Super angst

Teens with superpowers are perfect fit for latest found-footage flick

Starring Dane DeHaan, Michael B. Jordan and Alex Russell. Directed by Josh Trank. Cinemark 14, Feather River Cinemas and Paradise Cinema 7. Rated PG-13.
Rated 4.0

Now, a lot of folks are irritated by the rise of what’s being called the “found footage” genre (well, it’s a technique, not a genre, but whatever). Ever since The Blair Witch Project burned the old mo’ money equals mo’ money paradigm (with only a $60,000 budget, it hauled in about 250 million worldwide box office), Hollywood has increasingly been tapping the vein, striking gold when $15,000 Paranormal Activity made $200 million worldwide and kicked off a profitable franchise. This means we’ve been getting a butt load of stuff that looks like it was shot for reality TV—with disposable titles like The Devil Inside and The Last Exorcism—that seems more focused on cashing in than telling a good story. But, hey, at least now we get Chronicle.

Chronicle starts off a li’l raggedly, looking like it was shot in a Seattle back yard with a $1,000 camera bought at Best Buy as it sets up that teen Andrew (Dane DeHaan) has some issues. Serious issues. He’s bullied at school, his mom is dying slowly and his unemployed old man only comes out of the bottle long enough to slap Andrew around.

So Andrew buys a camera to chronicle these abuses but gets distracted when his cousin Matt (Alex Russell) and all-around popular dude Steve (Michael B. Jordan) drag him away from a ragin’ rave and pull him down into a rabbit hole that leads to a big, glowing … um, something.

Anyway, after an electromagnetic pulse of some kind knocks them on their asses, they wake up discovering that they now have nascent super powers. Quicker than you can say “Carrie-meets-Zapped!” Andrew forgets the “with great power comes great responsibility” admonition and starts twitching and building himself up and using his powers to blow shit up. And toward the end, shit starts blowing up real good.

I won’t say that Chronicle is brilliant, because it’s not. But it is clever. And fun. The leads here come across as actual teenage dudes, rather than brooding male models in high school jackets. It also handles the boys’ interaction with one other with an eye for veracity. Although at this point, for all I know it was written by a couple of teenage dudes, so maybe that’s it.

It helps that Chronicle is clever in how it takes the time to plot out the camera-eye gimmick and is also refreshingly well-paced. And at 83 minutes, it doesn’t overstay its welcome.

Of course—unlike its used-car-priced antecedents—it cost $12 million to make. But all that money doesn’t come into play until the effects-heavy battle royale that serves as a third act. And the battle royale is pretty spiffy.