A group of friends decide to break into Area 51 after one of them presumably has a close encounter with an extraterrestrial.
Directed by Oren Peli (Paranormal Activity), Area 51 is a ho-hum affair, another found footage debacle in the ever growing ranks of these cheap, poorly made films. What makes this one so special, though, is . . .uh . . .hmmmm . . .oh, yeah! I got something! What makes this one so special is how long it took to get released and how much tinkering was put into it by the studio. All things considered, though, this is a fairly boring film, even by found footage standards. I was not a fan, even though they seemed to get their facts right about the security around the actual location of Area 51.
There really isn’t much to go into with the plot of this one. Some friends are partying, one wanders off and the other figure he left the party. When they leave, they find him wandering on the road, disoriented. They pick him up and the film cuts to three months later. Now, they are going to break into Area 51 and have all kinds of gear to do it. So, off they go to Las Vegas, to meet a girl who is a conspiracy theorist and who’s father once worked at the secret-not-secret base. Eventually, after breaking into a guys house to get his fingerprint, they make it to Area 51 and begin the process of breaking in.
I am not a conspiracy theorist by any stretch of the imagination. That said, I do enjoy a good (and, perhaps not so good) documentary on Area 51, and as such, I have a fleeting knowledge of the area. Trust me, I am no scholar on the subject, and cannot relate facts and figures to you, but I do recognize things I have seen before in other documentaries. So as I watched this film, I was surprised to find that a majority of the information in those documentaries was in this film. The unmarked terminal at the airport that supposedly carries Area 51 employees. Excessive security in the desert around the base. If anything, the film does manage to prove it has done a little bit of home work on the subject, as opposed to just throwing something out there.
Despite the solid facts, the film is still a boring affair. Which is strange. The film was began in 2009, right after Paranormal Activity hit it big. Oren Peli became a big name after that little spookhouse film broke box office records. Then . . .nothing. Area 51 just vanished from everyone’s radar, much like the Air Force would like the actual base to do. In 2011, some rewrites were done on the script and in 2013 reshoots were done. The film was finally released in early 2015. This is relevant to the review, because now I have to wonder what the film was before they spent six years tinkering with it before releasing it. I have to imagine it was completely different animal.
I’ve seen a lot of movies and I’ve seen a lot of found footage movies. A majority of them fall into the same trap. Why don’t these turds just drop the camera and run for their lives. Hell, even if you don’t drop the camera, throw that sumbitch at what is chasing you and slow them down. Guess what they don’t do? Drop or throw the camera. They hang on to them the whole time. Even while running. I am personally at the point where I think this style of filmmaking is officially done and over with. It has become cliched almost to the point of humorous.
Despite some solid fact checking on the film, Area 51 is a boring affair that never really improves, even when they easily enter the base. The performances are somewhat convincing, but this never really goes anywhere exciting. With six years of tinkering with the film, you think they could have made something special. Instead, we get another found footage film that does nothing to propel the style forward, instead just sitting firmly in the middle of the camp with the rest. Found footage has become a tired and lazy style, despite it’s solid beginnings. Pass on this one.
*1/2 out of ****
BIZZAM!! Fun Facts!
- George Knapp, frequent host of the Coast to Coast AM radio program, makes and uncredited appearance in the film. Knapp became known in the 1980’s for reporting on the story of Bob Lazar. Lazar claimed to have been an employee of Area 51 and had claimed to work on extraterrestrial craft.