Horror review: Super 8

Joel-Courtney-in-Super-8-2011-Movie-Image-600x246

ORIGINALLY POSTED ON STRAIGHT.COM, JUNE 8, 2011

By Steve Newton

Super 8 is a Steven Spielberg–produced sci-fi thriller about a group of horror-loving Ohio kids in 1979 who, while shooting an amateur zombie flick, inadvertently film a train wreck that unleashes something terrifying on their small town. Sounds worth seeing, right?

Wrong-o, bucko.

This Spielbergian misstep by writer-director J. J. Abrams attempts to be the emotional coming-of-age equivalent of Stand by Me but instead winds up as a cacophonous mishmash of Goonies and War of the Worlds.

Not a good combo.

What bugged me the most about Super 8 was Michael Giacchino’s overbearing soundtrack. The consistently cloying score combines with incessant bursts of clanging metal to create one seriously distracting, noisy-ass affair that isn’t helped any by the hyperactive jabbering of the youthful cast.

Newcomer Joel Courtney is commendable as Joe Lamb, a sensitive boy who recently lost his doting mother and is dealing with a cop dad (Kyle Chandler) who isn’t coping quite as well. Joe falls hard for “older woman” Alice (Elle Fanning), the 16-year-old recruited to act in the kids’ film, but her boozing, longhaired father is the one Joe’s dad blames for his wife’s death. Familial conflict and adolescent angst ensue.

There are numerous attempts to make light of late-’70s culture, as when the stoner at the local camera shop offers to “get back into disco” to impress Joe’s older sister, or when the town sheriff spies an inattentive clerk using a new product called a Walkman and scoffs: “That’s just what the world needs—every kid walking around with his own stereo.”

We see Walter Cronkite reporting on the core meltdown at Three Mile Island and the gang of kids enthusiastically singing “My Sharona”, but some of the time spent recreating the vibe of ’79 would have been better used making the monster halfway interesting. Its clamorous rampage is no match for the brilliantly choreographed trainwreck that sets everything in motion.

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