Movie Review: A found footage hunt for a missing kid in “Amber Alert”

ImageYou’ve spied the electronic billboard message on the Interstate and maybe felt a chill as you did — “Amber Alert,” then a car description, maybe even a license plate. Who among us hasn’t at least taken a glance to the left and right to make sure we weren’t passing the suspect vehicle at that very moment?

But who among us would dare to follow such a car if indeed we saw it? Yeah, we’d phone 911. But chase the vehicle, at a safe distance, to a service station? Try to peek in the tinted windows?

That’s the killer premise of “Amber Alert,” an often effective, occasionally illogical no-budget thriller built on “found footage” of such a pursuit.

Sam (Summer Bellessa) and Nate (Chris Hill) are BFFs, Arizona 20somethings who get Sam’s younger brother to videotape their audition tape for an unnamed reality TV show — probably “The Amazing Race.” They’re bubbly chatterboxes who share their platonic hobbies and habits. And the unseen Caleb documents it all.

But their tape is now in police custody, we’re told. Because on it, they captured evidence of a crime. Driving down an interstate, they see an Amber Alert and spy the car listed on it  — a grey Honda Accord hybrid — matching license plate.

“Should we follow it?”

“We’re not police officers.”

Sam is the one whose concern runs to worst case scenarios. Nate frets over the time they’re “wasting” chasing this car (they’ve called the police) and the meals he’s missing. It’s just a child custody dispute involving a divorced couple. He’s sure of it.

“Do you not CARE if we lose them?” Sam shrieks. “Do you not CARE about little kids, getting molested and murdered?”

As this lean little thriller putters along, tensions rise and tempers flare in the pursuit car. “Not get involved” Nate is willing to believe the best, that the driver looks like “a regular dude,” and couldn’t be a child molester. “Reckless” Sam is hung up on the worst. By the time Sam is taking stupid risks, running up to the amber alert car at a service station, she’s hysterical.

But they’re not the only ones raising their voices.

For viewers, “Alert” is a real shout-at-the-screen picture. Where are the elusive cops? Why aren’t Sam and Nate calling and updating the cops with every turn the grey Accord makes? Why haven’t those cops tracked the license plate of the abductor, since that’s on their own AMBER ALERT NOTICE BOARD, and thus gotten to his house already?

In a thriller that’s as quick and short as “Amber Alert,” some of those quibbles occur to you, briefly, as you watch it. But if you’re sucked into it, the worst of them won’t roll into your head until the closing credits roll.

MPAA Rating:R for some disturbing content and sexual references

Cast: Summer Bellessa, Chris Hill, Jasen Wade .

Credits: Written and directed by Kerry Bellessa. A Wrekin Hill release.

Running time: 1:20

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