Directed by Dale Fabrigar and Everette Wallin
I’ve always been a bit amazed at the backlash against found footage flicks. Even in my own circle of friends, I’ve found people who passionately hate, hate, HATE! the mere mention of that subgenre. This usually surprises me, as I know they’ve seen very few of those films in the first place. It seems enough to have simply viewed one or two to dismiss every other one altogether. Can you think of another genre or subgenre where that holds true? Do you know of anyone who’s had the misfortune to watch a couple of Steven Seagal films, only to swear off all action movies? Have you ever heard of anyone suffering through any Adam Sandler movie of the last decade, and then promise to never sit through another “comedy” as long as they live? It baffles me, that someone might check out a Blair Witch or a Cloverfield (both movies which I enjoyed), and cry out “Never again!” in regard to giving any other POV film a shot.
…and then I sit down and watch Area 407, a film which perfectly represents all that can go wrong with this type of movie. A film that reads like a laundry list of “DON’Ts!” when it comes to making a found footage feature. A film that shames the very subgenre (and, hell, the genre) that it’s a part of. If someone were pop this film into their player, only to renounce it and its ilk a scant eighty minutes later…I’m not sure I could blame them, then.
Starting off strongly with a bit of “getting to know the characters”, Area 407 throws us behind the lens of Trish, a young girl tagging along with her older sister Jessie, an amateur photographer whose DSLR captures the footage we are watching. The sisters board a flight from New York to LA, where they meet the rest of our cast: Jimmy, a nice enough professional photographer (what luck, another digital camera to film with later on!); Laura, a mysterious young woman with a fairly noteworthy secret; Lois, the unfailingly polite flight attendant; Tom, one half of a romantic couple headed for certain tragedy; and Charlie, an unbelievably loathsome bastard whose sole purpose seems to be annoying others. Like his fellow passengers. And the viewers.
After a good first act’s worth of chatting (some interesting, most not), the plane takes flight, only to crash moments later in a fairly harrowing sequence. So far, so decent. And then…then the film proper begins.
The surviving characters huddle a stone’s throw away from the downed plane, each looking like they’ve been slapped around with a generous amount of red dye and Karo syrup (seriously, everyone has what appears to be a constantly-bleeding head wound throughout the entire film). Everyone breathes heavily, walks around a bit, finds a way to argue with one another (usually due to Charlie’s incessant pissing/whining/moaning/bitching), and then…a noise! A lone character investigates, only to get attacked by…something. I won’t ruin what that something is, even though the film’s marketing has already done its damnedest to do just that. Suffice it to say that the idea, in and of itself, is pretty fantastic. If only the film had lived up to it.
Instead, we’re treated to scene after scene of the characters bickering, hearing strange noises, getting attacked, moving to different locations, bickering, hearing strange…well. Rinse, repeat for the better part of an hour, as characters get offed one by one in terribly unsatisfying ways (sometimes in an unintentionally hilarious manner). As a traditionally shot narrative feature, this movie would’ve been terrible. As a found footage flick? It’s punishment.
There is practically zero motivation for the camera to be running (no, not even for the damned light on it). Worse still, the POV always stays focused on the group of characters, rather than the action that’s getting everyone else’s attention. I ask you, if you’re holding a camera and you hear what sounds like the bowels of Hell growling from a few hundred feet away, do you train your camera in the sound’s direction, or at your fellow comrades as they look in that direction? Still, at least we don’t have to suffer through another version of “We have to film everything!” that we’re usually treated to in found footage films (good or bad).
I don’t mean to be overly harsh on this film. The actors all do a pretty great job, given what they’re working with. And I appreciate the fact that the filmmakers had an interesting idea, chose an economical way to go about shooting it, and just got out there and did it. Bravo, for that alone. It’s easy for any aspiring filmmaker to bullshit about all the films they would like to make while never doing anything about it (trust me, I know). That Area 407’s directors made their film at all, and then had it picked up by no less than IFC Midnight (usually a sign of quality), is worth applauding.
However, it falls on this reviewer to be honest about the film he’s seen. And folks, I can do nothing else but to warn you far, far away. Not since Halle Berry’s Catwoman flick has a movie drained the life out of me so slowly and painfully.
If you’re a masochist? Fine, consider this a must buy. Anyone else? Avoid it like the plague.
1/2 out of 5