Tucked away inside little Joe Lamb’s pocket is a simple keepsake. It’s a necklace, whose pendant bear the likeness of the mother he lost to a car accident. School has been let out for the Summer in Ohio, and Joe’s friends, equipped with the flickering reels of a Super 8 camera, get wrapped up in shooting a zombie movie to submit to a local festival. Joe’s classmate and the film’s director, always on the lookout for “production values,” guides the ragtag crew to an abandoned train station on the outskirts of town. A train appears on the horizon, and as the team scrambles to roll the camera, a truck screeches to a halt on the tracks, locking the vehicles into a head-on collision. Car by car, the train is derailed in a firestorm of clamorous chaos. As it happens, the train’s monstrous cargo, freed by the crash, would affect things more personal than just the course of the zombie flick.
Super 8 is a flat film. It falls prey to its own monotonous throwback style. The nauseating speed at which cuts are made, the incessant closeups, and the shallow depth of field all work harder to conjure thoughts of a particularly insecure kind of film-making, than they are reminiscent or nostalgic. This “depiction of everything, examination of nothing” technique tells one all the things they should be feeling, but doesn’t provide the basis for the feeling of any of them. However, Abrams draws from an enjoyable set of 80s conventions, whose discovery slowly become reason enough not to leave the theater – gratuitous vomiting, just-say-no-ism (“drugs are SO bad”), otherwise innocuous children whose dialogue is punctuated by colorfully naughty words. To call Super 8 an homage is to belittle the movies of that era, at least I think. I remember light and shadow, genuine fright, and surging emotions. Perhaps I’ll revisit them to reassure myself, or perhaps I’ll just remember them the way I remember them.
- Super 8 (Abrams 2011) @ Cinemark Tinseltown USA #notfrisco