Friday, October 2, 2015

Review: Extraterrestrial (2014)

Extraterrestrial (2014)

Not rated

Despite its intriguing premise -- a horror film based on UFO/alien abduction lore, something that we don't see a lot of of these days -- Extraterrestrial struggles to escape the realm of mediocrity. Slick and creative visuals and a couple of interesting leads can't salvage a script that's filled with all the cliches you'd expect from a cabin-in-the-woods horror film. And while it's at least decent for most of its runtime, the last ten minutes end the film on a note that's simultaneously schmaltzy and makes everything that transpired feel pointless. Even with a number of solid scenes and scares, I only recommend it for serious aficionados of alien fiction who just can't wait for the return of The X-Files this January.

The plot revolves around five young people heading out to a cabin in the woods. One of them, April, wanted a romantic weekend alone with her boyfriend Kyle, but Kyle brought along his friends Seth, Melanie, and Lex, who joined them in order to drink, smoke weed, and party. And since the controllers from The Cabin in the Woods clearly decided that the old zombie redneck torture family wasn't working as well as it used to, this group of friends is facing aliens. Good old-fashioned Roswell Greys in a flying saucer, which crash-lands right near the cabin after a routine run for people to abduct and perform rectal experiments on. (And before you ask, yes, there is an anal probing scene in this movie, and it's as gross as it sounds.) When a fearful April shoots one of the aliens dead, the rest seek revenge and call for backup in the form of another UFO to abduct their asses. Help isn't forthcoming, as the government has a treaty with the aliens allowing them to abduct people in exchange for not getting invaded, so these five people, together with a local survivalist/conspiracy theorist friend of April's named Travis (Michael Ironside), have to survive the night as the aliens come to both claim their test subjects and avenge their fallen comrade. Meanwhile, the local sheriff Murphy investigates a woman (Emily Perkins) whose family was taken in the aliens' last abduction spree, eventually coming to realize that the disappearance of his own wife years ago may have been less-than-terrestrial in origin, and comes to assist our group at the cabin.

The main problem here is that everything here is just so bog-standard. April and Kyle are the only ones who get any development, chiefly in the form of their relationship conflict (Kyle wants to get married, but April has a job offer in New York), and even they fall prey to making some monumentally stupid decisions, especially later on. The other three main characters are all of varying degrees of unlikability, existing solely to check off spots on the horny horror teenager checklist. The only things Travis does are be badass and explain to the youngins what's happening, and while Murphy gets a backstory involving his wife having possibly been abducted, nothing comes of it before he and his deputy are violently killed off. The only thing redeeming most of them is the fact that the actors are actually pretty decent for a film like this. Michael Ironside hams it up well as the crazy Travis, a man who saw some shit in 'Nam and hasn't been the same since, while Brittany Allen and Freddie Stroma are both likable as April and Kyle, managing to get me surprisingly invested in their relationship and both of them looking convincingly scared as they get put through hell.

The look of the film is also quite striking, taking some fairly traditional UFOs and "grey aliens" and combining them with the creepy British Columbia woods where this was filmed to create a feeling that's reminiscent of The X-Files at its best. Even watching this movie on a plane with the roar of a jet engine just outside the cabin, I managed to get a serious sense of dread from the setting, the baddies, and the overall visual design of the film, especially once it actually went on the spaceship during the finale. This film was put together lavishly, with a ton of care put into its set design and special effects for something of its budget (just $3 million), and there's little I can fault it for on that front. Unfortunately, just as this film was hitting its high point, the writing once more brings it crashing down in the last ten minutes. Without spoiling anything, it ends first on a jarringly upbeat note that goes against everything that had transpired, then on a twist that undoes the whole film. I felt slapped in the face by the ending, like I had wasted my time watching this film and the filmmakers had wasted theirs by making it. The massive sense of mood-whiplash produced by the ending, trying to go for poignancy, bleakness, and dark humor in running succession, just did not work at all, with each of those elements pulling against the other and leaving a muddle that only had me asking "huh?".

Score: 2 out of 5

It's decent, if cliched, for most of its length, until the ending ruins it in a mess of bad decisions. Only watch if you really need to get your UFO fix.

No comments:

Post a Comment