Wednesday, June 3, 2015
Director: The Vicious Brothers
Any viewer would be justified by being dismissive of any filmmaking duo ridiculously styling themselves "The Vicious Brothers." Fortunately for Canadian filmmakers Colin Minihan and Stuart Ortiz, their first movie Grave Encounters was actually pretty good, one of the better found footage films. Extraterrestrial, however, is so very bad.
The movie begins with a group of twenty-something-going-on-twelves (April, Kyle, Melanie, 'all dickhead all the time' Seth, and Lex) who are all looking forward to a weekend of drinking, pot smoking and pill popping at a rather palatial cabin in the woods. Unbeknownst to them, the entire area has been plagued with unexplained disappearances. Soon after they arrive, an alien craft crash lands and all hell breaks loose after the group shoots and wounds a prospective alien home invader who apparently believes people should just come quietly. Blocked in their attempt to escape the kids are hunted down one by one.
Movies like this that employ celebrity cameos and check off an entire screenplay checklist of genre tropes typically are not meant to be taken seriously but rather are intended to be fun rides. Extraterrestrial did not go this route, utterly failing as serious alien invasion/abduction horror and then committing the cardinal sin of not being fun. The film obviously had some budget, with presumably a significant portion going to name actor cameos by Michael Ironside, Gil Bellows, and Emily Perkins. Ironside probably enjoyed hamming it up as a backwoods John Bircher but all three are rather misused, with Ironside mainly existing to impart his oddly intimate knowledge of U.S. intergalactic foreign policy and foreshadow the movie's groan inducing ending.
The characters are zero dimensional and dumb horror movie decision making abounds (ex. when the group is surrounded by aliens, Seth decides that pistol whipping his best friend, abandoning the rest of the group, and wandering off into the woods alone is a solid survival move). Moments meant to inspire empathy with members of the group (like the failed marriage proposal) and their fates fall flat and, in typical genre fashion, one character (Seth) is built up into an uber a-hole of the kind that no one would ever have been friends with just to make his ultimate comeuppance all the more satisfying.
Nothing related to the aliens themselves constitutes a fresh take on the alien invasion/abduction genre. There's the same flashing lights and loud noises, the same tractor beam technology, the same experimentations, the same skinny grays, and so on. The bodies of the aliens and their movements are rendered entirely in truly terrible CGI effects of the Saturday SyFy monster movie variety. There are some skillfully crafted scenes, perhaps the most memorable one being the nighttime sequence when the rain directly overhead suddenly stops, but they're few and far between. Sadly, no element from the movie comes close to countering the deep impression that the entire thing is a misstep best forgotten.