Last weekend, the number one movie in the country was “Chronicle,” a teen outcast science fiction movie told in the low-budget, found-footage style of “The Blair Witch Project.” There’s a reason this movie has become an instant sleeper hit: It’s a terrific film. You may think, “I’ve already had my fill of Blair Witch-style handheld-video movies,” but mark my words: “Chronicle” is the most original and excitingly executed one since “Blair Witch” itself. It’s also a movie that rebuilds the power of special effects from the ground up.
Dane DeHaan, who’s like a runty Leonardo DiCaprio, plays the central character, a Seattle misfit named Andrew, who turns his life into a video diary to take refuge from his abusive father. At a rave, he and two comrades find a hole that’s emitting electromagnetic burps, and the three then have an extraterrestrial encounter, emerging with telekinetic powers. They can now move anything with their minds. A lot of objects in this movie float—rocks, Pringles, human bodies, the camera itself—yet the film’s secret weapon is that the special effects, even when they’re achieved digitally, are made to look and feel analog, and they’re timed with sinister finesse.
The director, Josh Trank, lures us into an emotionally riveting downward spiral, as Andrew starts using his powers to vent his neurotic aggression, crafting acts of mental violence.
“Chronicle” turns out to be the dark version of a superhero origin story, fused with the nerd’s-revenge climax of “Carrie.” The staging is audacious: the film makes inspired use of the Space Needle, and it’s already clear that Josh Trank, as a filmmaker, has the right stuff to move up into big-budget fantasy. If he wants to, that is. In a great many ways, he has already beaten the studios at their game