Not only does Chronicle herald the coming of age of Generation I, it also won't give you a headache.
Thanks to a string of so-so horrors – including three overhyped Paranormal Activities in as many years – the charms of the found footage subgenre have started to wear thin of late. Perfect timing, then, for some new blood to offer a fresh spin on POV filmmaking.
Chronicle starts in dutifully formulaic fashion: Angsty misfit Andrew (Dane DeHaan) decides to start recording his every waking minute in a bid to both protect himself from his abusive, Bourbon-breathed pop and to shun the high-school elite that has rejected him. Andrew's cousin Matt (Alex Russell) drags him to an illegal warehouse soirée on the promise of free-flowing suds and skirt, and while there the school's resident Mr Popular, Steve (Michael B Jordan), convinces them to come check out a mysterious sink hole (or is it a crash site?) in a nearby clearing. They go down together as boys and emerge as boys with totally badass supernatural skillz.
With their newfound powers of psychokinesis our trio do what any right-minded yoofs would in their situation: lark around and play harmless pranks on unsuspecting members of the public. It's at this point that 28-year-old first-time director Josh Trunk distinguishes his film from the crowd, eschewing the kinds of irksome shakycam tricks that would usually signal Cloverfield syndrome in favour of a smooth cinematographic style that's explained by Andrew's ability to make his camera float around him. So not only does Chronicle herald the coming of age of Generation I, it also won't give you a headache.
By drawing the audience's attention away from the camera at this juncture, Trunk casually proceeds to reinvent the genre frame-by-frame. The gamble is that both the story and characters are suddenly thrust to the fore, but Max Landis' script and Trunk's three charismatic leads more than hold their own.
As an occupational hazard of dealing with teenagers, things take a petulant turn late on. Andrew's mother is dying, his father is becoming increasingly suspicious of his son's extracurricular activities, his so-called friends are only interested in the cooler, more confident Andrew 2.0. It's all getting a bit much. But however volatile things get in the film's last act, Trunk shows enough restraint to ensure the action is gripping without ever becoming overblown or silly.
Unfavourable comparisons with NBC's flash-in-the-pan super hero folly Heroes are hard to ignore, but despite the limitless capabilities of its protagonists, Chronicle never stretches itself too thin. Only a cruddy saccharine ending spoils this otherwise fast and frolicsome sci-fi thriller.
A found footage/super hero hybrid for the YouTube gen? Dislike.
Brilliantly inventive, action-packed and brimming with confidence.
A surprise hit but ultimately no less of a novelty than its forbears.