Suspenseful non-horror addition to the found footage canon
The found footage genre is beloved by horror filmmakers (Blair Witch, [REC], Paranormal Activity). With its panicked shakiness and POV perspective, it’s a neat shortcut to instilling a sense of panic. Godzilla clone Cloverfield attempted to harness that energy for a project outside of the horror genre, but failed to back it up with sympathetic characters; thankfully, Chronicle avoids following in the over-sized footsteps of its predecessor.
The film opens with Andrew (Dane DeHaan) deciding to record his every waking moment, documenting the beatings administered by his alcoholic father and the bullies at school, and his dying mother’s final days. When he, older cousin Matt (Alex Russell) and Matt’s buddy Steve (Michael B Jordan) stumble upon a glowing, otherworldly meteorite, all three are bestowed with telekinetic powers, and Andrew films every step that follows. Andrew’s difficult home life however, leads him to desire and develop his abilities more than the others, and with no benign Uncle Ben-type character around to deliver that age-old maxim about great responsibility, he falls victim to the other truth about absolute power: it corrupts absolutely.
Chronicle finds strength in the found footage format, the handheld camera successfully getting the audience onside with the protagonists: one sequence in which the trio discover they can fly, for instance, is exhilarating. Yet this approach is also restricting: as events spiral out of control, the means of creating a cameraperson become somewhat contrived. Aside from this (and a completely unnecessary tacked-on ending), Chronicle presents a well-executed, darker approach to the superhero/villain origin story.