Amber Alert (2012)

NOVEMBER 6, 2012

GENRE: MOCKUMENTARY, THRILLER
SOURCE: THEATRICAL (REGULAR SCREENING)

Community creator Dan Harmon recently tweeted about how the human race was only a couple of found footage movies away from officially becoming the laziest species, which is pretty good considering he probably has better things to do than educate himself on the existence of the more obscure ones, like Skew or Bigfoot: The Lost Coast Tapes. But if he checked his mentions, he'd be aware of Amber Alert thanks to yours truly - because I figured he'd like to know that whatever movie it was that set him off a few weeks ago certainly wasn't as stupid and lazy as this one.

The sad thing is that it wouldn't be a bad idea for an anthology movie; with a better twist at the end, it could comfortably fit in with V/H/S 2 if it was only 20 minutes or so, which is about as long as even a child's ability to process logic could watch this thing. If you're uninitiated, the movie is about a pair of annoying 20somethings who are filming a video audition for a reality show when they notice that the car in front of them is the same one being described on the amber alert road signs. They call the cops, but then the guy takes an exit, and fearing that the cops wouldn't be able to find him, they stay on his tail. So far, so good, right?

Well, it doesn't stay this "good" for long (I use quotes because the movie had gotten on my nerves before they even called the cops, more on that soon), because the characters grow increasingly moronic, and the absence of police gets stupider and stupider by the second. A cop finally DOES show up around the halfway mark, but of course he pulls our heroes over instead of the kidnapper, and when he checks on their story, he comes back with "that alert has been canceled". This is never explained, and that's the last we see of the police. For the life of me I can't even begin to come up with a theory as to how this could be possible; did the parents of the kidnapped girl merely shrug it off? At one point, the guy notices them following him and pulls over to "explain" that the alert was made by his ex-wife, that the girl in the car with him is his daughter and he was late bringing her back from his assigned weekend time with her, but that is not actually true, so where did the alert go? And the car he's driving is his own as far as we know, so if they had his plate number, wouldn't they have his address as well? Wouldn't the cops have investigated his house and (spoiler if you haven't seen the trailer) found the same things our protagonists do when they break into it in the film's third act?

Christ, the movie racks up so many head-smacking idiocies I barely even noticed that it makes absolutely no sense that the movie is presented as found footage. We're told early on that the cops recovered the tape as evidence, but they apparently went through and blurred out license plates and beeped out some addresses and such, and possibly even edited it a bit, because there are jump cuts that are clearly the result of skipping over footage, not the camera man turning it off and on. The 3rd character who films everything is a complete non-entity; even though he's the main character's little brother, neither of them ever expresses concern about having what looks like a 10 year old join in pursuit of a man who kidnaps children.

He also keeps his mouth shut for long periods of time, just filming the other two as they shout at each other, which accounts for what seems like 90% of the movie. Even before they see the car the two were getting on my nerves with their "energetic" behavior (read: they're loud and talk over each other a lot), but from the second the girl realizes that a little kid is in danger, she dials her voice up to 11 and never calms down again for the rest of the movie. Things along the lines of "WE HAVE TO HELP HER!" or "KEEP FOLLOWING OR WE WILL LOSE THEM!" are shrieked over and over, with the male shouting back things like "I'M TRYING!" or "CALM DOWN, LET THE COPS HANDLE IT!" in equal measure. When the kidnapper approached them I was relieved, I was hoping he'd just shoot them both and leave the mute cameraman to take over the heroics, but alas, after this eye of the storm where they talk like human beings for a few minutes, it's right back to the shrieking as soon as they start driving again and realize that the guy was lying (they put a microphone in the car when he stopped at a gas station - don't ask - and it comes back to life as he begins threatening the girl). So in lieu of anything approaching logic or even dumb action, you get two annoying "heroes" yelling at each other for the bulk of its runtime. Awesome.

See, here's the thing I'm not sure director/writer/producer Kerry Bellessa understands about how these movies work. We in the audience will suspend our disbelief about why they keep filming, why their batteries haven't died, etc, as long as the story is interesting, the POV element is being put to creative use, and there's a decent "reward" for putting up with some of the inherent tedium the format demands. Amber Alert offers none of these things; the story is paper thin and riddled with holes, the cameraman is such a non-entity that I often forgot I was even supposed to be seeing it through someone else's perspective, and there isn't a SINGLE moment of genuine suspense in the entire thing until they break into the house, and by then I had completely given up hope that this would pull itself together. And Bellessa doesn't have the stones to commit to the "fact" that these movies are supposed to end with everyone dead - I won't spoil the specifics, but what the traditional text-based epilogue tells us feels like a huge cop-out.

