Review of Amber Alert

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When a group of friends decides to follow a car they've seen posted on an Amber Alert, things start to go very wrong.
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Movie Review: "Amber Alert"

-- Rating: R
Length: 80 minutes
Release Date: November 2, 2012
Directed by: Kerry Bellessa
Genre: Horror

There are few things in life more frightening for parents than the idea of a child disappearing. "Amber Alert" takes that fear to the next level by using a found footage shooting style that takes viewers into the story. Named for the nationwide alert system that helps people find missing children, the film tells the story of a couple who find themselves trapped in a missing person's case.

"Amber Alert" ups the fear by giving viewers a look at something that they often see on the road. Sam (Summer Bellessa) and Nate (Chris Hill) are two normal people who want to audition for a new television reality show. Nate's younger brother agrees to film the two and help edit the footage for their audition.

As they drive along the road, they see an Amber Alert come across the screen with details about a car that authorities believe holds a missing child. Not long after seeing the warning, the group sees the same vehicle pass by on the road. On a whim, they decide to track the vehicle until they can find help.

While the chase is the main plot of the film, the relationship between the characters take center stage. Sam takes one look at the Driver (Jasen Wade) and convinces herself that he is an evil man with nefarious plans, while Nate thinks he looks like a normal man and wants to leave things alone. As they argue and fight over the right thing to do, viewers will wonder what they would do in the same situation.

"Amber Alert" does leave viewers with some unanswered questions. The two clearly have a cell phone, yet they do little with it, preferring to track the stranger on their own. Despite frequent updates on the case, the police never seem to make an appearance in the film, leaving the leads to do the dirty work. Some viewers might even wonder why Sam doesn't simply pick up the phone and call the police, though the story is so engaging that the audience can easily overlook those issues.

What makes the film so interesting is that it makes it clear that this is just another day in the life of two ordinary people. Caleb, Nate's brother, stays behind the camera never saying a word as he films the two. Sam and Nate spend many of the early moments discussing their interests, just like anyone would do when creating an audition tape. It isn't until the film shows a quick note stating that the footage is now in police evidence that viewers will realize there is something different about this film.

There are many who believe that the found footage genre is past its prime, but "Amber Alert" offers something new and different. The requisite shaky camera work and weird angles are all there, but this story is far more believable than others in the genre. Director Bellessa draws the viewers into the story in the opening scene, leaving them on the edge of their seat with fingers crossed, hoping for a happy outcome.

What makes "Amber Alert" so thrilling is that many viewers will wonder what they would do in the same situation. When an alert goes out over the wire, highways run electronic messages over the boards, telling drivers about the missing child. Some people might glance idly around when stuck in traffic, checking out the nearby cars, but many more people simply forget about the alert until an update appears on the news.

It is easy for viewers to put themselves in the shoes of one of these characters. There is Nate who constantly doubts what they are doing and wants nothing more than to go home, while gung-ho Sam is ready to do whatever it takes to potentially solve the crime. Viewers will find themselves wondering if they are more like Sam or Nate.

"Amber Alert" gets a boost from casting unknown actors. Watching a famous or recognizable face would detract from the realness of the film. Sometimes, their lack of acting manifests onscreen, especially since the characters seem one-dimensional at times. The stereotypical behaviors that they show early in the film continues until the end, leading some viewers to wish for a little character development.

Those who enjoy watching a film that will have them screaming at the scream will enjoy "Amber Alert." Though the film has a small budget and the acting is sometimes grating, it has a solid story that will keep viewers entertained and have viewers questioning themselves at the end.

Rating: 2 out of 5 stars