Reid, Darrin, and Ben are three close friends who are avid conspiracy theorists. Reid’s fascination with extraterrestrial activity is further enkindled when he inexplicably vanishes during the middle of a party and has no memory of his disappearance. He spends the next three months devising a plan to infiltrate Area 51 and uncover the base’s secrets. However, Reid's obsession with extraterrestrial research leaves him detached from his family and even causes him to lose his job. He is joined by Darrin, Ben, and Jelena, another conspiracy theorist whose father worked at Area 51. They plan on infiltrating the military base by using signal jammers, night vision goggles, Freon-laced jumpsuits, and pills to mask their ammonia levels.
Per the advice of Jelena’s father, the group stalks a man they suspect is an important figure at Area 51. Reid and Darrin sneak into the man’s house and steal his security badge. Ben drops the three off in the middle of the desert and waits for them to return. Reid, Darrin and Jelena successfully bypass the base’s perimeter defenses and enter the complex using the security badge they had previously acquired. The three venture deeper into the base where they discover a lab containing a life-like liquid substance and anti-gravity material. They also encounter an alien spacecraft in a hangar, which only Reid can enter and interact with. The three then reach the ‘S4’-level of Area 51, which contains the complex’s most secret information and experiments. They trigger an alarm and are swarmed by guards. Darrin is separated from the two and attempts to elude the guards and a predatory alien. He narrowly escapes the alien and retreats to the base’s higher levels.
Reid and Jelena venture deeper into the complex and discover a cave-like structure under Area 51. They find various articles of clothing, toys, and later pods of human blood and organs. The two then stumble upon a colony of sleeping aliens. One alien awakens and chases them out of the cave and into a different section of the complex. Reid and Jelena find themselves in white chamber. While Reid examines a series of alien symbols, Jelena is suddenly dragged away by an unseen force. He finds her in an entranced and unresponsive state. The chamber suddenly loses gravity and it is revealed that the chamber is in fact the interior of a flying silver alien spacecraft. Reid's camera falls from the spacecraft and plummets to the ground.
Darrin successfully escapes the complex and discovers all personnel are being evacuated from Area 51. He ventures back into the desert where he encounters Ben, who has been waiting for the three to return. Darrin frantically explains that their group was separated and urges Ben to drive away. However, their car’s engine promptly dies and the camcorder captures both men being abducted from the car.
In a post-credits scene, an old man finds Reid's still-recording camcorder.Reid Warner as Reid
Darrin Bragg as Darrin
Jelena Nik as Jelena
Ben Rovner as Ben
Sandra Staggs as Mother
Roy Abramsohn as Father
Frank Novak as himself
David Saucedo as Town Local
Glenn Campbell as himself
Jamel King as Jamel Bragg
Nikka Far as Nikki
Norio Hayakawa as himself
Production for the film began in the fall of 2009. In April 2011, CBS Films hired director and actor Chris Denham to do some rewrites on Area 51. Peli filmed re-shoots in 2013. In August 2013, Jason Blum stated that the film had finished production and that Peli was "tinkering" with the film in post production. On March 14, 2015, Blum confirmed that the film was officially done and would perhaps be released on VOD. On April 6, 2015, it was reported that Blum had responded to a Twitter user who asked if he had any news on Area 51 by stating, "very very very soon. -JB". Finally, on April 23, 2015 it was announced the film would open exclusively in Alamo Drafthouse theaters and through video on demand platforms on May 15, 2015.
The film was released in Alamo Drafthouse theaters exclusively for a weekend-long-run, and on video on demand platforms beginning on May 15, 2015 courtesy of Paramount Insurge and Blumhouse Tilt. The film made a total of $7,556 for its weekend long-run.
Area 51 garnered predominately negative reviews from critics. The film holds a 17% rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on six reviews. Brian Tallerico writing for RogerEbert.com gave the film one and half stars and mainly criticized the film's generic plot and pacing. A. A. Dowd from The A.V. Club gave Area 51 a 'C'-rating and criticized the film's originality when compared to Oren Peli's previous film, Paranormal Activity.