(Judge Dredd Megazine, Rebellion)
Chronicle, a debut film by director John Trank, retells the Steven King Carrie story but with a male outsider. Andrew (Dane Dehaan) is a high-school geek with an abusive dad and terminal mother, who decides for no visible reason to start filming his life, hours before his life becomes worth filming. There’s a film to be made mocking this convenience. Imagine a haunted camera that knows when there’s going to be a Godzilla attack, alien invasion, homicidal haunting or troll infestation, and infects its owners with a scopophilic mania so they won’t just put the bloody camera down and run away.
After filming a few of his mundane miseries and beatings, Andrew is dragged into dark woods and a darker hole in the ground by two acquaintances. One is his cousin Matt (Alex Russell), a superficially confident poseur who’s still prone to toe-curling fails with girls; the other is the charismatic Steve. Below ground, the trio has a third-kind encounter, with inevitable shades of last summer’s Super-8, though the scene cuts out fast. When we next join them, the lads are levitating lego bricks and pranking shoppers with telekinesis. The plot shifts are telegraphed without any effort to surprise us; though the superhero journey is so familiar now that the whole story might have been told in accelerated leaps.
Instead, the plot is oddly circumscribed. For example, the youngsters never trouble to re-investigate the buried cavern or pipe-dream how to change world history. Instead, Chronicle focuses on the super-trio’s bonding, as they play ball amid clouds, wow their peers with magic tricks, and relax sated by their efforts, reflecting that they’ve had the best day of their lives – no girls needed. The homoeroticism is displaced into Matt and Steve’s efforts to get Andrew’s cherry popped, which is where things go wrong – though not as wrong as they could have done. When the now-popular geek takes a girl upstairs at a party, I expected a graphic demonstration of why supermen and humans don’t mix, as discussed in Larry Niven’s classic essay, “Man of Steel, Woman of Kleenex.”
But Andrew’s plunge from grace is less a bloody Carrie explosion than a soapy teen strop. The film’s contrivances preclude the convincing banality that would have made the bathos satisfying; perhaps Chronicle should have taken lessons from last year’s Super. The super-fight finale is fun, with switchback rides through buildings going bang, though there are cheat perspectives (moments not being filmed by a camera), and it feels too close to Cloverfield.
(c) 2018 Rebellion A/S. Reprinted with permission.