"It's on the news, that means it's real," maintains Charlie (Riley Griffiths) to his best pal, Joseph (Joel Courtney).
The teenage boys, along with their lead actress, Elle Fanning's Alice, have just witnessed a truck collide into a train while filming their latest zombie movie. This spectacular crash – the best action scene in JJ Abrams and producer Steven Spielberg's old fashioned action/sci-fi hybrid set in 1979 – delivers chaos to the small town of Lillian.
Joseph, Super 8's inquisitive hero, lives with his cop dad (Kyle Chandler), who is grieving his wife's recent death. Jo, meanwhile, plunges himself into making zombie flicks (pretty good ones) with his fast-talking, nerdy pals (they're a blend of The Goonies and the boys in Stand by Me) and is intoxicated by Alice's acting – Fanning delivers the best audition scene since Naomi Watts's in David Lynch's Mulholland Drive.
In fact, the touching relationship between Jo and Alice is the best thing about this slightly disappointing nostalgia piece. Super 8 should work better than this – the pace is, refreshingly, not frenetic, and the baddies, in this case the US Army, are suitably ruthless. But it's missing Spielberg's deeply human touch.
There's a tense (and soppy) ending, of course, but don't miss out on the teens' wonderful zombie flick during the credit sequence, which is arguably more enjoyable than the film that precedes it.