During a small social gathering that was on the verge of curing insomnia, I saw “Grave Encounters” on Netflix. Even though I gave it a lukewarm review, it was still a pretty spooky and entertaining experience. We had been talking about ghost stories earlier, so a paranormal found footage extravaganza seemed fitting. People were squirming, yelping, and wound tight as the suspense swelled. In this scenario, “Grave Encounters” shined and I would totally recommend it if you’re in a similar situation. That said, I cannot imagine a scenario where I would ever recommend “Area_407.”
“Area_407” is about a group of plane crash survivors being hunted by government engineered dinosaurs. This is a found footage film, so get ready for a shaky camera, digital glitches, and abrupt cutting. The movie follows Trish (Abigail Schrader) and Jessie (Samantha Lester), two sisters heading home from a trip to… I totally forgot… oh God… I’m sorry… I’m trying to look it up… Uhh… well, it’s not important. Jessie is a budding photographer and her younger sister, Trish, enjoys recording every single action of the flight. Adding to the imminent body count is professional photographer Jimmy (James Lyons) and flight marshall Laura (Melanie Lyons). Found footage movies usually need extra camera equipment and a gun, so they obviously need a flight marshall and a photographer.
Trish and Jessie go back and forth at being the camera operator after the plane crashes. Shortly after the confusion dies down the survivors realize that they are not alone. A large predatory animal is hunting them down but also avoids the camera. The survivors also find some large reptile eggs, a military radio, an abandoned house, and a mysterious government agent in the distance.
Here’s a list of things I thought about while watching “Area_407”: “I should start collecting the compost in tupperware. There’s an army of ants in the kitchen.” “I need to get eggs so I can make that confetti cake that’s been in the cabinet for nine months.” “When was the last time I washed my sheets?” This movie was brutal to get through. It was so sloppily constructed that I couldn’t stay focused. “Grave Encounters” seemed to have some genuine passion behind it while “Area_407” seemed to be a chore for the filmmakers.
If you aren’t going to try anything new, you damn well better have quality (“Warrior,” “The Raid,” “Captain America: The First Avenger).” “Area_407” falls flat on everything. EVERYTHING! Even the reason for everything being constantly recorded is lazy. “Are you going to record everything?” “Yes.”
The characters in this move are incredibly dull, but I don’t blame the actors. I think they were doing the best they could with what they were given. I blame the script for the poor character substance. The people in “Area_407” were walking meat bags devoid of emotion and detail. I have no idea what Trish or Jessie liked or cared about. Jessie likes photography, but that seemed planted so that “Area_407” could be a movie. Give us something. Why are they fighting to survive? Because at this point, feeding government dinosaurs seems like a more valuable use of their existence.
“Area_407” was supposedly shot in five days with the actors ad-libbing all of their lines. This makes me wonder if there was an actual script. Maybe they had a rough outline and a bunch of set pieces, and just filled in the gaps. Characters would just vanish during scenes of chaos and that would be it. The camera would start shaking and then the cast would be twiddled down. I’ve only been mugged once in my life, but after I watched “Area_407,” I may say twice.
SPOILER ALERT – MOMENT THAT “DRVES” ME CRAZY (There’s a pun there)
With four remaining survivors, they hop into a government car and start driving. Jimmy and Laura jump out of the car (why?) so the fourteen-year-old Trish takes the driver’s seat (Why?), while the older and probably licensed Jessie records in the passenger’s seat (Why??). They drive about 100 yards and Trish accidentally runs over Laura. Jimmy jumps into the car and they move on……
ENDING SPOILER SO YOU CAN SKIP “AREA_407”
Trish and Jessie crash the car into nothing (literally – they’re in a dessert), and then walk the rest of the way. They get out of the restricted area and a government agent drives up to them. He shoots them. Then he gets attacked by a 1999-Syfy-channel-original-