Area 51 (2015)
Area 51 (2015)
Director: Oren Peli
Cast: Reid Warner, Darrin Bragg, Ben Rovner
Synopsis: Three young conspiracy theorists attempt to uncover the mysteries of Area 51, the government’s secret location rumored to have hosted encounters with alien beings. What they find at this hidden facility exposes unimaginable secrets.
It’s doubtful that Oren Peli’s Area 51 spent six years hidden away from the public eye in some cavernous underground facility, but there’s an amusing irony in the way that it was whisked from sight before it even had a chance to blink in the sunlight back in 2009. Of course, we all know the reason for the movie’s forced quarantine from the human race: it’s a bit of a dog – although, to be fair, it’s no worse than many other found footage horror movies (is there, one wonders, any other genre that has experimented with found footage? It seems to be a curiously genre-specific technique to date).
Peli is the creative force behind the hugely successful – but over-rated – Paranormal Activity (2007), but Area 51 differs from that movie in the way that it gives itself little opportunity to build any tension prior to its four conspiracy theorists attempting to infiltrate the eponymous government base situated in some remote desert location. In fact, nearly two-thirds of Area 51 follows Reid (Reid Warner), a possible former alien abductee, and his two buddies, Darrin (Darrin Bragg) and Ben (Ben Rovner) as go about the dull business of preparing for their mission. This includes briefly hooking up with real-life UFO expert Glenn Campbell, and then with Jelena (Jelena Nik), the daughter of a former employee at the base who has access to maps of the facility. The only drama during this lengthy portion of the film is Ben’s wavering dedication to the cause, which hardly makes for riveting viewing, so it’s not long before the film becomes something of a bore.
Naturally, things liven up considerably once our hardy band breach the curiously under-manned security of the base. This glaringly lax security might lead the more observant viewer to suspect that those in charge of the facility actually want them to break in, a theory which is supported by other incidents which Peli and co-writer Christopher Denham’s screenplay frustratingly neglects to explain. Anyway, Reid, Jelena and Darrin run noisily along deserted corridors and down unmanned stairwells without detection, and descended ever further into the bowels of the underground base, finding increasing evidence of an alien presence on their journey.
The main problem with Area 51 is that too much is left unexplained, or, at best, referenced so obliquely that only lengthy contemplation, an inordinate amount of dot-joining, and some leaps in the dark can fill the gaps. The four interlopers somehow manage to be irritating despite a level of blandness that would see them relegated to the status of bystander No 3 (uncredited) in any other movie. To be fair to the actors involved, a lot of this is down to a script (or improvisational technique) which has them all endlessly beseeching each other to hurry up, or assuring one another that ‘it’s alright,’ even when it clearly isn’t. It’s a time-filler, but nothing more…
(Reviewed 13th October 2015)