Extraterrestrial

Posted by Michael Parsons on October 21, 2014 in / No Comments

 

Written/edited by Colin Minihan and Stuart Ortiz (a.k.a. The Vicious Brothers) and directed by Minihan, “Extraterrestrial” takes the concept of little green men to a level that will leave your head reeling and your gut queasy. Ever wonder about those anal probes you’ve heard so much about in all those sci-fi flicks? Well, look no further.

Here, the science fiction aspect begins and ends with an alien space craft, and one scene even gives a not-too-subtle nod to the most arcane of “X-Files” characters. But make no mistake: “Extraterrestrial” falls squarely in the horror category. It’s a freaky, gory, imaginative shocker that seems heavily inspired by Jason Eisener’s excellent “V/H/S 2” segment “Slumber Party Alien Abduction”, which, if you couldn’t tell from the title, isn’t exactly “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”.

This sophomore feature from the filmmakers behind 2011’s much less impressive “Grave Encounters” centers on a group of friends who pick an unfortunate time to party in the remote wooded town where several people have inexplicably gone missing and animals are found the-visitors-4disemboweled with surgical precision on a daily basis.

April (Brittany Allen) is there to take pictures of her divorced parents’ cabin for a real estate listing, while boyfriend Kyle (Freddie Stroma) is planning on making a marriage proposal. Kyle has invited friends (Jesse Moss, Melanie Papalia and Anja Savcic) to tag along and celebrate the engagement, but when Kyle doesn’t get the answer he was expecting, a damper is put on the festivities.

Anticipating trouble, the local sheriff (Gil Bellows) has already warned them not to cause a ruckus (Kyle’s judgement in friends is called into question when one of them decides to shoot fireworks out of a moving vehicle), but his investigation into a young lady’s disappearance leads him to believe that the young out-of-towners are not his biggest problem. Likewise, the sting of Kyle’s rejection quickly dissipates when a UFO crash lands in the nearby woods and they find themselves being stalked by a lanky space invader.

BRITTANY_ALLEN_SCREAM1-Extraterrestrial1-620x400Bad decisions don’t necessarily dictate the order by which our characters become part of a grisly interstellar science fair, but the film revels in giving us the graphic details whenever they do: one poor sap learns in gruesome fashion that handcuffing yourself to a tree isn’t enough stop you from being swallowed up into the night sky. Another falls under an alien’s telepathic spell, and let’s just say it doesn’t end with him making little mountains out of mashed potatoes.

But despite the gore, it’s not all about shock value: most of the scares derive from a combination of masterful lighting, camerawork and score, and the sense that something’s lurking in the shadows rarely lets up. Probably most unsettling, though, is the film’s ultimate grim irony about human nature.

“Extraterrestrial” knows no boundaries, from its “Evil Dead” ambience to its slasher-film sensibilities to its perversely grandiose finale, and only in a silly sub-plot involving Michael Ironside as April’s conspiracy-theorist pot-growing neighbor does the film stray from its mercilessly dreadful tone. Minihan and Ortiz are clearly showing a reverence for ’50s B-movies with the design of the aliens and an honest-to-goodness old school flying saucer; this otherwise nasty, no-nonsense horror flick is an unpredictable roller coaster that thwarts expectations at almost every bloody turn.

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Michael Parsons

Father. Realtor®. Movie nut. After pestering my parents for their commentary on “Star Wars” when I was four years old, my mind went into a creative frenzy. I’d imagined something entirely different than the actual film, which I didn’t end up seeing until its 1979 re-release at the Uptown Theater in Washington, DC. This was my formal introduction to the cinema.

During that long wait, which felt like an eternity to a child, my mind was being molded by more corrosive stuff like “Trilogy of Terror” and “Rosemary’s Baby”, most of which I’d conned various babysitters into letting me watch on television ( I convinced one poor lady that “Jaws” was actually “Moby Dick”).

The folks were pretty strict in that regard, so the less appropriate it was for a kid to watch, the more I was fascinated by it. Horror staples like “Halloween” and “Friday the 13th”, as well as lesser-known low-budget fare like “Madman”, “Sleepaway Camp” and “Pieces” all ended up sneaking their way into the VHS on a regular basis.

Since then, I’ve developed an obsession with the entire film industry. Even though I watch and review a wide breadth of films these days, my appreciation for the campy, poorly lit micro-budgeters still lends itself to my evolving perspective on movies just as much as the summer blockbusters and Oscar contenders. As I recall my trips to the movie theater, I realize that this stuff is about much more than just a fleeting piece of entertainment.

A couple years ago, I was finally given the opportunity to lend my opinion on films to a publication, The Rogers Revue, with a subsequent run at Reel Film News. It's been both a privilege and a gateway to what we’re doing now. Most of my experience has come from interviewing independent filmmakers, who consistently promote innovation. The filmmaking process is grueling and relatively unforgiving.

Fellow film enthusiast Eddie Pasa and I have created DC Filmdom as a medium for film reviews, discussion, and (inevitably) some debate. And so, the creative frenzy continues.

(Michael is a member of the Washington, DC Area Film Critics Association).

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