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 disemboweled 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.
Bad 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.