Monday, May 7, 2012

AREA 407 (2012) - government employees sure know how to keep a secret

Area 51 is a military base in Nevada that supposedly holds all kind of alien secrets.  I’ve heard they even have live aliens in captivity that are run through a battery of tests, like how many sit-ups they can do or how long they can listen to REO Speedwagon before they hang themselves.  One day we will know the truth, just as soon as this vast array of tests are finished.  Until then, this shit is classified beyond belief.  If you even try to take a photograph within 2000 feet of Area 51, a Man in Black (if you’re lucky, Will Smith) will show up out of nowhere and smash your camera and punch you in the balls.  Admittedly, it would be pretty exciting to be punched in the balls by Big Willy, but the point is that finding out anything tangible about Area 51 is pretty damn impossible.

Keeping that in mind, Area 407 must be even more classified than Area 51 by a factor of 356 if my math is correct.  That is one secret military base.  I know what you’re thinking…I’ve never even HEARD of Area 407.  EXACTLY.  Dumbass.  I guess it figures that the only way a civilian would happen upon Area 407 is by accidentally crashing into it.  On the flipside, what are the chances that a plane would crash land into a secret military base?  I enjoy poking holes in plots as much as the next guy, so this is a bit of a conundrum.

I’m getting ahead of myself folks.  Area 407 is a found footage movie that begins with a commercial plane about to take off.  A teenage girl named Tricia is filming the entire proceedings; you know, people struggling to squeeze their 250 lb. bag into the overhead compartment, or the stewardess doing her safety routine.  If I tried to film everybody on a plane, I’d get tackled by the bomb squad and detained in Guantanamo.  I guess teenage girls who aren’t fat or ugly can get away with anything.  She also has either the balls or lack of social skills to ask everyone questions, like who they are or how they might be important to the plot or why they are scared of flying (note to reader: people are scared to fly because sometimes planes crash; there is no need to delve any deeper into this point). 

Tricia is annoying but, to the movie’s credit, she’s annoying in a cute Asperger's kind of way instead of a jerkoff paparazzi kind of way.  Personally, I can’t stand people asking me stupid questions on an airplane, which is why I often read true crime books on planes, complete with full color crime scene photos of decapitated families and crucified hookers.  This helps to keep the overly friendly at bay.  I’m not an anti-social prick, mind you; I just hate small talk with strangers more than I hate being pegged as an anti-social prick.

Anyway, after Tricia collects the necessary plot setup information, like the fact that there’s a cameraman that carries a giant flash with him, and the fact that her sister is an aspiring photographer, the New Year hits.  I know this sounds stupid, but I didn't realize that people flew while the year was flipping over.  I guess I always figured that people just adjusted their schedule as to not be on a plane when the clock strikes midnight on December 31st, and instead made sure they had plans, whether it’s being in Times Square to watch the ball drop or getting drunk and watching the obscure slasher movie New Year’s Evil.  Either way, to make the passengers feel better about being losers and/or bad holiday planners, they offer them free paper hats, free noise makers, and…free champagne?!?  In coach?  Boy, maybe flying on New Year’s isn’t such a bad idea after all.  

However, the celebration is quickly cut short when THE PLANE FUCKNG CRASHES AND SPLITS IN HALF!  Sadly, the passengers who weren’t highlighted in Tricia’s home video die as a result.  Thankfully, everyone else suffers only relatively minor flesh wounds and severely shattered New Year’s resolutions.  Tricia’s injured arm is a little more serious than that, so her sister has to now carry the shaky cam per found footage union regulations.  The survivors stand around and argue in a field, with the stewardess still trying to assert authority, and the bald asshole continuing to act like a bad asshole.  In times of stress, old habits die hard. 

Watching people yell at each other for no reason is not the most exciting thing in the world, so my mind started to wander, and I started to think to myself…where the fuck is the other half of the plane?  The collision was probably so great that half of the plane flew off and crushed some farmer’s barn off in the distance.  I know I should be questioning how these people could have possibly survived such a crash, but there wouldn’t be a movie otherwise, so I’ll let it slide.

Well, what do you know, as if this New Year’s couldn’t get any worse, the survivors are stalked by some kind of monster.  You don’t really get to see it for much of the movie, but thankfully the shaky cam picks up the monster’s roars in sweeping 5.1 surround sound.  Sounds pretty scary guys!  The rest of the movie mainly consists of the survivors arguing and running around in darkness, ducking into two different abandoned shacks at different points.  Thankfully, there’s a ham radio in the 2nd shack, and thankfully, one of the survivors is a secret air marshal that carries a gun and knows how to operate a ham radio.  However, the authorities tell her that if they want to be saved, they have to go back to the crashed plane, find a flare gun and then fire it.  I guess if a commercial airline crashes on New Year’s Day, that’s their problem.  The control tower guys are all out partying, and they’re not going to bother the rescue team unless the survivors can make their exact location clear.

Now, I’m not saying you can’t make an interesting movie with half an airplane and a digital camera, but the biggest problem with Area 407 is that it has no desire to be interesting.  Perhaps I am blinded by my own imagination, but a story about people crash landing into a secret military installation opens up so many cool possibilities.  For example, what if these people stumble upon the key answers that explain the mysteries surrounding the Roswell crash?  Instead, the filmmakers seem to want to make an Asylum disaster movie tacked on to an Asylum ripoff of a specific monster movie (which I won’t reveal), as if going from one to the other is a bit of genre sleight of hand (it’s possible to do so, but here it doesn’t really work).  The found footage gimmick is a way of doing this without spending those big Asylum bucks.  You could argue that the movie is trying to make a realistic Asylum movie, but a shaky cam does not automatically make your movie realistic.  Real life doesn’t have hacky exposition and giant plot holes.  

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