J. J. Abram's homage to early Spielberg is like two movies jammed together. One is a heartfelt ode to childhood, about a group of middle schoolers making a zombie movie with a super 8 camera. The second is a monster movie, kind of a more mean-spirited ET. I loved the former and was pretty immune to the latter. They never really meshed, and I never cared about (or was scared by) the monster story. But the kid actors, in particular Elle Fanning as the only girl in the group, and Riley Griffiths as the dedicated zombie movie director ("Production values!") were my standouts. I almost wish the movie had just been about the kids, their dead-end town, and the making of that movie. The monster seemed tacked on. Imagine if at the end of Stand by Me the body that they'd hiked into the woods to see came alive and chased the kids for half an hour. That's what this felt like to me.