The Horror Honeys: Amber Alert: Time Is Running Out

Amber Alert: Time Is Running Out

A Guest Honey Review by Chassity

Amber Alert (2012)

Misrepresentation: Horror, Thriller, or Old-Fashioned Morality Tale? 

The Intro: So, there’s very little that upsets me. But as a film geek, and more specifically a horror fanatic, one of those rare things that does get me all hot under the collar is definitely misrepresentation. For movies, this can happen in two ways: a trailer selling the movie as something it’s not, or the plot summary describing a film in a way that focuses on the wrong thing. Having browsed on my computer, searching for a good thriller, I stumbled across a little film called Amber Alert. Amber Alert is three friends on the road that pass by (what else) a bulletin advising drivers to be on the lookout for a car carrying a missing little girl. 

Shortly after, one of the friends spots the exact car the police are searching for. The friends immediately call the police, but one of them, Samantha, decides that they should keep an eye on the vehicle and follow it until the police come to take care of things. And that’s basically what this movie is: how that one decision plays out. 

The Scoop: The film is shot in found-footage style; footage of the three 20-somethings documenting their car chase. When they take off after the amber alert vehicle, they debate within their car if they’re doing the right thing or not. Samantha believes it’s their duty to do everything they can to save whatever child might be in that car. Nathan doesn’t believe anything serious is going on; even though he’s the one that puts together that they’re driving behind the amber alert vehicle, he thinks worst case scenario is that it’s just two parents fighting over custody of their child and one parent being petty, going to the police to try to get the other in trouble. Caleb (the cameraman and third friend) is mostly neutral and just along for the ride.

Not a whole lot happens throughout the film; the group confirms there is in fact a child in the car when they follow the vehicle into a gas station and Samantha investigates while the driver (a man) is in the gas station. Later, the man pulls over and confronts them, and tries to convince them that the child is his daughter and that his crazy ex-wife sent the police after him because he’s a bit late getting the little girl back to her mother. Nathan believes him, they let the man go on his way, and then discover almost immediately afterward that they have made a horrible mistake. The chase continues (much less exciting than before, and much less suspenseful than advertised), into a semi-intense and shocking conclusion.

The Pros: I was actually impressed at how natural the acting seemed. I’ve become jaded, having seen one too many found-footage films where the acting is just abysmal. But I almost completely forgot I was watching a movie; the actors really seemed like friends, and their conversations and reactions to each other seemed perfectly genuine, and not at all like dialogue. 

Even though the film was misrepresented as having more action than it actually did, it did have its moments of suspense. And I never stopped wanting to know what was going to happen next. So, it had that going for it. 

The characters were actually smart. One thing that I can normally expect, and always dislike, about films like this (or any movie in the horror genre, or even adjacent to the horror genre) is that they tend to have a lot of stupid characters doing stupid or reckless things. For the most part, the characters in this movie are pretty smart. Samantha even is smart enough to drop her microphone into the amber alert vehicle so they can listen in to what the man is saying. On top of that, these are characters that you really can’t hold to the same standards of stupidity anyway, because everything they do is in an attempt to save the innocent life of a child they don’t even know. 

The Cons: Ever seen one of those talk shows with multiple female hosts? Ever been frustrated by how they all talk over each other and it’s confusing and irritating? Well, there’s a lot of that same thing in this film. A lot of yelling and a lot of whiney voices. There are a few moments where the two boys, Nathan and Caleb, make jokes about the amber alert (which is infuriating) and they don’t seem to fully grasp what’s at stake for the child in the car. Characters like that are often hard to relate to, and at times Nathan made me so mad it sort of took me out of the movie. 

Parts of Amber Alert drag. There are way too many moments where little or nothing happens, and in the place of action is monotonous and repetitive conversation. 

I am not a fan of found footage movies at all. I am always quick to dismiss them, and this goes double for my beloved horror/thriller genres. So, there’s all that. But bias aside, the movie’s biggest flaw is that it falls victim to some found-footage clichés. 

The Take: Overall, Amber Alert was definitely an interesting film. It annoyed me to no end, but also made me feel things and think about things, so it did its job. It’s not the most entertaining film, and it doesn’t feel like it’s supposed to be. For me, its job was to take something that most people ignore, and put some semblance of a story together that asked each viewer the question “what would you do if you were in their shoes?” Interestingly enough, the best way to sum this film up is to say that it felt like an intense, really long, really dark episode of the actual television show What Would You Do?
So for all the negatives of the film, I’d have to say that by the end of it I had a positive feeling toward it because of its message about society. 

Yes or No: This one is a yes. Definitely watch it, but with a big group of people, because this film was meant to be discussed. I would recommend this one just because it has a message of morality. Given that people have argued relentlessly about desensitization in today’s society because of technology and horror films, this movie is about human connection and compassion, and how far would you go in a horror movie situation to save a life. 

Watch Amber Alert with this question in mind: Should we always lend a helping hand to others, or is it ever okay to put self-preservation first?

Guest Honey bio - “Chassity Merritt is a film geek and horror fanatic since age 10,with a special obsession for slasher films. Having an undergraduate degree with a minor in film studies, she is currently in the film school process and will be seeking a degree in production and screenwriting. She is a self-proclaimed Saw freak (having psychotic fascination with the torture porn horror franchise that began in 2004), is a horror writer, and studies the films of the Splat Plack as a hobby in her spare time.”