Movie Review - Alien Abduction
First time director Matty Beckerman's 2014 found footage film, Alien Abduction, is a jarring assault on the senses, reminiscent of the disorienting filming style seen in The Blair Witch Project. Although the film isn't really covering any new ground here, the approach itself stands out to me as one of the stronger attempts at the style in recent years. The film was also blessed with a talented cast that worked well as an ensemble and elevated this fairly simple story into an engaging drama. The film is available now on iTunes and VOD and in selected theaters.
The story is based on the phenomenon known as the Brown Mountain Lights. The Morris Family is camping in the Brown Mountains of North Carolina for their vacation, when one night they witness strange lights in the sky that appear to be UFOs. After getting lost deep in the woods and finding themselves low on gasoline, the atmosphere in the car becomes extremely tense. Suddenly the car comes to a tunnel that appears to be filled with abandoned vehicles whose owners are no where to be found. Assuming their only recourse is to head through the tunnel, the father and his two sons decide to walk to the other end and find the missing motorists. But a third of the way through they become aware that they are not alone, and that the creatures in the tunnel are clearly not human. While trying to escape the aliens abduct the father, while the two sons are forced to flee without him. The remaining family members seek refuge in a nearby cabin, whose owner is less than thrilled to take them in, but obliges nonetheless. And for the rest of the night they are systematically hunted, back to the cabin and out into the woods, leaving the family literally fighting for their lives.
Enough can't be said about the talented cast here, including seasoned vet Peter Holden (The Dark Knight Rises) as father, Peter Morris, whose strong performance makes his abduction scene utterly terrifying. As Katie Morris, actress Katherine Sisigmund (Transformers: Dark of the Moon) manages to handle the complexity of balancing both a terrified woman and a fiercely protective mother handily. Jillian Clare conveys all the terror of a teenage girl in danger without falling into the trap of becoming overly screechy and annoying, instead making sister, Jillian, incredibly sympathetic. And Corey Eid (Raising Hope) and Riley Polanski (Tumbling) both manage to establish a strong presence as the brothers, which is impressive for such young actors. Lastly, Jeff Bowser is stellar as Sean, the owner of the cabin who refuses to go down without a fight. The strength of the cast is what kept the film feeling grounded, and in the end, ends up being it's greatest strength.
Beckerman attacks the found footage style head on, pulling some resourceful tricks out of his sleeve give a little added punch to the process. Most notably is the POV view of a camera dropped from the top of the earths atmosphere, that records the entire descent with a dizzying jolt. With unsteady camera work that goes out of focus and experiences interference, and an extremely overwhelming display of visual effects that make the film all the more unsettling. Truly this director has a ton of potential. And credit must lastly be given to Steven Avila for an outstanding and brutal sound design, which provides most of the significant scares in the film.
Overall, I really did enjoy this film. But I will say that, although inventive, it isn't the most original subject matter and if you've had enough of the found footage style of film making, this may not be the film for you. On the other hand, it succeeds in doing what many other alien encounter films get wrong, which is making the creatures look scary. I would say if you are going to see it, try and see it in the theater. It is much better experienced with a proper sound system. If not, check out the trailer below and look for it on iTunes and VOD. Cheers.
- Leo Francis