Rewind Review: 2012’s ‘Amber Alert’

Screen Shot 2012-10-29 at 1.51.06 PM

Amber Alert is a barebones, hyper-realistic, “Found Footage” Horror offering written and directed by Kerry Bellessa.

An AMBER Alert is a child abduction alert system that utilizes a variety of electronic media, including traffic warning signs on freeways.  AMBER is an acronym (America’s Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response) but also refers to Amber Hagerman, a 9-year-old who was kidnapped and murdered in 1996.

Check out my review after the jump.

 Official Synopsis:  ‘Amber Alert’ follows friends Nate and Samantha, who stumble upon the car described in an Amber Alert while filming their audition video for a popular reality television show. With police slow to respond, the two friends fight to stop a possible child molester before it’s too late.

So yeah, 20-somethings Nate and Samantha (Chris Hill and Summer Bellessa) are shooting a video application for The Amazing Race or Big Brother or Survivor or some other Reality TV monstrosity.  Behind the camera: Sam’s younger brother Caleb (Caleb Thompson).  The besties are a genuinely cute duo, cheesy for sure, but definitely likeable and believable.  This dynamic goes a long way towards keeping our attention focused throughout the film.

Before you go running for the hills at the mere mention or another “Found Footage” Horror offering, it’s important to note that Amber Alert is easier to stomach than most entries in this sub-genre.  For the majority of the film, the cameraman is sitting steadily in the back seat of a car; the shot frames Nate (driver) and Sam (passenger) between a wide-screen view of the roads they travel.  Check out the pic below to see what I’m talking about.

Amber Alert movie

This steadiness and natural framing keeps the film grounded, figuratively and literally.  There’s no disorientation; the shots aren’t shaking from the camera being held while walking or running.  There are no wild swings or out of focus close-ups.  So those who claim that the average Found Footage film leaves them feeling nauseous will probably be able to roll with Amber Alert without the need for Dramamine.

The plot and storyline are incredibly basic: While driving along, having laughs, hamming it up for the camera, Nate is the first to notice that a car one lane over resembles one described in an Amber Alert they just passed.  When they come upon another alert and compare license plate numbers, there is no longer any doubt that this is the car police are looking for.  An attempt to pull up alongside proves pointless as the suspect’s windows are heavily tinted.   The good Samaritans quickly dial 911.  The dispatcher advises them to follow the car, if they can do so safely.

It takes a few minutes but, obviously, the festive mood deteriorates into confusion and panic.  Voices are raised as Sam and Nate struggle with what to do in this situation, taking into account personal safety and societal obligations. The yapping becomes a nearly incessant barrage of hostile interruptions; soon the “best friends” are acting more like heated adversaries.

in the car

“We’re not the police!” is a sentiment Nate repeats like a mantra.  We reported the car, now let the cops handle it; that’s what he argues.  It’s probably a custody dispute, he rationalizes, no big deal.  But Sam, on the other hand, is somehow completely invested in the situation, believing that it is their duty to stay close to the suspect until the police actually arrive and pull him over.  And where are the police anyway?  They certainly seem to be taking their sweet time.

When the suspect stops for gas, a sneaky Sam manages a peak into the car’s backseat and sees: A sleeping girl.  This certainty brings new levels of alarm and urgency.  They must continue their pursuit, says Sam:  “We could be all she has right now.”  The emotional turmoil gave me a bit of a headache, but not because of poor acting or bad storytelling.  More like I was completely immersed in their stress—like I was right there in the car with them.  You can almost hear the film’s tagline echoing in the back of your skull: “What would you do?”  It’s a legitimate question.  Is Nate being unreasonably cautious?  Is he essentially a coward?  Is his fear of conflict or embarrassment so strong that he’s willing to potentially sacrifice a little girl?   Or is Sam being unreasonably hyper-vigilant, taking on a responsibility that isn’t really hers–all the while assuming the absolute worst?  Is there an unhealthy compulsion pushing her relentlessly forward?

The film’s conclusion makes all debate pointless with a finale that hits like a gut-punch.  Believe me, the payoff is intense and very fucking scary—delivering some serious jolts.  Amber Alert is a testament to what a few talented actors, a great concept, and a single camera can accomplish.   Those who like their movies filled with action and explosions won’t make it through the first 15 minutes, but brave aficionados who can stick with it will find Amber Alert a rare gem.  This film will also please fans of experimental, cutting-edge independent films.

3.5 out of 5 Skull Heads.

Trailer: HERE 

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Release Date October 1 2012
Studio Wrekin Hill Entertainment
Director Kerry Bellessa
Writer Kerry Bellessa
Starring Summer Bellessa, Chris Hill, Jasen Wade
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About Saucy Josh

I write a blog for intelligent Horror movie aficionados called Blood and Guts for Grown Ups: https://bloodandgutsforgrownups.wordpress.com/ View all posts by Saucy Josh

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