Did the rest of the audience agree? Hard to tell. Of the two other people there, one walked out after about a half hour or so, and the other, after the movie's credits (cast names, a stunt coordinator, etc) began to roll, asked me if this was real. For the good of humanity I will assume he merely meant if this was a true story, and not "real" meaning the footage we just saw, but then again he was a bit of an odd one. He walked into the theater and asked who won the election (which had been called nearly 90 minutes before), and then later went to the bathroom or something and came back with "All right, Amber Alert...", so it's possible the guy was so out of it he legit thought that a snuff film would be playing at a Pasadena multiplex for 7 dollars.

If you read yesterday's review, you'd recall that I actually have an elevated fear/sympathy for kidnapping, so the fact that this failed to generate any tension is even more damning, especially when you consider that I think I am more forgiving on FF movies than most - but another couple like this might burn me on the concept forever. Indeed, the other day I had the sad realization that Devil Inside was actually one of the better found footage films I had seen this year (this being the at LEAST 15th); I didn't hate it as much as most (seriously folks, they ALL end pretty abruptly - ignore the URL and it's pretty much par for the course), but I certainly wasn't thinking that it would be on the upper side of a ranking by the end of 2012. I don't know if this was the worst; Bigfoot was pretty grueling as well, and my review of Episode 50 is pretty damning (I've since wiped all of it from memory), but if you think Devil Inside was among the worst movies ever made (it's the rare film to earn an "F" Cinemascore), you should be grateful that you don't yet know how idiotic and worthless the genre* can truly get.

What say you?

*That's part of the problem - "Found Footage" shouldn't be a genre, yet producers/distributors seem to think it is. It's like 3D - people are using it because it's the cool thing to do, but few are actually putting the thought into it that makes it worth the effort.


35 comments:

  1. To be honest, I didn't read your full review because I'm planning on seeing this one. But I did read enough to realize you didn't like it, which seems to be the general consensus. It's a shame, because the trailer really pulled me in, but from what I've gathered, the tension is only there when bunched together in a 60 second burst, and there isn't enough to sustain it for a feature length film.

    --J/Metro

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  2. Really, the trailer pulled you in? When I watched the trailer on Apple a few weeks ago I could barely make it through it looked so stupid. Like BC says, a lot of shrieking, a premise that strained credulity even in an abbreviated, elliptical form. I cannot fathom how this was released theatrically.

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  3. well.....let's see if i have to sign up for anything before i type up a book.

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  4. I think the movie was quite effective. Quite effective at driving me up the wall. I was frustrated and extremely pissed off and I don't mean with the guy who abducted little girls. He deserved to live on this planet more than our heroes. These people could have done anything other than what they did and had a better result. I just love the last scene where you find out the guy was in love with the girl. If love is enough of a reason for one to follow orders from the hysterical, irrational person in the car to endanger your life, her life, and her little brothers life so she can stop a dangerous criminal when you are not capable of stopping a child, then he deserves to die. For me, it was beyond all understanding. If they would have kept the cops on the phone and simply told them that they were witnessing a child abduction instead of trying to explain what was going on in some strange indirect way, they would probably had much more luck. Of course for me the decisions would be much easier. I know how to efficiently use, as all responsible adult Americans should, and carry a firearm with me in my car, or any car I ride in for that matter, at all times. If I witnessed a sick f**k abducting a child and could get no help from the authorities, I would take care of the situation myself without endangering the child in my own car. However, the first thing I would understand though is that you keep the emergency operator on the line until the emergency is resolved. I do apologize for the firearm lecture but I have never been so frustrated in all of my life. If that was the filmmaker's goal, all I can say is bravo. You made a terrible movie. If there was a message you were trying to get across, I didn't get it. Not unless that message was to let us know that in the last 16 years, the amber alert has only saved around 500 children. That is not very effective and there has to be system that can do much, much better than that, and no I definitely do not mean chipping our children. Wow, that movie seriously pissed me off .

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    1. the cops said wait 15 mins we will send people out. like 3 hours later cops came..... to pull them over speeding. That operator was really doing her job :D

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  5. I did read the entire review. I do plan on watching this because well not sure. As for what you said that might be true. If I would give any review at all about this movie even before watching it I would say that it would seem like a unlikely real event that happened. Honestly if a amber alert was called out and you spotted the car and called the cops they would be there as fast as they could and this is in real life. They would also follow up on the lead that you gave them and not just call it off because the alert was over. A Amber Alert can only be canceled when they find the child. If what the reviews say is real then this movie would just be a stupid put together movie. I think if you wish to make a movie using this title and making it about a missing child then you should at least make it some what realistic and that does mean include cops.

