You don’t get more straightforward with movie titles than Alien Abduction. Unless the filmmakers were being cute, you can be fairly certain it’s not going to be about teen vampire romance or polterghouls. Matty Beckerman’s debut film is as direct as its title, which is a double-edged sword. The film follows a tedious pattern of run, hide, abduct, repeat – a motif that becomes quickly monotonous. However, it does lead to some fun set pieces. Based around the Brown Mountain Lights phenomena of western North Carolina, Alien Abduction is a found footage mixed bag of drags and entertaining gags.
After an effective prologue that mixes real interviews with alien enthusiasts and a disorientating bit of “recovered footage” from the U.S. Air Force, Riskay’s hit song “Smell Yo Dick” is played. You can hate on found footage all you want, but any film that uses “Smell Yo Dick” as a way to introduce a family dynamic gets bonus points in my book. The song is being played in the minivan of the Morris family as they drive to their rustic camping destination in the Brown Mountains.
The clan is comprised of Katie and Peter Morris, and their children Corey, Jillian, and Riley, the youngest. Riley is the one filming the whole thing – the cameraman of the footage that is found. Y’know how everyone always wonders why the cameraman keeps filming in found footage movies after shit goes down? Like, when people are getting slaughtered, the goofball behind the camera wouldn’t just drop the damn thing and take off? Well Alien Abduction at least makes an effort to explain why Riley clutches to the camcorder for dear life. He has autism and in order to cope with an overwhelming situation like being out in the woods, he’s taking it in through a lens. It’s a pretty solid reason that adds a nice little dimension.
The ball gets rolling really quickly for the Morris family. Their first night camping, the kids see abnormal lights in the sky. The second day, their GPS goes bonkers and directs them to some shady back roads until they get to the first of the film’s handful of set pieces. This first one is the best and certainly the most potent as far as horror goes. It takes place in a tunnel with a bunch of abandoned cars, á la that great scene from The Stand. It’s dark and claustrophobic, with a great use of suggestion rather than balls out jump scares. It’s a genuinely creepy sequence that builds up with palpable tension.
From there, Alien Abduction starts dragging its heels terribly. It goes from one set piece to the next, and none of them are as effective as the tunnel. The Morris clan high tails it then holes up where they can while the aliens scope out the scenery, then they run to the next place. They do shack up for a while in the hunting cabin of a redneck named Sean (Jeff Bowser), but before long they’re out on foot again – running and screaming. The on location shooting in the woods is done pretty well, although far too many times the camera is too shaky to take anything in.
The aliens themselves are standard greys, with oversized heads and big eyes. We’re only treated to glimpses of them, but they look pretty cool and like they would smell really bad. That’s one of my criteria for a solid alien design – if it looks like it would smell awful. I feel like they missed an opportunity during one of the alien encounters though. Eldest son Corey should’ve yelled “Let me smell yo alien dick!” at one of the greys. Man, that would’ve been great.
It would’ve been cool to delve into the legends surrounding the Brown Mountains as well. Sean talks about his grandma telling stories about the lights, but that’s about it. There’s a missed opportunity there to add some dimension to the narration. It has its fun moments and the tunnel scene is really well done, but overall Alien Abduction keeps repeating the same motif until its inevitable closing act.
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