Synopsis – Three young conspiracy theorists attempt to uncover the mysteries of Area 51, the government’s secret location rumored to have hosted encounters with alien beings. What they find at this hidden facility exposes unimaginable secrets.
My Take – I think I have gone on a rant on why I love found footage films many times before, so I am going to avoid that here. Despite, the failing hype around the genre due to some really terrible made movies, you may expect something else from this one as its a return to direction from writer/ producer of the Insidious series, the unfairly cancelled brilliant TV series The River – Oren Peli. The man behind the camera of the 1st Paranormal Activity, the film which arguably started this craze (yeah I know Blair Witch!). Of course for a fan like me, this film was awaited on completely different level as its combined two of my favorite genres (found footage & Aliens conspiracy). Ghosts and aliens scare me, and classic terror tropes work wonders on me! Ever since the overrated “Blair Witch Project,” we have been deluged with similar-themed films; most of which fall way, way short of being anything but tiresome. So enter Oren Peli with his own take on the concept, but in his favor we have the mysterious and always-intriguing Area 51 as the backdrop.
That fact alone is precisely why I decided to give this film a look. But unfortunately, just like every poor film of the genre, the film lacks any depth & adding to the mix is the poor finale. It suffers from the same exact problems by stuttering towards the end! The story follows Reid (Reid Warner) who after a ‘calling’ during a pool part convinces his friends Darrin (Darrin Bragg) & Ben (Ben Rovner) to take him to Las Vegas & help him break into the mythical government facility Area 51 in order to expose the presence of Aliens on earth. Along with them on the ride is fellow conspiracy theorist Jelena (Jelena Nik), whose deceased father was an ex employee at the facility. So we get the usual footage of people driving to desolate areas, where they are confronted by suspicious looking people, they talk to other people with whom are also obsessed with the subject matter, and this happens for the majority of the film! For most early parts, the film delivers quite the ride as audiences follow these guys on Vegas and its surrounding. Some investigations and interviews set the tone right, and not in overly silly way. Characters are also pretty decent and likable as though they are real life friends. Unfortunately, it soon arrives at familiar territory of hazy shots and mindless running. The scenes in the city or desert are identifiable, but when it is stranded in dark corners, the movie loses the momentum significantly. Script is also numbingly bland as characters would yell the same thing over and over again, this is especially true when they are repeatedly shouting, “We gotta go”. With both visual and audio decrease in quality, it just turns into a confusing escapade. At first it appeared that Peli might have done it right. Blending actors and sets with real people and locations associated with Area 51, the set-up is intriguing. Even the process in which these filmmakers attempt to foil some of the high-tech base security systems, seems plausible. So far so good. But it is when the title characters break into the house of an Area 51 / S4 worker and steal his ‘card’, eventually actually getting inside the top-secret facility, that the movie becomes completely unbelievable and downright ridiculous. Everything that follows is what we have come to know, and depending on how you feel about these shaky-cam movies, love or hate about the concept. Cinematography is to be expected from this kind of found footage flick, it’s rather elementary, but there are a few good shots with modified vision. At several scenes the film builds up the suspense pretty well, these are not all translated into thrilling moments.
It almost seems like it has problems in latter half, resorting to cheap alien gimmick and nullifying its early decent production. There are some decent and pretty good Area 51 alien movies and “documentaries” out there, but this one is just not one of them. It’s just more of the same old, same old found footage where nothing worthwhile happens until the last 15 minutes or so and even when something does finally happen, it’s a huge disappointment. For what this was hyped up to be, it was a huge disappointment, but I wasn’t surprised honestly. If you want to waste an hour watching the build up to a half hour of creative and decently ambitious and exciting found footage, then go ahead. Just know that it takes awhile for things to start. If you’re looking for visual aliens, this really doesn’t offer any probably so they could save on the budget which must have been pretty low. On the whole, ‘Area 51‘, has a presentable start with more engaging use of the found footage, but it falls to the same issues and ends up like the rest without accomplishing much, but given the exciting story set-up, Peli really should have given us a whole lot more than just another camcorder film. In fairness, I think some people will enjoy this. I did not! Trust me there are some good movies out there for example REC (Just 1 & 2) Cloverfield, V/H/S series, Grave Encounters (the original & the sequel), The Tunnel Movie, & of course the original Paranormal Activity trilogy (not the shameful sequels). Disappointing!
Director – Oren Peli
Rated – R
Run Time – 91 minutes