It is hereby forthwith and in perpetuity declared that the so-called Blair Witch Cam no longer be used to augment, with its shaky faked layers of quasi-realism, any damned film again. To wit: Following last year’s dreadful Apollo 18, clearly the most egregious faux handheld camcorder flick to date, a succession of multiple low-budget films undermined this once-fun methodology. (For example, all the Paranormal Activity films, though this court deems District 9 pretty much okay.) Chronicle, while admittedly containing several kernels of a good idea and demonstrating promising braininess (allusions to Schopenhauer and Jung, et cetera, et cetera), was nonetheless deleteriously affected by over-reliance on a narrative gimmick that started out cool but, as duly noted here, shall henceforth be declared cliché.
I mean it, man. This plot could have been a contender: giving super powers to an abused kid named Andrew (Dane DeHaan), spawn of an alcoholic father and dying mother, living in a neighborhood almost comically rife with bullies. In other words, Andrew was born a Clark Kent type, and we get to see what happens when he and his friends get seemingly unlimited telekinetic powers in an eerie, offhand way. Of course, they childishly abuse their powers, beginning with a spider-killing scene that weirdly alludes to Hogwarts. But director Josh Trank, though clearly gifted, doesn’t have the moral courage to play this out as truly horrific. It is dark, though sadly nothing in the film matches the superb visual implications of the movie poster, which features three kids floating in fearful isolation hundreds of yards above the Seattle Space Needle.
Chronicle is fun, but it could have been great. Trank went for pale imitation of a worn-out subgenre that ought to have died with Cloverfield when he could have given us a powerful counter-myth to Harry Potter. Instead, he went for a gimmick no wishful thinking can now possibly revive.