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  6. I remember watching Quarantine (2008)and having such a headache from the shaky camerawork and plot stupidity that I snapped the DVD in half. I believe I would have done the same to the producer had he been standing before me. I wish they would lose all of the lost footage films. I will avoid Amber Alert like genital warts. Thank you for your review.

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  7. It takes a lot to make me just quit on a film after 25 minutes but the dreadful whiny voice of the female lead made me wish my ears had been dissolved by acid.

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  8. I liked this movie. Strangely, this is the way most 20 year-olds behave! I did find the lack of police response after numerous calls, beyond ridiculous. Overall, I found it to be a suspenseful movie..

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  9. I can honestly say i was happy that they both died for being idiots!!!

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    1. wow trying to save a little girl from getting brutally murdered is idiotic? u have got some real issues......

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    2. yeah it is idiotic when you do it without thinking and risking your little brother's life-- risking MULTIPLE lives...It's also stupid jumping into an icy lake to try to save someone knowing you can't swim instead of getting help from someone who can actually help.

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    3. What did you want them to do. the brother was already in the car. did you want them to drive all the way home drop him off and then go find the pervert? he would have been long gone and the girl would be dead. and they did try to get help they call the police they said wait 15 mins. an hour later and still nothing. so i don't know what "help" there actually was.

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    4. No. You want the cops to do their fuckin job. They broke into his house. That's a crime. Cops have to have warrants to go into peoples houses. They are breaking the law and putting everyone in danger. Not just them or the little girl or the brother. But anyone close enough to catch a stray bullet. They deserve to die for their stupidity.

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    5. Yes it was totally idiotic. If I had seen the loaded guns and what was in the house,and had no doubt about this guy. He would have been instantly killed by his own gun when I ambushed him upon his return. Then I would have called the police. However, it would not likely have gotten that far in the first place. It would have ended at the (crowded) gas station as I was smashing out the car window and taking the girl inside the station. What can the man do at that point. I would also slash all his tires. Worst case he is just the father who illegally has his own daughter and I would have to compensate his loss. Better safe than sorry.

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  10. Horrible. By the way that female whined through half the movie..she deserved death (:

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    1. ok so someone deserved death for getting upset because they saw a little girl getting kidnapped!!????!!would u react happy or something? u people have got some serious issues u need to resolve...

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    2. Bitch you need help.. lol
      wtf is wrong with you smh

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  11. I'm watching it right now and it is by far 1 of the most ridiculous movies I have ever watched in my natural life. I'm in the movie maybe about 35 minutes 40 minutes and I think I'm just going to just cut off, I can't take 1 for the team with this movie.

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  12. You can't really say this is bad acting or bad movie I mean it is a bit annoying and boring but this was what happened in real life. They didn't react well in a crises. They kept stating off with we've been following this car all day which automatically make them looks suspicion the should start with i know where the girls who was kidnapped is.But I've seen the movie and i can't say it was bad acting because for all I know they could be really acting how the original people acted. Maybe this story just wasn;t good enough for a movie.

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  13. I think this movie was very scary. This shit happens everyday. I don't understand how noone can not like this film. I read that people say they where shitty actors, but think about it if it was real do you think they wouldn't be acting like this? It was gross to think there are men out there that kidnap kids and put there panties on the wall like they are thropheys. Just watching this movie makes me not want to let my kids out of the house. 2 thumbs up for this movie.. jenny

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  14. I just watched this movie..I believe that many of you are acting "out of character" due to the rediculous comments that you have been making. What would you all do in this position? Would you just let it go like so many others do? When we see someone in need, especially a little girl, if we turn our back who will be there? If I was in this predicament I would have followed the mans car too! Granted, I would have done many things differently. Every child is worth saving!!! If this is were a true story I would think that both Nate and Sam were true heroes!!!!! Yes there were times that they were hysterical but they used the common sense God gave us!

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    1. I agree with lots of the comments calling them idiots. Yes they tried to save a child but they risked another child's life! It's awesome that they followed the guy but they should have NEVER entered the home!!

