[Tribeca '14 Review] Glossy ‘Extraterrestrial’ Is Frightless

BRITTANY_ALLEN_SCREAM1-Extraterrestrial
Can we officially close the door on alien-themed horror movies?

After collaborating on a pair of found-footage films (Grave Encounters and its sequel), filmmakers “The Vicious Brothers” are out to prove they’re more than just a one trick pony. With Extraterrestrial, the duo turn in the pixelated supernatural fare for a glossy alien horror film that’s shot like it wishes it were Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

The Vicious Brothers’ hearts are in the right place with Extraterrestrial, but they end up focusing too much on emulating classics – such as Close Encounters, Fire In the Sky, Alien and Aliens – rather than doing something new and original. The result is a trite piece of sci-fi cinema that succeeds only in showcasing the duo’s actually quite impressive technical chops.

The story follows a group of annoying teens (of course) gearing up to party at a cabin in the woods. A UFO crashes nearby (this is a really cool looking sequence), causing the group to investigate. After finding the crashed craft, they return to the cabin only to discover they’re being watched by one of the alien survivors. The teens decide to murder it, which motivates the beings’ to get revenge. Even though the drive is insanely clear, The Vicious Brothers feel the need to introduce obnoxious character after obnoxious character in order to overexplain the aliens’ motives to those who might not understand. There’s nothing that takes me out of a movie more than when the filmmakers “dumb it down” for the audience.

Thankfully, Extraterrestrial carries a serious tone and is finally a shift from found-footage. Unfortunately, its attempt to be scary fails because it never plays with the psyches of its characters. Nobody in the movie’s world believes these kids, yet the viewer knows immediately that the aliens are real, which kills… no… destroys any suspense. Instead, we’re forced to endure a plethora of fake jump scares.

This begs the question, once again, why aren’t alien horror films scary? Is it because we don’t believe it, or maybe because mass media has over saturated us with what they believe an alien “looks” like? What I’m saying is that, because we’re so familiar with the media’s visualization of aliens, they just aren’t scary anymore. (A perfect example is Freddy’s Dead, a film that literally and figuratively kills the fear of Freddy Krueger.) So, with Extraterrestrial, The Vicious Brothers chose to use “tall grey” aliens, you know, the ones with big, black eyes. They are crazy cool looking (some of the effects work is astounding), but it’s such a familiar look that it’s just not scary. At all.

(Spoilers follow.) Once the filmmakers enter the UFO, that’s when the homage train starts rolling. The ending is heavily inspired by Aliens and Fire in the Sky but, as stated before, doesn’t do anything new. There’s creepy imagery ranging from black slime to hybrid alien-humans, but none of it has any impact, especially since the footage gets all blurry for artistic effect. This is when I started it get angry.

And then IT happened. For whatever reason, the filmmakers thought it made sense to have highly intelligent beings give a character an anal probe, with a drill, that kills him. It infuriated me because it destroyed as sense of believability they had built around the aliens, and turned them into cartoonish “South Park” aliens (end spoilers).

And then, this. Extraterrestrial carries one of the most self-indulgent, trite and awful epilogues I’ve seen in years. Keeping it spoiler free, it refuses to end until everything is packaged up perfectly with a pretty bow on top.

Even though the movie left me in a bad terrible mood, it’s impossible to ignore the insanely impressive scope, and the fact that The Vicious Brothers have serious talent lurking within their horror-fueled minds. If they could find stronger writers to work with, and stop trying to copy classic films of the past, I think these two could eventually surprise us with something remarkable. As for Extraterrestrial, the only thing alien about it was its ability to further the alien sub-genre, which as far as I’m concerned, is dead.

 

Official Score

  • Connor David Cooke

    “There’s nothing that takes me out of a movie more than when the filmmakers “dumb it down” for the audience.”

    The fact that you Love The Hunger games says that’s a lie.

  • LoveAnimation

    Is it not in Movies all the time that the main characters tries to tell people about the big danger and nobody believes them but the audience knows that the danger is real?
    I dont understand why that would destroy the suspense and its something i think we see in horror Movies and other kinds of Movies with stuff most people dont believe exist in real life all the time.

  • Evan3

    Did you really ask “why aren’t alien horror films scary? ” in the same article you referenced the terrifying Alien and pretty damn scary Aliens movies? And Attack the Block had some nice scares, though it was mainly action. Still, the alien design was pretty scary.

  • repairmanxjack

    There a trailer available for this? I’m a sucker for alien abduction flicks and I’m curious to see this.