Film Review: Chronicle reinvigorates "found footage" genre


"Found footage" movies – films created as though the footage has been discovered after-the-fact – have become increasingly popular over the past few years. While the most recent offerings of this subgenre – The Devil Inside and Paranormal Activity sequels – have been dull, the new movie Chronicle gives hope that this method of filmmaking can still be exciting.

Chronicle follows three high school students: Steve, Andrew and Andrew's cousin Matt. Andrew is a loner that is regularly beaten by his alcoholic father. Matt is just an average student, while Steve is the popular jock running for class president. One night, the three boys stumble upon a large hole in the ground in the woods. They foolishly decide to explore the dark tunnel, where they discover something very strange.

The next day the boys realize they have awesome new powers. They have the ability to move objects with their minds. At first, they don't seem too worried about the potential consequences. They test their powers out by playing pranks on unsuspecting department store shoppers to great comedic effect. 

As the movie develops, so do their powers. What's refreshing about the film is that there isn't an antagonist or much of a plot. For the most part, it's just three teenagers dealing with life as they try to figure out how to use the powers thrust upon them. 

One of the largest problems with the found footage method of filmmaking is the shaky camera movement. While it's supposed to add to the realism, it quickly becomes annoying and cumbersome. Chronicle manages to overcome this in a very clever way. Since the characters can manipulate objects with their minds, they are able to make the camera float. This allows for very fluid images and interesting shots.

The style of filmmaking is also the weakest aspect of the movie. There are situations into which it seems ridiculous to bring a camera. Would someone really bring a camera to a party filled with underage drinking? The story is interesting enough that the first-person perspective doesn't seem necessary. 

While the early parts of the film have a comic and light tone, the final act takes a very dark turn. It's a daring move by the filmmakers, but it mostly pays off. The perfectly set explosive climax is enthralling, but I won't spoil it for you here. The only pitfall is that there is a certain level of absurdity to this climax that the film doesn't acknowledge. 

Still, this is an entertaining movie that gives a tired gimmick a breath of fresh air.