by Rick Grant
This movie is filmmaker J.J. Abrams’ homage to Steven Spielberg, who collaborated on the project. The key to this film is: it’s what you don’t see that is scary.
The scenario is a multi-layered fantasy as seen through the eyes of four young fledgling filmmakers making a zombie movie using a Super 8 mm film camera. Their imaginative spark of creative spontaneity is a mesmerizing feature of the picture.
Set in 1979, Abrams injects references from Spielberg’s most famous films. It’s set in a small blue collar neighborhood during the era in which Abrams grew up. There is a folksy Sheriff a la Jaws, and the story is full of wonder and fantastic happenings, like Close Encounters of the Third Kind and mimics E.T.…with an attitude.
Yes, there’s clearly something happening in this town, but no one knows what it is, as the kids boldly make their movie. Viewers will admire the pint-sized lens-meisters’ ingenuity and ability to improvise each setting and scene with little or no money. Their wild eyed innocence and enthusiasm is the highlight of Abrams’ vision.
When the kids set up a shoot at an old railroad depot, they witness a spectacular train crash that sets off a top secret military investigation. Meanwhile, the kids continue making their film under the noses of the massive Army presence in the town,
The director cleverly uses the kids’ movie as a window into the bigger picture of what’s really happening in the town, which eclipses the limited consciousness of the pubescent mind.
Abrams’ script is brilliantly conceived and written in the best Spielbergesque style of the master’s most memorable movies. The imaginative events that were ignited by the train crash are suspenseful and keep the audience guessing almost to the end of the film.
Young people will relate to the determined young moviemakers and adults will identify with the parents’ dilemmas as the Deputy Lamb eventually gets to the bottom of the mystery of the train crash.
Do not leave the movie theatre immediately after the film ends. The kids’ 8 mm movie plays as the credits roll. It’s well worth staying a few minutes more to see.
Super 8 Movie Review
by Rick Grant