SF elements: aliens
The Goonies meet ET
It's 1979. A group of kids are making a zombie horror home movie using "Super 8" technology (that's good old fashioned cine film; not digital, not magnetic, just flickery film). While filming a scene near the railway, they witness a train crash, then weird stuff starts happening. So they investigate. While continuing to make their film, using the ensuing events as background "production value".
A deliberate Spielberg homage, this has everything from chopper bikes to dead parents. You realise how good the actors are when you see their wooden performances in the film-within-a-film. Except for Alice [Elle Fanning], that is, whose acting as the zombie hunter's wife, and later as a zombie (naturally), amazes the other kids. The period setting (oh no! the 1970s is now a period setting!!) is well done, with no knowing references to future tech spoiling it (the closest is the little scene where they are trying to get the film developed quickly -- it takes three days).
I have a problem with the train crash. A guy drives his pickup truck on the tracks. This doesn't cause a simple derailment: those train carriages are all flying through the air (a spectacular special effect, sure -- but minus several million for realism). So that train -- a goods train, not some express train) must have been travelling at quite a speed. And yet, after all this mayhem, the truck is a little squashed and the guy survives (until he's cynically snuffed a little later when his necessity to the fades).
Okay -- so not very realistic. But the effects are good, the pacing is mostly right (after a somewhat slow start), the sentimentality doesn't get too much in the way, and the 1970s feel is fine. Good mindless fun -- just don't think too much about the physics of that train wreck!
reviewed 19 August 2011