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  15. This was the most ANNOYING trainwreck I ever saw,I watched til the end to see what herp and derps fate was...good rittens

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  16. I enjoyed the movie. Yes at some points the two friends start to annoy me.. but at the same time it kept me on my toes, just to think if my 4 yr old son was in the back seat of that car. I don't know maybe because i would do the same thing for some one or if i was the parents of the little girl i would be so for ever great full. Yes some of what y'all are saying is true but u have to look at it for what the movie is trying to point out not of whats actually going on with the characters. Yes the characters play a big role in the film and how people react to the movies but i think sometimes with certain meanings of what the movie is trying to give the characters can be over looked. Over all 2 thumbs up to the point of the movie(There's a hero in everyone). And to the passion of the girl trying to find the little girl. I've already started telling people about the movie and i will continue to keep spreading it until they make a "AMBER ALERT 2"!!!!! Amber alerts are real. Maybe im so soft heart-ed because i have a son, Who knows!

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  17. I have to agree with your review, everything you stated was correct. The whiny teenagers were unbearable at times, but I gave the movie the benefit of the doubt just because, so I watched the whole thing. I could see the whole plot coming (Except for the "cancellation" of the alert, that's just absurd).
    ***Spoiler alert***
    I'm not sure how the kid got a gun either to shoot the man, he clearly left it on the counter.
    The plot is shallow, with many holes that didn't want to be filled by the director out of pure laziness. It could have been better, regardless of your "microbudget"

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  18. I was too angry the whole time to enjoy it...how stupid can you be? And this girl and her nagging was completely outta control. If I was in the situation, no I wouldn't have done this but the police would have been more prompt...this is a movie but still make it realistic and make the girl shutup already did no one teach her common sense...you are not a cop...you can't fight...and you have no gun...but you're chasing a murderer/molester...oh ok that makes sense. Did anyone realize she had no remorse when she hears her brother get shot and continues to try and get the girl and keeps screaming instead of shutting her mouth for once when she knows the murderer is in the house?? I'm sooo done...

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    1. She even tried to male her own little brother enter the house with her!!! Wtf.

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  19. I'm watching this crap right now on netflix. Sooooo she just heard her little brother being shot and killed and she shows no emotion towards it? She continues to try to get the girl out after her brother is killed. Wow. What a bitch. They all deserved to die. Complete idiots.

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  20. I don't consider the girl a true hero. They made heroic acts but they were far too foolish and irresponsible. She even invited her own little brother to enter the house with her! She hears her little brother being shot at and her response was as if she didn't care about him. You're not a hero if you risk one child's life to save another.
    They should have spoken to the cops more maturely.
    The cops seemed so inept anyway.
    If they stayed in the car and called the cops and let them know a child is being raped or something, maybe the cops would have reacted as if they cared.
    I've seen drunk people have cops respond. This movie was horrible.

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  21. This movie is freakin ridiculous we have two dummies yelling at each other half way through the movie.Then the little boy is thr inly one making sense around here.Sam the one who got on my nerves the most during the movie keeps her 10yr old brother in dangers way.wether he says he wants to stay.When they find the homosexual girl who got kidnapped they move to slow to get her out of her dog cage.One part during the movie sam the faggot pulls the sterring wheel over when she see's the kidnaper pull over.Nate the one who needs to grow a pair doesnt kick her dum self out the car.I would have told sam to put a sock in it litterally.

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  22. This movie is freakin ridiculous we have two dummies yelling at each other half way through the movie.Then the little boy is thr inly one making sense around here.Sam the one who got on my nerves the most during the movie keeps her 10yr old brother in dangers way.wether he says he wants to stay.When they find the homosexual girl who got kidnapped they move to slow to get her out of her dog cage.One part during the movie sam the faggot pulls the sterring wheel over when she see's the kidnaper pull over.Nate the one who needs to grow a pair doesnt kick her dum self out the car.I would have told sam to put a sock in it litterally.

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  23. They had his phone number and license plate, but were discouraged they lost him and didn't know how to find him? They didn't call the cops when he stopped at the gas station, or tell all the other people around he is the amber alert? At his house, they could have gotten all the neighbors in on it and let them know to help. So many bad idiotic things in this movie.

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  24. ok i think you guys are being harsh, if one of my little cousins was in there, yes i wouldn't have left all those guns there, i wouldv'e taken them all in case the guy came back so they could kill him and save the girl, but i wouldnt been flipping my shit, and toward the whole no emotion to her brother getting shot, first, he wasnt killed. and second, she was clearly upset but was pushing the falling to the ground in tears aside to help a girl younger than Caleb who was being threatened and nearly raped and murdered

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