The Before Time
When two rival crews head into the desert to shoot a reality show based on a buried Navajo treasure, they discover that truth is not only stranger than fiction, it's more dangerous. Something wants them from digging deeper and from escaping the desert alive.
March 8, 2016
Miguel Müller, Scott Bunt, Rodrigo Goulart
Jules Hartley as Kimberly
Ted Jonas as Daniel
How in the world do you assess a picture that feels devoid of any defined identity? The bulk of films we see from the horror genre have clear ideas and guidelines with which to function. In Halloween John Carpenter pits good versus evil. And that evil is about as ambiguous as it gets; Myers is a faceless killer who stalks and slaughters random teenagers and babysitters. It’s a premise that stands wide open for a multitude of different interpretations or theories, but at the end of the day, we as viewers still understand that we’re seeing good versus evil, youth versus an untimely and terrifying demise. It’s all made clear by the nature of the characters and the manner in which the actors and actresses themselves handle the material. Are there humorous moments? A few, but it’s not a comedic piece. Is it dramatic in nature? Most certainly, but the idea of a serial, or spree killer targeting youngsters and then viciously carving them up with a kitchen knife is unmistakably horror. It’s a clearly demarcated movie because everyone, from Carpenter to Nick Castle, held a firm grasp of the direction the story takes and the impact the story should – ideally – have on viewers.
The Before Time feels like a polar opposite production. There is no singular tone established to guide the characters through the story, or the viewer through the film. The bulk of the performances are so far over the top we’re not certain if we’re watching a comedy, an animated dramatic piece or – dare I say, a satirical picture. It’s never clear. The story, which focuses on two rival news crews who join forces to hunt for Gold in the Sonoran desert takes a quick and entirely implausible turn. The crews are each there – initially – to cover a wild story about a handful of bodies that have surfaced, each sans a cranium. Creepy stuff right? Apparently not creepy enough to keep this crew from hunting for gold that may or may not exist, in the very area in which these mass murders are being committed.
All sounds a little… left-field, right? Yes. Right. There’s nothing here that makes sense. Just imagine for a moment that you’re a reporter standing over a hole in the ground that an hour prior produced a headless body. Would you want to hang out for an extended period of time? What if there were eight headless bodies? Would that only stoke the fire, and get you really, really juiced to hang out in hazardous terrain for a night or two? How about if we make sure you don’t even have a surefire manner in which you can defend yourself, just in case, you know, the murderer comes back for a few more trophies? Sound like a plan?
We think not. All of us think not. And we think not because that scenario isn’t even remotely near believable. It’s preposterous. It’s insane. It’s absurd. It’s irrational. It’s… weird. Ah hell, it’s downright unfathomable. It’s exactly what these guys (and gals) do… and boy is it difficult, as a viewer, to invest in a scenario that’s as close to impossible as sprouting wings and taking flight on your thirteenth birthday.
THERE IS A MURDERER (OR MURDERERS) KILLING AND BEHEADING PEOPLE IN THE DESERT. YOU DON’T GO LOOKING FOR GOLD IN A MURDERER’S PLAYGROUND!!
If there isn’t a shred of realism in your film (seriously, we only need a shred… a tiny shred), you’re in serious trouble. Needless to say, writer/director Miguel Müller delivers a disastrously embarrassing picture. No matter how you slice it, it’s bad, and sadly, very few of the performers in the film seem to realize it. These guys go all in for a film that’s been cursed cement feathered wings. And their dedication somehow only makes the movie more perplexing. What the hell are they doing? That’s the question that pounded through my head time and again as this one dragged toward a predictable and dull finale.
There’s only one thing that could make The Before Time even more disappointing, and that would be handling the film as a found footage flick. Oh, wait… this is a found footage film. No. That’s not a joke. This is a found footage film, and it can now join the ranks of countless other embarrassing handy-cam flicks that make us all miss the days of old, before The Blair Witch popularized the guerrilla style. The only thing worse than watching this movie is knowing that I will inevitably run into another one just as absurd someday down the line.