Director – J.J. Abrams
Cast – Joel Courtney, Kyle Chandler, Elle Fanning, Joel McKinnon Miller, Riley Griffiths, Ryan Lee, Gabriel Basso, Zach Mills, Jessica Tuck, Ron Eldard, Amanda Michalka, Andrew Miller, Jakob Miller, Jade Griffiths, Britt Flatmo
Release Year – 2011
Reviewed by John of the Dead
I remember being extremely stoked the very moment I first heard of Super 8. J.J. Abrams had already proven himself to me with “Alias”(which I obsessed over) and “Lost”, and my enjoyment of the Abrams’ produced Cloverfield left me assured that he could deliver another solid monster movie, and he did just that with Super 8, his first writing/directing horror/thriller effort. Carried mostly by an amazing and captivating story that comes complimented with Abrams’ awesome direction, Super 8 makes for a great summer blockbuster that also serves as a great monster flick.
Super 8 follows a group of young teens bent on making a solid zombie film for entry into a local film festival during the summer of 1979. One night while filming they witness a bizarre accident in which a United States Air Force train suffers an intentional derailment via head-on collision, and unintentionally film the escape of a long-held military secret dating back to the 1947 Roswell UFO crash. The kids act as if nothing happened over fear for their lives, but when mysterious occurrences plague the small town of Lillian, Ohio they are soon forced to act on their knowledge to save their town from not only a military cover-up, but a vengeful beast now on a vengeful prowl.
Going into this film I was expecting it to not be as horrific as it was, mainly due to Spielberg’s involvement, which left me thinking this would turn out to be too much of a kiddy adventure like E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial, but thankfully the kiddy element was not as heavy as expected and the horror turned out just fine. The storyline is an awesome one that overall is nothing overly special, giving us a group of protagonists who are forced to deal with a deadly antagonist as well as government cover-up(it’s always the government’s fault), but the Abrams’ screenplay sets this apart form other similar films thanks to awesome writing execution. The children in this film carry the story, which plays heavily on why I felt the experience would come off too kiddy. Much like It, the story focuses heavily on the relationship between our young protagonists as they brave through thick and thin together, with each of them providing their own unique attributes to the film. We get the usual cliché conflict involving our lead protagonist dealing with a dark past and then falling in love with a girl, and despite that playing into the usual summer blockbuster template Abrams’ executed the idea well enough for me not to balk at it. The rest of the film focuses on the horror caused as the creature rampages through the small town after nightfall, snatching up electronic devices and devouring those unfortunate enough to come across its path. We get great usage of the creature thanks to its sweet background involving the Roswell UFO incident, and we get plenty of kill sequences to keep horror fans entertained. In addition to all of these positive ideas, I loved watching the kids try and film their zombie film, which included a reference to the king of zombies, George A. Romero(Night/Dawn/Day of the Dead). Fans of film will be sure to appreciate the filmmaking story element as the kids face numerous obstacles in their way of passionately filming an effort that should be completely above their level of experience and expertise, but much like any good filmmaking core they use whatever the find available to them and get creative with it. As a cohesive whole all of these elements blend perfectly into 112 minute effort, showing that Abrams has a genuine knack for giving us a good story.
Director J. J. Abrams(Star Trek, Mission Impossible III)was his usual awesome self in this piece, giving us amazing visuals and atmosphere from the get-go, and making the most out of every element involved. His young protagonists carry the film, which I found an amazing feat given most of them had little-to-no feature film experience. We get good performances from all involved, but the usage of the kids was fantastic and added a high level of “fun” to the piece that I found very reminiscent to Stephen King’s It in how how the young protagonists were used in that film. His execution of the creature was positive, using it mostly in quick and sly fashion throughout the first 70% of the film or so, and finally giving us what we came to see from then on out when the creature shows his/her ugly face on screen. I loved the look of the creature, and those of you who enjoy giant creatures should find him enjoyable as well, although all of the usage of the creature comes via CGI FX with no live-action carnage whatsoever. Thankfully, the CGI in this film is fantastic and for once did not detriment from the film at all. Simply put, imagine a smaller and quicker creature from Cloverfield used in much the same manner and that is what we get int his piece. Abrams delivers good tension often, awesomely executing the beast and making the most of camera angles to set each scene up and give us full-frontal action once things get going. After producing the positive Cloverfield and directing this positive effort, I am left wondering of J. J. Abrams will ever give us a devout scarefest of a horror film; I’ll keep my fingers crossed.
Overall, Super 8 is a great summer film that can be appreciated all year long thanks to a fantastic story that keeps the viewer engaged thanks to numerous positive elements that show Abrams can write as well as he can direct. His direction sells this great story and gives us fantastic performances from all involved, as well as excellent usage of the creature that made for one of the better creature films of recent time despite a somewhat kiddy feel that I found to only make this experience even more fun.