Complete A-Z list

Super 8


Stars: Joel Courtney, Elle Fanning, Kyle Chandler, Ryan Lee, Riley Griffiths, Zach Mills, Gabriel Basso, Ron Eldard, A J Michalka, Glynn Turman, Jade Griffiths, Noah Emmerich, Bruce Greenwood

Director: J J Abrams

With the name of Steven Spielberg up as co-producer, it's perhaps not surprising that this sci-fi fantasy thriller turns out to be E.T. with fangs and older children. The six middle-schoolers in question are making a super-8 film about zombies that they hope will win them a competition.

While filming near a railway line, they see a van drive on to the track, derailing the oncoming train and causing a massive series of explosions, in the course of which 'something' escapes from the train, as the children flee for their lives.

When the military move in and the town is evacuated, something is obviously Up, especially when people disappear and their bodies are never found.

The kids are led by Joe (Courtney), whose mother has recently been killed in a steel-mill accident. He's sweet on the only girl member, Alice (Fanning), who is unfortunately the daughter of the ne'er-do-well Louis (Eldard), whose absence from work caused Joe's mother to take his shift on the fatal day. And Joe's father, the deputy sheriff (Chandler), has to take charge of the investigation when his boss becomes one of the Vanished.

It's not really a secret here that there's an alien on the loose, kept captive by military for years and, although potentially a fearsome kill-machine, he's a bit different in aspect from the conventional slavering movie monster.

The kids, deliberately very different in looks, are all good and sympathetically handled by the director, with Fanning doing most of the junior-league emoting. Her love scene within the kids' film is quite heartrending: this younger sister of Dakota can really act.

The film's weakest link is the script, which never rises above the conventional, but the pace is good and the action, smartly shot, pretty much non-stop.

David Quinlan

USA 2011. UK Distributor: Paramount. Colour by deluxe.
110 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: U.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 1, Drugs 1, Swearing 1.

Review date: 30 Jul 2011