Cast: Kyle Chandler, Joel Courtney, Ron Eldard, Elle Fanning, AJ Michalka
Director: J J Abrams
Small town America - Ohio to be precise - in 1979: Following an incident at the town mill, young Joe Lamb (Joel Courtney) is left bereft of a mother.
Joe's solution to cope with the loss is to throw himself into his friends' movie-making project; despite his police deputy father's insistence that once summer is done, it's off to camp for him.
When the group ends up filming their amateur zombie flick at a train station one night, their movie-making is rudely interrupted by a massive train crash, which they soon realise was not an accident.
To make matters worse, when the US Air Force move in with the might of the military and people start disappearing, they begin to suspect something is seriously wrong....and something nasty is loose in the town.
Battle lines are further drawn up when Deputy Lamb (a brilliantly grounded Kyle Chandler, who once again proves his steely everyman appeal) investigates, bringing him into direct conflict with Nelec from the US Air Force, who may have ulterior motives for looking into this case.
Super 8 is clearly a film that wears its influences on its sleeve - and those are many; the fact it's by Amblin Entertainment (Steven Spielberg's production company) shows all the way through - with the whole film having a feel of the Goonies, Stand By Me, ET, Close Encounters et al inevitably dripped throughout.
Yet, you really shouldn't be put off by the fact it's a film about an alien loose in small town America; at its heart Super 8 is a nostalgically tinged relationship film with broad strokes of tenderness brushed through.
There's a wonderful camaraderie between the young kids as they make their film - how Joe copes with the loss of his mother and falls in love for the first time with Alice (the prodigiously talented Elle Fanning) and plenty of intimately played character moments throughout.
Those are punctuated by the various attacks of the creature (the details of which I won't spoil too much here as it's best you make your own mind up over the effects) which are quite sharp, short, vicious and a little frightening for a younger audience.
Director JJ Abrams has clearly ended up making a real homage to Spielberg's films in many ways; the tension's eeked out incredibly well and there's the right amount of genuine humour throughout to cover the whole gamut.
That said, there are a couple of reasons why it misfires - perhaps, to my mind, the ultimate reveal of the creature falls a little short of your expectations, as most of its appearances early on are more effective, thanks to mere glimpses of it than any full reveal could ever hope to fulfil; there's also the feeling that some of the heavy symbolism could have been reined in somewhat to have a little more impact (Joe carries a locket from his mum and every time he's in danger, the camera annoyingly focuses on it) and the finale is a little muddled, mawkish and sentimental - but then, what would you expect from a film with Spielberg's influences at play?
Overall though, Super 8 is a great piece of winter entertainment with some beautifully played intimate human moments; if Abrams had pulled back a little on the influences and symbolism and added a bit more subtlety, this ride would have been perfect; as it is though, it's one of the better thrills of the year.
Watch the trailer for Super 8 here.