“ALIEN ABDUCTION” (Movie Review)
This deep into the resurgence of found-footage horror, most contemporary fright fans have already made up their minds regarding the subgenre. To some, the approach is a fresh way to apply a first-person perspective to otherwise tired genres while presenting a challenge to resourceful filmmakers. To others, it’s a cheap, frustrating method for directors to present jump-scares at the cost of well-constructed storytelling and convincing performances. However, as with most hotly debated subjects, the reality lies somewhere in the grey area between the two.
It’s within that middle ground that ALIEN ABDUCTION, an IFC Midnight release out today on VOD and in select theaters, works best, using admittedly effective visual mechanisms to forward a thin, implausible plot. The vérité aspects allow horror to come through in haunted-attraction-esque setpieces, and there’s much to be praised about the building of suspense throughout the film. However, the narrative is extremely aggravating, rarely offering much in the way of character development or emotional and physical consequences relevant to the story.
To his credit, director Matty Beckerman does solid work in the scarier sequences, the best of which takes place in a dark tunnel filled with abandoned vehicles and fully embraces the possibilities of handheld storytelling. However, Robert Alvin Lewis’ screenplay is incredibly inconsistent, bouncing from faux documentary to regular found footage, discovered in a handheld camera that somehow survived a fall from outer space (seen twice in the film, the first time within the film’s opening minutes). Between these inconsistencies is a plot about a family falling victim one by one to an extraterrestrial threat, but these people are so barely developed that there’s no reason to invest in their plight, or wonder how they can fight against their abductors. Furthermore, with the ultimate payoff presented at the beginning, the audience is left playing a waiting game through to the finale, which many will find to be an ill-conceived copout.
Technically, the film gets the job done on the limited budget, and Beckerman has fun with some of the more atmospheric scares and allows the audience brief, sporadic glimpses of the green-skinned foes instead of shrouding them completely in mystery. There are legitimate moments of fright scattered throughout the monotonous family drama and obligatory exposition, but also so much distracting noise and lapses of logic that the overall found-footage effect is unsatisfying. In fact, the amount of fun to be had from the simple scare tactics of ALIEN ABDUCTION will depend on how forgiving one is of its derivative and unengaging narrative.
With little in terms of brains or originality, ALIEN ABDUCTION’s saving grace is that it is fun nevertheless, mostly thanks to Beckerman’s ability to navigate the mock-documentary angle into some truly creepy setpieces. While the film occasionally falls into the subgenre’s tropes and the story is barely existent, the film’s core goal—to scare—is handled efficiently, even beyond the simple startle moments—though the film is certainly not above those either. It is also reminiscent of another found-footage alien film, ABSENCE—the two have moments practically ripped off from one another. In ALIEN ABDUCTION’s highlights, Beckerman shows much promise as a horror director, and his skills would be better served in a traditionally filmed vehicle—or anything, really, with a stronger, more character-conscious script.