A Little Background: After watching this the other day, I felt compelled to write something up on it. This wasn’t the first time I had seen it, I went to see it twice in the theater and probably four or five times since then. I still believe that this film is the best tribute to Steven Speilberg’s golden age (1975-1989) to date. Of course, Spielberg co-produced it, so maybe J.J. cheated and it shouldn’t count… But I think it should.
The Film: It takes place in a small Midwestern town in 1979 and it’s full of blatant references to the dawn of the 1980s. A soundtrack including Bye Bye Love and Heart of Glass, a background poster of Halloween, a Walkman, even a short segment of CBS Radio Mystery Theater is heard. J.J. Abrams almost overdoes it… Actually he does, but it’s ok. It’s clear that Abrams intentionally over-saturated this film with pop culture nostalgia and I’m ok with that. The story is about a group of kids attempting to film a zombie movie to enter into a regional film competition. They end up being indirectly involved in a massive train wreck and stumbling onto a discovery that seems to be covered up by the government. The plot is very reminiscent of Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind and E.T. The Extra Terrestrial in particular. The major thing that makes this plot work is something that sci-fi movie makers have seemed to forget recently. And that is, establishing characters that you can care about. There is even a reference to this writing skill as the kids attempt to use it in their zombie movie.
Three Favorite Things: a cast of child actors that puts Stand By Me to shame, concise and suspenseful cinematography, and a sweeping and moving score from longtime Abrams collaborator, Michael Giacchino