Oren Peli's long-awaited Paranormal Activity follow-up Area 51 is a found-footage disappointment, lacking not only jump-scares, but a clue as to how to properly film a found-footage film. Peli's writing is half-cooked and the limited special effects need some work.
Director Oren Peli shocked us all in 2007 with the surprise found-footage hit Paranormal Activity. Since then, he’s had his hand involved in just about every found-footage horror film since then, producing many films with Jason Blum under the Blumhouse Productions wing.
Now, Peli steps back behind the camera as a writer/director for Area 51 — a found-footage film about breaking into the government’s highly secretive Area 51 base. Area 51 actually finished filming all the way back in 2009, yet Peli and Blum have finally decided to dump it via the VOD platform for those still interested in the film.
Area 51 is by far one of the sloppiest and most unimaginative found-footage films to hit since the uprising that started with Paranormal Activity. I almost find it hard to believe that Oren Peli himself directed and wrote Area 51, because everything that doesn’t work in the film is stuff that I’ve been bashing other Paranormal Activity copycats for.
Peli’s latest feels like a giant step backwards for the filmmaker that all but re-started the found-footage craze.
Area 51 doesn’t even suffer from shaky cam syndrome, instead it lacks genuine scares and general scene build up.
Peli trades the practical spooks and scares that rendered themselves effective and original in Paranormal Activity for a film that mostly follows around three young guys and a gal as they attempt to break into Area 51.
Once they break into the facility things quickly go wrong and instead of inserting tension and build up, Peli offers up poorly-rendered CGI for the brief alien glimpse reveals, followed by a general lack of understanding on when to reveal versus when to hold back and build up the scares.
Peli reveals almost everything, yet he does it in that cheap fashion that actually only shows very small bits and fragments of something.
Area 51 can be summed up as a film that shows nothing, yet builds on everything.
There are cool futuristic alien concepts that the gang discovers and barely touches before things go to shit and they’re forced to evacuate the facility in a panic.
From that point, the film rushes through all of the cool alien stuff and instead plays a lame game of hide and seek, with two characters slowly stumbling upon some sort of alien pit, while another character spends his entire screen time climbing stairs and eventually making it to the surface.
Absolutely nothing exciting happens. There’s no clever jump-scares or cool alien creature designs to be revealed. Peli must’ve shot this film on the super cheap end, because everything looks like pixelated garbage, with the actual CGI renders looking super clean and smooth.
Area 51 doesn’t even waste time going through the sub-genre tropes from the found-footage bible that Peli helped revise, instead opting to shoot a very basic film about a group of people constantly running around, only occasionally stopping to be loud and dumb.
I’m assuming that Peli knew this shortly after filming, which is why he tried burying it so hard until eventually enough people spoke up and he just had to release it, which is why the film’s release has been super quiet, with an unadvertised VOD release as well as a very exclusive and small one-time-a-day theatrical one-week exhibit.
Paranormal Activity must have been one large fluke, because Oren Peli‘s writing and directing talents are missing on the set of Area 51. Perhaps he should stick to producing and collecting easy paychecks, because actual filmmaking requires talent.