While many of the film-going public squawk about the gluttony of superhero films that are polluting our theatre screens on a repeating basis, it is with found footage films that I have reached my fill.
Made popular and mainstream in 1999 with The Blair Witch Project, there have been more dismal efforts (Apollo 18, The Zombie Diaries, The Feed) than there have been engrossing ones (Paranormal Activity, Cloverfield). Yet week in and week out, whether it be in the local theatre, video on demand or on DVD, there are release after release of found footage films with budgets of less than the average person’s minimum Visa payment.
This week’s latest cash-grab is Area 407 (also promoted as Tape 407). The film opens on a plane travelling between New York to Los Angeles on New Year’s Eve where a young girl, Trish (Abigail Schrader) and her sister Jesse (Samantha Lester) are using their camera to video capture just about everything and everyone around them.
Side note: how is it in these found footage films they all have cameras with batteries that last so long as to even baffle a NASA scientist?
After the obligatory introduction of a few central characters on the plane the passengers and crew celebrate New Year’s Eve with cheers and noisemakers until a bad storm and turbulence send the darkened plane into a freefall. The plane crashes in a remote government testing ground and the handful of survivors that are left, band together in an attempt to find their bearings in the darkened night of their secluded surroundings.
But as we learn rather quickly, the plane crash was only the beginning of their nightmare as they are being stalked and hunted by some predatory creatures that look like mid-sized Jurassic Park raptors.
Armed with only their wits and a single gun coming courtesy of the Sky Marshall on board (how convenient she survived) the group will find their numbers dwindle as they struggle through the night for survival.
Area 407 was filmed in only five days and (according to imdb.com) all the dialogue was ad lib. The dialogue before the plane crashes was actually engrossing banter that had our interest focused on the central characters.
But once the survivors collect themselves amongst the plane’s wreckage, things go off the rails and the cast begin to yell, scream and draw out too many inconsequential conversations likely just to inflate the running time to a feature accepted 90-minutes.
As with most found footage films, the camera work is shaky and downright annoying. You will feel jerked, dropped and nauseous as the camera is passed between various characters that seem more intent on capturing their demise on film than putting down the damn device and using their senses to gather their bearings.
Directors Dale Fabrigar and Everette Wallin keep the creature out of sight and in the dark for most of the film which could work if you develop enough tension and atmosphere. But in Tape 407 audiences aren’t engaged to any sense of caring or urgency and seeing the creatures in more detail would be the trade off for the long-in-tooth banter we are intended to endure.
Tape 407 ends in unexpected fashion with a conclusion intended to shock (I guess). But without caring about any of those that may survive or face their fate, you will likely just want it over at any cost. Even at the cost of writing off the video-on-demand investment.