In Ohio, 1979, 14-year-old Joe Lamb (Joel Courtney) and his friend Charles Kaznyk (Riley Griffiths) decide to spend their summer holiday shooting a zombie movie.
Recruiting the rebellious Alice Dainard (Elle Fanning) and pals Martin (Gabriel Basso), Cary (Ryan Christopher Lee) and Preston (Zach Mills) as cast and crew, they sneak out in the middle of the night to film at a local railway station. They're forced to call cut, however, when a car ploughs into an oncoming train causing a humungously destructive crash. In the aftermath, the boys find their biology teacher (Glynn Turman) at the wheel of the car, and are confused to learn he caused the accident intentionally.
With the crash all over the news, the boys take their broken camera to be repaired, hoping to have captured some of the carnage. But while Joe's policeman dad Jack (Kyle Chandler) investigates the incident and the kids wait for the return of their footage, it becomes clear that there's something stranger and more frightening at work than anyone could have imagined.
With the music of the time and Martin's dodgy specs anchoring the film in its late 70s setting, this really does feel like the old-school adventure J.J. Abrams intended. While at times it might try too hard to ape E.T or The Goonies, the advantage Super 8 has over such 80s favourites is its access to today's amazing special effects. While generally showing restraint where these are concerned, the film's spectacular first set piece is an absolute beauty.
As with all the best family adventures, the kids are at the heart of the story, and given plenty of emotional beats to play, youngsters Courtney and Fanning put in tender and engaging performances.
Refreshingly independent of a franchise, Super 8 is a fun, explosive and compelling blockbuster.