If the thought of sitting through another found footage movie makes you want to throw your television (or other viewing device) out a window, steer clear of Unidentified, the feature directorial debut of Jason R. Miller, who served as co-producer and second-unit director of Hatchet 2 and Frozen. Like so many found footage offerings, it isn’t a bad movie, but it does not make a compelling case for its existence. It’s just, meh.
Billing itself as a clever mix of sci-fi, suspense and laughs, in reality there isn’t much sci-fi and suspense is totally lacking. Granted, it doesn’t really even try to generate much suspense. For well over an hour, the 86-minute movie is much more akin to something like The Hangover than anything else. Only in the last 10 minutes does sci-fi enter the picture, and it’s too little, too late.
Jodie (Eric Artell) is a comic book nerd who constantly (and gratingly) refers to himself as “the Jodie-man” and maintains a YouTube channel for his nerdy musings. Though he isn’t a welcome presence, he joins three other guys for one of their regular trips to Las Vegas. Jeremy (Perry Shen) is Jodie’s boss; Nick (Eddie Mui) is Jeremy’s good friend and Jodie’s brother-in-law; and Dave (Colton Dunn) rounds out the group. Since it will be Jodie’s first time in Sin City, he records everything for his channel.
It takes a good 30 or so minutes for the quartet to reach Vegas. They stop at a diner, where a local crackpot tells Jodie all about UFO sightings and an abandoned Air Force base nearby. Of course Jodie insists that they make a pit-stop at the base, which they do.
When they finally do make it to Vegas, all Nick and Dave care about is some epic poker game. They borrow thousands of dollars from a shady loan shark with ties to organized crime. The loan shark is about to bust some kneecaps when Jodie incapacitates him and the guys flee their hotel in a panic. When their car breaks down in the middle of nowhere, strange things start to happen.
The actors do have decent chemistry and make for believable friends, and there are some amusing lines here and there, but it’s just a retread. There is nothing new here. For more than an hour it is a standard guys-in-Vegas tale. They look for chicks and bicker and gamble and drink. It’s easy enough to watch, mainly because of the appealing actors, but it’s nothing you won’t forget five minutes after the movie is over.
A mundane feeling hangs over Unidentified from start to finish. The sci-fi aspect feels like an afterthought. It only takes up a few minutes of screen time, and it isn’t particularly interesting or unique. Clearly this was a low-budget endeavor, but that doesn’t excuse the ho-hum nature of the entire movie, be it the attempts at comedy, suspense or science fiction.
Unidentified is available for digital download and on DVD on February 11.