Hot off the success of Paranormal Activity, director Oren Peli embarked on his second outing behind the camera, Area 51. That was four years ago.
Isn’t it strange that the above paragraph could easily be the opening crawl for its own found footage movie? Of course, Oren Peli didn’t disappear. Paranormal Activity 2, 3 and 4 have since been released (he was involved with all of them to varying degrees). He’s had a big network TV show, “The River.” He wrote and produced The Chernobyl Diaries and he’s also a producer on Rob Zombie’s upcoming Lords Of Salem.
His producing partner on Area 51 (and the PA films), Jason Blum, recently had some massive success with Insidious and Sinister and is currently shooting Insidious: Chapter 2. Back in 2011 Blum went on record about the project and the duo’s very busy dance card seemed to be interfering a bit with its release, “Area 51′ is like ‘Paranormal Activity’. The additional photography for ‘PA’, we went back 50 times. The great thing about doing extra shooting for inexpensive movies is that the cost is low, so we screen and shoot and screen and shoot. Oren and I were pulled away from ‘Area 51′ a lot for the second ‘PA’. Once that came out, we ramped up on ‘Area 51′ again. I anticipate the movie will be mostly done in about three or four months.”
Well, we know it stars Reid Warner, Darrin Bragg, and Ben Rovner. And that Peli uses the found footage conceit to tell the story of “three teens whose curiosity leads them to the notorious Area 51 portion of Nellis Air Force Base in the Nevada desert.” Apparently the film didn’t test through the roof (something Blum sort of acknowledges in the quote above), but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s bad. Lots of films don’t play for test audiences but wind up doing perfectly well.
Could it be that Area 51 simply shares too much narrative proximity with Peli’s own Chernobyl Diaries? After all, it is about a group of teens headed to a remote, barren environment that’s the site of some sort of government calamity. Is Paramount waiting for Chernobyl to cool to half-life before scheduling a release? Maybe.
In April of 2011 BD learned that director/actor Chris Denham (who apparently produced some documentaries on Cambodia and Thailand) had been hired by Paramount to shoot some additional footage for the film. Which means that the test screening of Area 51 that I was accidentally invited to (but did not attend) in September of 2011 would have incorporated his footage.
I haven’t heard anything out of that test screening, and quotes on the film from Peli and Blum from after that time period are hard to come by. So my honest question is, “where is it?” I think it’s important to note, again, that troubled productions aren’t necessarily bad ones. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar and sometimes delays are just delays. Though, of course, it’s hard to tame suspicions when the delays and silence around it are this significant.
But that will all be settled when the film gets a proper release. I’m not out to assassinate something I haven’t been exposed to a single frame of. I’m not saying it’s good and I’m not saying it’s bad. I’m just saying I want to see it. Have any of you?