Chronicle is a film about a young man named Andrew (Dane DeHaan, The Amazing Spider Man 2, Kill Your Darlings) whose life gets turned upside after finding something, possibly of alien origin, that gives him, his cousin Matt (Alex Russell, Carrie remake), and new friend Stephen (Micheal B. Jordan, Friday Night Lights, Creed) super powers. While this may seem like an unlikely choice for October Horror Movie a Day, Chronicle turns into a cross between Scanners and Akira. The film starts off with Andrew filming things on his new camera and we learn that he’s a very troubled young man. His mother is dying, his father (Micheal Kelly, who played CJ in the Dawn of the Dead remake) is an alcoholic, and he’s bullied at school. He doesn’t fit in and doesn’t really want too, despite the pleads from Matt to try to acclimate himself into society. Using the camera as a buffer between himself and the real world only adds to his alienation and drives the wedge further between him and Matt.
Things start to get better when after a party Stephen and Matt find a hole underground and invite Andrew to join them to videotape their discovery. This alien/eldritch device grants them telekinesis and improves all their lives dramatically, especially Andrew who starts to come out of his shell. At first they use their powers like you’d imagine the X-Men to do if they were on an episode of Jackass. Then things get increasingly dark as Andrews bitterness and powers grow out of control and he begins using his powers in acts of revenge.
Yes, Chronicle is a found-footage film, and has the same limitations and gimmicks that they all do, but I still really liked this film a lot. It wasn’t afraid to go into some disturbing situations. Screenwriter Max Landis (son of John Landis) penned an incredibly well-written and dark story. Director Josh Trank (The Fantastic Four, Kill Point) is a solid competent director who knows when to use the found footage aspect to ramp up the intensity and also when to use a Steadicam to highlight the more emotional aspects of the story (you will not forget the spider scene). Dane DeHann is perfect as the troubled Andrew. His situation of having a dying parent and being bullied at school along with feeling living in the shadow of a popular cousin was verbatim my high school experience. Thankfully, I didn’t have any violent tendencies until I aged a bit, but I understood where the guy was coming from. The film tries to make the case that it’s the powers growing that make him lash out, or at least that’s Matt’s viewpoint. I didn’t totally buy it, but can make the case that that’s what Matt needs to tell himself.
Chronicle is a movie miracle, a horror film masquerading as a super hero flick. If 20th Century Fox had known what they were doing here, Max Landis would have been stopped in his tracks. Unfortunately, they caught on after the films release and we’re not likely to see a sequel, which sucks because Landis was kicking around some interesting ideas for it. The darker idea for a sequel titled Martyr, would have had Matt would face off against a schizophrenic with superpowers wearing a mechanized suit. Another pitch would have Matt, Andrew, and Stephen reunite via time travel before being hunted down by the government. I’m hoping eventually we do get a sequel to Chronicle, but if we don’t it’s no big loss because Chronicle isn’t a film that especially needs one.