Orgasmic fantasy wish-fulfilment is wasted on the young. Director Josh Trank (most notable recently for his editing on Big Fan) takes three teenage school friends and imbibes them with superpowers. It was never going to end well was it. This may sound the like the weirdest and most unlikely thing to possibly ever happen, but if you were to replace their superpowers with money, or popularity, the result would be the same.
Children can be very cruel.
We've seen this story a hundred times before, just not told quite like this. You don't have to try too hard to recall a host of films that feature lonely, troubled teenagers. Misfits that end up the most popular guys in school due to some accidental benefit are commonplace. Tie this up to a now almost pre-requisite for any film that involves anything out of the ordinary. One of the characters has to have a camera.
Found footage is not a new idea in itself either, but when you combine the two, it seems great things can happen and the viewer is often initially found mesmerised by the antics of this small group of boys that suddenly have the world on their plate. And when it happens, you cannot help but smile at the youthful exuberance, envious and enraptured all at once. You do have to wonder that they aren't more curious, however.
The movie skips along at a healthy pace, jumping from scene to scene that accentuates the homemade quality. As the boys come to grips with their new powers, they also become more adventurous with their uses. Andrew particularly embraces his new talents. He is the product of an abusive father and a terminally ill mother and is regularly picked on at school. Troubled teen, superpowers, revenge - the script practically writes itself.
That's not to say the film is obvious all the time. The uses they find for their skills are both inventive and entertaining. This puts a whole new spin on the term 'magic show', for example.
Predictably though, the story eventually goes where it has to and where every single member of the audience can guess. With great power comes great responsibility, after all, and these boys are the antithesis of responsible. Andrew becomes transfixed on the notion of the Apex Predator, not unlike Nietzsche's superman and his inevitable spiralling descent into a manic obsession with his own godlike powers overwhelms him.
All of this behaviour means for some pretty nifty special effects and being able to move a car around the parking lot with the power of your mind is just the start of it. Each different event, filmed with the characters own shaky cam gives the scenes an almost otherworldliness. Taking these phenomenal events and placing them in everyday settings is what makes the film so fascinating and this is Tranks' defining skill here.
In all, a very entertaining film that brushes the 'careful what you wish for' moral at a tangent. It never appears tired or worn but how outlandish does a film have to become before the viewer has to say, 'now come on, that's a bit far-fetched' which you will do by the finale. The fact that you don't say it sooner is testament to a well constructed effort.