Area 51 is Discombobulated


Director Oren Peli provoked the current found-footage renaissance with “Paranormal Activity,” but was soon after embroiled in a post-production nightmare on his immediate follow-up, the disappointing “Area 51.” Devoid of any character development, three college student cliches are barely introduced before they’re off to the races, on a mission to break into that covert military base because…one of them saw a bright light this one time, he’s not really sure. Wonderful motivation, there. Any who, the hour preceding is a combination of tedious foreshadowing and frantic titillation, peaking in the second act when these knuckleheads are nearly caught rummaging through a stranger’s home in the middle of the night, an admittedly superb set piece of claustrophobic horror. Peli maintains this momentum up until the point where, in the bowels of their infamous destination, they finally discover what they’ve been looking for: a floating rock, white blood, and a flying saucer. Proof of conspiracy, if not exactly worth the trip. Through inexplicable means, extra-terrestrials make their escape and begin wreaking havoc from bunker to bunker, kick-starting an incomprehensible climax of the worst kind: shaky-cam, and lots of it. “Chronicle” and “The Visit” have proven it’s possible to utilize this format without alienating (har har) the audience, but the final scenes of “Area 51” are so visually discombobulated I couldn’t spoil them for you if I wanted to. I have no idea what happened to those knuckleheads and their female plus-one outside of obligatory violence and the usual science-fiction voodoo. “Area 51” is intermittently thrilling, but would’ve been better served with a bigger budget and a tripod.

Grade: C

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