by Jay Seaver
SCREENED AT THE 2010 BOSTON SCI-FI FILM FESTIVAL: Fair warning: I was part of the group screening potential entries for this festival, and "Lunopolis" was one of the ones I watched and commented on. That's not just a warning that this could potentially be viewed as me further pushing a movie that I've already advocated for once, but to relate a story about it: We were watching samples of movies, and "Lunopolis" was the one where we wanted to see a bit more, all the way to the end.It starts with a strange video, apparently showing some sort of paranormal event. From there we back up twelve days, to 9 December 2012, where two guys who moonlight as paranormal investigators in Redwater, Louisiana - Matt (Matthew Avant) and Sonny (Hal Maynor) - have received a box of strange things from a radio host who got them from a guy claiming to work at Area 51. Most is indecipherable, but numbers scribbled on a Polaroid turn out to be GPS co-ordinates of an abandoned houseboat, which hides the entrance to a secret base where they find a strange machine. Doctor Orin Raymond (Ray Blum), a professor of "Alternative Sciences", helps them investigate, and the trail leads to the mysterious Church of Lunology, with their best source being David James (Dave Potter), who claims to be a "lunar escapee".
"Faux found footage and grand unified conspiracy theories."
We follow Matt and Sonny primarily through their own documentary footage, although unlike many of these faux-found-footage films, they get pretty good coverage, as it's established early on that the pair are documenting their work to the point of having two and sometimes three camera people with them at all times. This allows the filmmakers to cut it together much like a standard narrative feature, although the variable quality keeps the homemade feel. Unlike many films of this type, the filmmakers spend some time and resources building it out, adding documentary elements graphics and interviews with experts.
Indeed, at some points in the midsection,the movie is a little too filled with that stuff as we get a pretty massive amount of information on the Church of Lunology and their tenets. It is, perhaps, necessary: Lunopolis is a Grand Unified Conspiracy Theory story, and its GUCT is more complex than most that try to fit within such a relatively compact work, involving not just Roswell and Area 51, but Atlantis, a secret base of people on the Moon, something akin to alien astronauts, and time travel. Throwing that last one in there has the potential to make everything a complete, incomprehensible mess, but I think that ultimately, it holds up. It may take a little stretching by the viewer to wrap their brains around it, but I think most will manage.
If so, they'll probably be impressed with the scale of the story for the budget, considering that this is something perilously close to backyard filmmaking: Co-star Matthew Avant also writes, directs, and performs many of the other jobs, while the camera operators appear to be family, based on the shared last name. Maynor shares some of the work and does a good chunk of the rest, including some better-than-good-enough visual effects and graphics. Nothing hugely flashy, but always a good fit for their relatively lo-res media. I suspect it helps that they likely had a much tighter script than many faux-docs, and that helps immensely in keeping the movie relatively quick-paced.
As one might expect from a locally made, tiny-budgeted film, the cast is likely friends, family, and local community theater people. They're not bad, though - Avant and Maynor come across as exactly the sort of folks that would do this sort of paranormal investigation, with Maynor especially amusing as the more impulsive of the two. Dave Potter is the other guy who gets plenty of screen time, and though he's got no other credits, he comes across with the instant credibility of a seasoned character actor. That's important, as he's got to make James seem both like a crackpot and fairly trustworthy.Not everyone hits that balance, in front of or behind the camera but even when they don't, "Lunopolis" always seems worth following through to the end. It takes some wobbly steps on the way there, but seldom falters despite the ambitious story.
link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=20340&reviewer=371
originally posted: 02/14/10 16:33:06