Power makes people do strange things. They get drunk on the feeling of superiority that it conjures up and foster the belief that they’re entitled to treat people like crap. Chronicle tells the story of a high school loser who suddenly finds himself endowed with the power to retaliate.

Andrew (DeHaan), the aforementioned high school loser, buys a camera and starts filming his whole life, both at home and at school. While at a party with his cousin Matt (Russell) and Matt’s friend Steve (Jordan), the trio stumble across a gaping, rumbling tunnel that leads to an underground cavern filled with what looks like glowing, blue stalagmites. Their exposure to the radiation emitted gives them powers of telekinesis. Gleeful, they start out small while testing their powers; skimming rocks, assembling Lego, etc. but they soon graduate to bigger things such as moving cars around. Their magnum opus comes when they teach themselves how to fly.

While all three of them pick up their new skills rather intuitively, Andrew is something of a prodigy and is suddenly the runt of the litter and he finds himself more powerful than everyone around him. As time goes on, his lashing-out becomes more deadly and he turns into a time bomb, ready to explode at the slightest provocation. It’s up to Matt and Steve, who are both weaker than him, to knock some sense back into him before he loses all control.

Chronicle is a small, familiar story that is told very well. DeHaan’s role as Andrew goes beyond the dangerously unhinged loser stereotype and everything we see about his life at home and at school really fleshes out his character and makes him transcend the stereotypes. He’s not just a high school loser that flips because he isn’t popular. He’s a guy who’s bullied at school, physically abused at home and has to deal with an alcoholic father and a dying mother whose medication they can’t afford. He has nobody to talk to and so turns to his camera as a way of expressing his thoughts and feelings. The camera also acts as a barrier between him and the world; a way of distancing himself from everything that’s happening to him.

The score is as sparse as can be, possibly even nonexistent, but the film is very clever and original in its use of music. A scene where Andrew dons a mask and prepares to go out and steal the money needed to buy his pain-stricken mother her medication is accompanied by David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust and it really makes an impact. It’s this kind of attention to detail that really elevates the film.

Chronicle could have been yet another entry in the teens-with-superpowers genre, but in the hands of director Josh Trank, the film is a psychological character study about the effect of power in the hands of the unstable. That makes it sound a bit deeper than it actually is but the fact remains that Chronicle is cool and smart.