Simon Dillon reviews the film


The extremely tired found-footage motif is churned out yet again for Chronicle - a low budget indie pic which is essentially a riff on the superhero origin story. Directorial technique issues aside, the story itself is an entertaining, well-told one, and against the odds manages to bring something fresh to a very crowded genre.

When three teenage boys find a mysterious crystal in a cave, it apparently grants them telekinetic powers. As they learn to use these powers, they employ them for pranks and to gain popularity at high school. Consequently a strong friendship forms between them. Of the three, Matt (Alex Russell) and Steve (Michael B Jordan) were already friends, but Matt's cousin Andrew (Dane DeHaan) was previously something of a misfit. Andrew is the one who insists on filming everything, but he manages to appear in several shots because he uses his new found powers to levitate the camera. Anyway, things go well for a while, especially when the three friends learn to fly, but then events take a turn for the decidedly sinister.

Of the three appealing leads, Dane DeHaan makes the greatest impression. He does a good job of getting under the skin of a misfit character suffering physical and emotional abuse from one parent and trauma at the illness of the other. The screenplay (written by John Landis' son Max) is witty and believable, and I kept thinking that using powers for pranks is exactly the kind of thing I would have done as a 17/18 year old in the same situation. There are some big laughs, and the film builds to an appropriately exciting and tense finale. Special effects are very well done, and it is amazing what can be achieved with a small budget and a computer these days. There are also some amusing nods to films like An American Werewolf in London (the Landis connection, obviously) and Brian De Palma's Carrie.

From a spiritual perspective, this is something of an anti-Spiderman ie with great power comes great responsibility, but in this case there is no responsibility whatsoever. Or hardly any. Perhaps that's the point - there ought to be. Anyway, it's a fun ride, even if it does go to a few predictable places - yet another teenage loss of virginity gone awry sequence, for instance.

My other big issue with the film is that it didn't need the found footage idea for it to work. In fact, using this as a motif is a bit of a cheat, since multiple cameras end up being used to cover the action - including that of a teenage girl (in a romantic subplot involving Matt) and security camera footage from buildings. It gets to the point that the film might as well have been shot conventionally.

All that said director Josh Trank has crafted a fine calling card with this film. My suggestion would be to give him the keys to a superhero franchise like X-Men and see what he can come up with. CR

The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.