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Saturday, September 24, 2011

LUNOPOLIS -- DVD review by porfle

"Blair Witch"-style mockumentaries...conspiracy theories...UFOs..."The X-Files"...various other paranormal stuff...if any or all of these things spark your interest, then chances are LUNOPOLIS (2009) will really pop your cork. 

It also helps if you get into stuff like The History Channel, too--much of the middle section of the film looks like it might have been produced for it, with its various "expert" talking heads and illustrative graphics--but if you don't, then this film is equally likely to act as an effective cure for insomnia.  Me, I bought into it hook, line, and sinker and thus found it uniquely fascinating from start to finish.

The premise is that a documentary film crew led by Matt (writer-director Matthew Avant) and Sonny (Hal Maynor)  has gotten ahold of a weird photograph, supposedly smuggled out of Area 51, that leads them to an underground facility beneath a Louisiana swamp.  Their cinema verite' exploration of this dark, dungeon-like space is claustrophobic and creepy, leading to the discovery of a strange device that looks a bit like a makeshift jet pack.

After shadowy figures chase them back to the surface, they take the device back to the lab and activate it.  Its wearer disappears for almost five seconds, then everyone in the room is zapped unconscious.  Further investigation brings them into rough contact with the Church of Lunology, whose scary, threatening followers make Tom Cruise look normal.  Deeper into the rabbit hole they go, uncovering a plot involving a secret city on the moon (whose inhabitants are already among us) and a mission to send time travelers into the past to tweak our history, thus creating an overlapping jumble of parallel dimensions. 

What makes LUNOPOLIS so convincing is the realistic acting of its leads, who are excellent at seeming spontaneous and unrehearsed (something even the greatest actors can be incapable of).  Most of the camcorder sequences really do look like actual found footage (albeit very nicely shot and edited), making it even more disconcerting when a black car that the film crew are following suddenly takes off like a rocket. 

Most impressive is Dave Potter as purported moon escapee David James, whose folksy demeanor is a stark contrast to the mindbending personal account he gives to Matt and Sonny. This includes his knowledge of an upcoming "paradox date"--December 21, 2012, unsurprisingly--upon which something referred to throughout the film as "The Event" will take place.  Once you get an idea of what this entails, the suspense begins to build with the impending revelation of what will happen on that date.

Like "Blair Witch", LUNOPOLIS is supposedly assembled from found footage taken by participants who have gone missing, which becomes more and more intriguing as their discoveries lead them deeper into some really juicy, dangerous, hardcore conspiracy stuff.  Halfway through the film comes the History Channel-type material, which, if you've gone along with it all up to that point, will continue to fascinate with its dizzying explorations of time travel, multiple dimension overlap, the Roswell incident, the secret origins of not only Lunopolis but Atlantis as well, and other scintillating ideas which not only sound as convincing as any of those shows you see on TV but also increase our unease about that impending paradox date. 

By the time we return to the camcorder footage and the story proper, Matt and Sonny are on the run from a host of scary people while becoming inextricably involved in the events they're investigating.  The pace never lets up until the exciting finale, which brings the story full circle with an event--"the" event, that is--bristling with surprises and startling revelations. 

The DVD from Walking Shadows and Virgil Films is in 16:9 widescreen with Dolby Digital 5.1 sound and both subtitles and closed captions.  Extras include a trailer and an entertaining commentary by Avant and associate producer Michael David Weis.

Even freakier in its own low-budget way than THE MATRIX but without the need for flashy SPFX, LUNOPOLIS is a greatest-hits package of conspiracy theory goodness that would have Fox Mulder thinking he'd died and gone to heaven.  According to the commentary, some people are coming out of screenings thinking they've just watched the real thing, and it's not hard to imagine why.  It's a science-fiction film that presents some truly mindboggling concepts in a realistic and believable way, and the result is so satisfying that you might want to believe, too.

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