“EXTRATERRESTRIAL” (Tribeca Movie Review)
EXTRATERRESTRIAL is as generic as its title. The writing/directing Vicious Brothers worked some fun/interesting twists into the found-footage formula in their GRAVE ENCOUNTERS movies, but their latest is a cliché salad from start to long-in-coming finish.
Perhaps the distended 106-minute running time was necessary to cram in every last convention of two different horror subgenres—the five-kids-in-a-van film and the alien-abduction thriller—but that doesn’t make the viewing experience any easier. EXTRATERRESTRIAL (world-premiering at New York City’s Tribeca Film Festival) opens with a reasonably energetic teaser before we’re introduced (ass first, of course) to our heroine, April (Brittany Allen), who is about to head out to a vacation cabin in the woods with her boyfriend Kyle (Freddie Stroma). Kyle is counting on some alone time with April, but his hopes are dashed when it turns out a few friends are coming along, and ours are too when we’re introduced to Seth (Jesse Moss), a complete a-hole douchebag loudmouth moron jerk whose death you’ll be praying for within 30 seconds of meeting him.
Off they go with airhead gals Melanie (Melanie Papalia) and Lex (Anja Savcic) to that house near remote Echo Lake, where they drink and swear and indulge in camcorder tomfoolery and fail the Bechdel test with abandon. They’re not aware at first that weird stuff like animal mutilations has been going on in the area, but soon they see a fiery object fall from the sky and crash amidst the trees nearby, and they set out to investigate it, and anyone with enough enthusiasm for the genre to see this movie in the first place will be able to fill in every blank from there. One scene after another falls into formulaic place, with nary a surprise or interesting visual variation in sight; this is the kind of film where someone says, “Whatever was in here, it’s definitely gone now,” and you just know that “whatever” is going to suddenly pop into frame behind them.
It’s also the kind of film where an attempted escape is blocked by a fallen tree across the road, and when the fleeing youths—who have already witnessed a number of obviously alien phenomena—discover that the trunk has been neatly severed with surgical precision, they ask, “What did this? Was it lightning?” And where, in a desperate attempt to keep the threat outside, they board up all of the cabin’s doors and windows—except for the front door, which is conveniently unblocked when characters need to enter and exit later. Along the way, EXTRATERRESTRIAL manages to squander two of Canada’s acting treasures. The great Michael Ironside, like the movie itself, winds up embodying two stereotypes in one as Travis, a crazed Vietnam vet who’s also a crazed UFO-conspiracy theorist (with an indoor pot farm that calls up memories of the far superior invasion flick ATTACK THE BLOCK), and poor, gifted Emily Perkins is stuck in the one-note role of a hysterical abduction survivor.
The final act does contain some fairly impressive visual FX for the low budget, though the sights they show us are, once again, too familiar to have much impact. (Yes, there is the inevitable anal-probe bit during this sequence, and my butt was hurting too by this point, though not out of sympathy for the unfortunate subject.) Same goes for the finale, a hackneyed attempt at an ironic closer presented as if the filmmakers believe they’re the first ones to ever think of it. There are moments here and there in EXTRATERRESTRIAL suggesting a touch of self-awareness that they’re treading on well-traveled ground—but being self-aware about these clichés doesn’t change the fact that they’re clichés.