Just so you know, this is not the kind of review that informs you whether the script is pedantic and overwrought or discusses how awe-inspiring the cinematography is throughout the film. Although I will go as far as to say that they could have toned down the deliberate lens flare a tad. That concludes any highfalutin jargon I will use in reference to this movie. Now, if you’d enjoy reading 8 random thoughts pertaining to this flick, then by all means give it a perusal and decide for yourself whether it’s worthy of a looksie at the cinema or better suited for a DVD viewing in the comfort of your own domicile.
If you’re unfamiliar with the plot, here’s a tremendously brief summary. Set in the summer of 1979, a group of friends witness a mysterious train crash while filming a scene for their movie and then proceed to investigate the mysterious events that occur in their small Ohio town following this horrific crash.
1) I’ll begin by saying that I am well aware common movie protocol typically forbids killing, maiming or severely injuring one of your principal characters within the initial fifteen minutes of a film, but here they seem to employ this concept at a whole new level and take some real liberties when it comes to the extensive destruction a massive train crash can cause. Multiple cargo cars weighing thousands of pounds go hurtling through the air along with exploding power lines and yet nary a character receives more than a scratch or two while dodging these flaming 50-foot boxes of metal. Kids run fast, but come on. Oh, and the Buick Skylark that’s parked maybe only a shade more than 10 feet from the tracks and ends up surrounded by the wreckage, appeared as though a can of Turtle Wax and some Armour-All would have it looking good as new in no time. Did you know it’s possible to collide a pick up truck head-on into a speeding train and survive? i didn’t either until I saw this movie.
2) The movie takes place during 1979 and, even though I was just a mere eight years old at that time, I do recall some of the snazziest duds being worn by my parents, my siblings and myself. This movie manages to showcase not only the sweet polyester-infused wardrobe and wonderful automobiles of that decade, but also establishes the look and feel of the homes during that time. So while I would have loved seeing a string art piece depicting either a sailboat or a suspension bridge, I can’t dislike any movie that features a macrame owl wood hanging that could very well have been the exact same one that hung in my parent’s basement during my formative years.
3) Instead of hounding my parents to purchase a new Rawlings baseball glove, Puma Game Cat turf shoes and an Easton aluminum bat, I should of diverted some of those funds toward the acquisition of a Super 8 camera and declared myself, Mini Movie Mogul of the Cul-De-Sac. This film makes it seem like shooting a movie is clearly a great way to spend the summer with your friends. Plus, it also taught me that chicks can dig the sensitive, creative types just as much, if not more, as the neighborhood jocks.
4) I find it challenging to watch James Gandolfini ever since his wife-beater wearing, rat-whacking role on The Sopranos. His portrayal of Tony Soprano won him many accolades and garnered him worldwide fame, but it also left me seeing him as that Mafia boss character in every subsequent role. I mention this because it’s the same way for me with regard to Kyle Chandler. He’s great in this movie as Deputy Sheriff Jackson Lamb, father to Joe (Joel Courtney) the love-stricken hero, but every time he came on the screen I kept waiting for him to say something about the Dillon Panthers or conclude a scene with, “Clear eyes….full hearts……can’t lose”. If you’ve always wondered what it would be like seeing Coach Taylor from the critically acclaimed show “Friday Night Lights” as a valued member of a small town law enforcement agency, then get excited because you’ll see just that for the duration of the film.
5) Even though she has an older, much more established actress sister who shares the same name as two of the 48 contiguous states (minus the “North” and “South”), that Elle Fanning is no slouch herself and can flat out act. As the character Alice, I’m not too embarrassed to admit that she aggressively tugged at my heartstrings during her rehearsal scene on the train station platform.
6) Growing up as a husky Lee jeans wearing youth, I’ve always had a soft spot for cherubic characters who tend to be a bit more portly than their peers, and in this movie it’s no different. While a variety of kids are represented, each with their own idiosyncrasies and many I suspect will take a real shine to Cary (Ryan Lee), a lad with a mouthful of orthodontia and a penchant for fireworks, I was a big fan of Charles (Riley Griffiths). He’s a take charge kinda kid who’s enjoyed maybe one too many Steak-Ums or Fry Daddy prepared crinkle cut fries during his short life and is particularly entertaining as the order-spewing visionary of the kid-created zombie flick until halfway through the film when Joe (Joel Courtney) asserts himself and carries out the rescue mission.
7) Not to give away what the monster/alien looks like in this flick, but suffice it to say that it’s basically an amalgamation of all the previous scary, misunderstood monsters/aliens that have graced the big screen over the last 25 years. I especially liked the small nod given to the widely underrated Jeff Daniels picture, Arachnofobia. Oh, if you liked the Smoke Monster on the TV show Lost, you’ll particularly enjoy one aspect of this monster/alien.
8) You really get two movies for the price of one and I highly recommend staying seated through the entire end credits. If not, you’ll miss the actual movie these kids created, The Case, which is just as entertaining as the one that preceded it and some might argue, even a better viewing experience.