Tuesday, May 12, 2015

EXTRATERRESTRIAL (2014) Blu-ray Review

Extraterrestrial (2014) d. The Vicious Brothers (Canada)

Tasked with taking a few snapshots to put her parents’ summer cabin on the market, April (Brittany Allen) is surprised to learn that her boyfriend Kyle (Freddie Stroma) has invited a group of his friends (Melanie Papalia, Jesse Moss, Anja Savcic) to join them for a weekend bash. Their bacchanal is interrupted by a blazing streak of fire in the sky which explodes in the woods nearby. The group venture out to the crash site where they discover the remnants of an honest-to-Scully U.F.O. … and the big-eyed, spindly-limbed former occupants haven’t exactly come in peace or seeking Reese’s Pieces.

The writing/directing/editing team of Colin Minihan and Stuart Ortiz won over more than a few followers with their 2011 Ghost Hunters-riff on low-budget found-footage haunted house scares, Grave Encounters and its sequel (which they wrote, with directing chores falling to fellow Canuck John Poliquin). They’ve graduated to a slightly higher budget and ditched the first-person format for an X-Files homage that looks great, but is sadly formulaic and devoid of any characters worth caring about.

The tone is of concern as well, because while they clearly want to deliver some “fun” moments of gore and alien chicanery, the overall mood is one of doom and gloom (unless that’s supposed to be a put-on as well), and the sniggering sense of glib nihilism that pervades the final reel is particularly annoying.

The digital effects by Waterproof Studios (many of which later augmented by the “Brothers” themselves) are actually pretty snazzy, with depictions of the alien craft and its deadly effects on humans exceeding expectations. The body count is substantial, with several offings evoking an appreciative “ooooooh” from the crowd. Unfortunately, it takes almost 40 minutes to get past the soul-crushing introductory scenes where we slowly but systematically grow to despise all of our main characters.

The exceptions lie in the more recognizable names, but being as they are credited toward the bottom of the cast list, you know they won’t be in the film long enough to save it being. These include Gil Bellows’ determined law officer, Emily Perkins’ traumatized abductee, and Michael Ironside’s gleefully gruff turn as a pot-growing, conspiracy-spouting Vietnam vet. The rest of the time, we’re saddled with a photogenic quintet of college-age partyhounds screeching at one another – you’d be forgiven if you lose patience halfway through, invoking the “Life’s too short” clause.

However, should you (wisely) choose to simply skip past the first few chapters, here’s all you need to know: Kyle proposes to April, she turns him down, he gets bummed out. Cue up the flying saucer crash landing and you’re good to go. Once the alien baddies show up on the scene, things brighten up considerably, but even so, you’re better off switching off the caterwauling in favor of the audio commentary with Minihan, Ortiz, Allen, and Papalia. It has the combined effect of preserving the ears while learning which scenes the filmmakers digitally tinkered with and why. Trust me, you’re not missing anything in terms of “story” or “character” or “plot” – this is the kind of flick that goes down better when people are talking over it.

I could go on, but you get the picture. There are aliens, impressive low-budget digital effects, annoying twentysomethings, no nudity, some digital gore, and a few low-tier star cameos. If this sounds like your cuppa joe, have at it. Otherwise, you’re not missing much.

Extraterrestrial is available now on Blu-ray from IFC Midnight and Shout! Factory, features the aforementioned commentary track and a making-of segment, and can be ordered HERE.


--Aaron Christensen, HorrorHound Magazine


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