chronicle” is one of those rare movies that catches you off guard with how truly entertaining and well constructed it is.  A “found footage” film a la “Blair With Project”, it is directed by Josh Trank, who at 26 years old shows a lot of promise.  The movie was written by Max Landis, the son of John Landis of “American Werewolf” fame.

I’ve been growing increasingly tired of the “found footage” conceit, but “Chronicle” manages to breathe a little more life into the genre with intriguing and sympathetic characters and almost no shaky camerawork.  The movie, in the beginning is full of a joyful zeal that, be the end, turns into dark melodrama.

The story centers around Andrew Detmer (a breakout performance by Dane DeHaan).  Andrew is an unlucky teen with an alcoholic, abusive father (Michael Kelly, always a welcome presence) and a dying mother.   He is the victim of constant bullying and harassment at school.   Andrew decides to start videotaping his daily life, much to his cousin Matt’s (Alex Russell) chagrin.  Matt is self-assured, quotes philosophers, obscure tomes and films.  He has a smoothness that Andrew simply does not.

One night, the goading of Matt, Andrew goes to a high school party where, off in a field close to the party, they along with Class President Hopeful and all around perfect guy Steve (a wonderful Michael B. Jordan) find a perfectly round hole that leads directly below.  A strange noise emanates from the chasm.  Of course these boys wander into the hole, despite Andrew’s hesitancy.  What they find below immediately brings to mind alien technology, though it is never explained what exactly it is (thankfully).

What starts as a teen drama full of its requisite characters starts to turn into something decidedly different.  After their sojourn into the deep dark unknown the boys discover that they have developed the power of telekinesis.  Andrew, most pleased with these new abilities, seems to be the most adept at wielding his abilities.

For those unfamiliar with telekinesis, I suggest you rent Brian DePalma’s “Carrie”right away.  Telekinesis is the ability to

Andrew’s abilities begin to grow. Dane DeHaan gives an amazing breakthrough performance.

move and manipulate objects without touching them, usually with the power of the mind.  In “Carrie” (originally an amazing debut novel for Stephen King), the titular character is an extremely unpopular, regularly abused plain-jane girl played by a marvelous Sissy Spacek.  Seeing the similarities?   That isn’t where the connections end.  “Carrie”, in my opinion, is a modern horror masterpiece, full of Oscar-worthy performances and painful heartache right alongside its genuine scares.  “Chronicle” is no “Carrie”, but boy is it a blast.

As the movie progresses that boys friendship over their new-found abilities continues to grow.  Their powers also become stronger.  Matt likens it to a muscle that needs to “be buff”.  Several amusing, hysterical, and joyfully film antics ensue with the boys trying out their abilities in public settings.   It culminates with every sci-fi boy and girl greatest dream.  The boys are able to propel themselves high above the word through the air.  This fantasy is so wonderfully played for exactly what it is.  You truly believe these boys are discovering this happiness with their abilities right along with them.  Their giddiness is palpable.

But, much like Carrie White, great power tends to include a higher moral code.   After an almost fatal accident caused by Andrew, the boys create rules for their abilities.  Unfortunately, Andrew’s awful home-life continues to escalate and his abilities continue to increase.  I’m sure you can see where this is going.

I won’t spoil anyone of the events in the film, but there are several touching scenes between the boys as their friendship is finely forged and ultimately tested to its limits.   The effects in the film are rather good for a movie of this budget and the final sequences are astounding to watch.

What buoys the film is its natural dialogue, quick pace, and three very fleshed out performances by DeHaan, Russel and Jordan (I was a huge fan of Jordan already after his television work on “Friday Night Lights” and “Parenthood”).  There are some cliché moments and some horribly underwritten characters such as a fellow videographer Casey, who is the only female in the film with even the slightest bit of character development.   But to be fair, in “Carrie” most of the boys are just there to be manipulated by the other female characters.

By the end of “Chronicle”, viewers may still be in awe of the boys’ ability to soar through the skies, but all the more wary of the consequences because of how their story unfolds.

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