Oren Peli’s Area 51 Lacks Videogame Style Punch

18 May

Area51By Ed Sum (The Vintage Tempest)

Okay, I admit it. As a paranormal investigator (not a ghost hunter), I was intrigued with the movie that Oren Peli made with his breakout hit Paranormal Activity. He got a few concepts right in terms of what goes on during a haunting and he also got other things wrong — namely in the fact that Dr. Fredrichs, the supposed investigator, ran with his tail between his legs. The way the cameras are set up and the editing created some good suspense. The back story that was told, spread between the first movie and the latest, provides a great reason to stay tuned. In wondering what this writer/director can do with Area 51, which took years in the making, suggests that this producer has lost his touch. Where’s the suspense? Where’s the drama?

Honestly, I could not care for the three yahoos who decide that breaking into this Groom Lake facility was a good idea. The motivation behind Reid (Reid Warner) just was not fully developed. To see him stare at the camera breaks a number one rule of film-making. The shaky-cam point of view shots got nauseating. I used to be able to watch these type of films ever since Blair Witch, but to say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery in future movies does not apply here. This movie makes use of the been there and done that formula too much and I was hesitant to finish watching this Video on Demand (VOD) product (which released last week) all the way to the end. Instead, I just fast forwarded to what I hoped would be the good part, when the boys, which includes Ben (Ben Rovner) and Darrin (Darrin Bragg), finally enter the facility, and find themselves in trouble.

Now if only this movie followed the arcade game of the same name, I’d be excited. To see the boys somehow save the day would have placed this product into the same vein as the Resident Evil films, but at least I’d be more excited for where the narrative can go. Although I never managed to make my way many levels deep into the game, I had to wonder what it’d be like battling my way out of an alien ship. For this movie, the predictability of where the lads end up gives away the best moments, if it can be counted as that. Peli does draw upon a lot of the lore pertaining to UFO abductions. Reed experiences missing time and he develops an obsession over what has happened to him. To see him get answers will only lead him to trouble. However, if there’s any hope for this guy to survive, Fire in the Sky, this movie is not.

The best thing to do after watching this movie is to simply watch Close Encounters of the Third Kind. And if there were any video game allusions I had to close off with, like Atari’s E.T. the Extra-Terristrial, this one product is best buried.

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