Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Review: Alien Abduction (2014)

Let me be honest here, I am not excited about meeting aliens. Sure, I love the Mass Effect games and Star Trek, some of my favourite characters are aliens from the Star Wars universe, and I dig Alf immensely. But I share a similar view to Stephen Hawking that aliens may very well mean bad things for us. Things involving dissection, experimentation, or possibly even simply laying their young deep inside our throats to gestate for a while until said babies decide to wake up.

There are far worse outcomes to waking up after a stranger has had their way with you.

Chest-bursting pregnancy aside, alien movies are pretty cool. And when you toss horror into the mix? You've got me interested. True, there are some really bad alien horror films. Signs definitely springs to mind. But there are also some that really hook into you and never let go. Alien, Predator, Aliens, Slither, John Carpenter's The Thing, the list goes on and on of classic alien horror films that really have staying power. Then, there comes along this movie, and the trailer intrigued me. It had genuinely creepy vibe to it, with sound design and the implication that the aliens weren't going to be shown off much. I wanted to give this movie a shot and see if it was any good or if other reviews trashing it were trying to warn me from traumatizing myself with a bad movie. I gird my loins as I turn on Netflix and begin my journey.

They seem like a lovely family who nothing bad will happen to, right?
Our film opens with, what I assume at this point to be the end, which is the view from camera inside the alien ship. It's blurry and alien fingers are coiled around it while people are screaming as tools can be heard, most likely from experimentation going on. The camera is dumped out a chute by the alien holding it and we see it fall to Earth from a first-person view. We then get some people talking about the phenomenon in the Brown Mountain area in North Carolina know as the Brown Mountain Lights, which is interesting but really it's just keeping us from our lovely doomed family. Eventually, we get to the kid with the camera, Riley. He's autistic and he uses his camera as a coping mechanism, which is actually quite inspired. Here's a found footage film that gives us as credible reason for the person filming to keep filming in a horrifying situation. That's wonderful, because the found-footage genre has gotten pretty old fast and seeing them go the extra mile to make it stand out even a little is great.

There does come a time when you should just drop the camera and run though.
Anyway, the story centers around Riley's family (his mom, dad, brother, sister, and himself) going camping on Brown Mountain, where there have been mysterious disappearances in the past (according to the film's opening). Things start off pretty nicely, we see them all together having fun as a family, but that's all spoiled when Riley and has siblings wake in the middle of the night to leave their tent and see some moving lights in the distance. Now, I don't know about any of you, but I would immediately go home. Actually, I would already be home, as I am not a fan of camping. Judge me if you want, but I am of the belief that we evolved and learned to erect houses for a valid reason. I have no interest in going backwards, getting bitten by various insects, and possibly ending up being mounted by a Sasquatch who assumes I am one of their kind.

No means no, Sasquatch!
After they get back on the road the next day, they get a bit lost and the father becomes irritated and a dead crow slams into the right side of the car. I can only assume the aliens threw it at them because they find that sort of thing to be pretty funny. Aliens can be dicks sometimes. They all recover from the shock, hug, and get back on the road until they reach a tunnel after the GPS has seizure. Inside the tunnel (and just outside of it too) are various abandoned cars with their lights still on, leaving me to conclude these people were taken recently as the batteries would've died. The father and two sons go into the tunnel and find out that some illegal aliens are there abouts and seem to really want to get their hands on them. The father has a seizure himself after looking into the eyes of an alien and the two sons run back to the mother and sister as they all take off in the car. But they don't get far as an onslaught of dead birds rains down on them.

The Birds 3: Look at  All These Freaking Dead Birds
Then a new problem rears its head as they learn the car is out of gas, so the quickly hoof it to the mailbox they spied earlier and run for the house they hope has a phone. They make it there and meet Sean, the friendly redneck, who initially seems hesitant about trusting them until he sees an alien attack his dog. He orders them to all take cover in the house and tells the older brother, Corey, to grab a rifle. They show him footage of what happened via Riley's camera and all settle in to wait for Sean's brother to return, as Sean himself has a cell phone with no reception like they do. Sean's dog makes it back surprisngly alive and his brother radios in right before he goes and gets himself attacked by aliens. So, our favourite redneck leaves to save his idiot brother and the aliens come to say hi. Corey hides his mother and siblings in the basement and covers the door, leaving himself to fight off the aliens.

Everyone say bye to Corey.
They sit down there for a long time, almost getting found at one point when they knock over some stuff, but are eventually rescued by Sean. They run to his truck and all take off, but the lights find them and Sean tells them to run for a barn in the woods where they can hide while he fights off the aliens again. Can we just make a movie about him fighting aliens? I mean, nothing against this family, but Sean is a total bad-ass here who is selflessly doing everything he can manage to keep these strangers safe. He's my favourite thing in this movie. Moving on though, they get to the barn and stay relatively safe, although things get a bit hairy when the lights hover over the barn.

Are they any white middle-class suburban families hiding in there? We have cake.
Sean shows up, once more defying the odds of survival, and tells them he thinks the lights are gone for now so they should run for the truck. But this proves to be a bad idea, as the mom gets grabbed by the light and bent in half in a way that I am fairly positive is bad for the spine.

CHEESUS CRIST THAT SOUNDS PAINFUL
Sadly, our heroic redneck also gets this same spine-bending treatment and the remaining two kids take off into the woods where they get separated shortly as Riley has a bit of a meltdown. Luckily, his sister finds him and covers his mouth so the nearby alien won't hear him. You know, a lot of problems in this situations would be solved by people learning that long deep breaths are much quieter than 50 shallow gasping breaths per minute. Remember, folks, proper breathing can save your life. They get to walking again and as the sun rises they spy the local town in the distance and finally make it to the road. But, it turns out that the road happens to be on the oppositte side of the tunnel where all the bad started, so they freak out immensely at this point. A cop shows up though to reassure them and give them hope...right before the aliens also show up to completely dash those hopes as they're all abducted and we're shown out opening scene again, but this time get to see Air Force science guys grabbing the fallen camera. During the credits we get more footage of people discussing the phenomenon in the area and we get a recording from one year after the incident that reveals the father was deposited back to Earth, meaning that the other may also be alive (even though they very well may not want to be). And that's our movie.

It's over? Good, because holding this is really cramping my arm up.
Now, getting down to the nitty gritty, is it a bad movie? Well, I don't think it is. It's a formulaic movie about innocent people being pursued through the woods, which may not feel original or new, but it is honestly well done and quite tense most of the time. I heard people complain that there were too many jumpscares but I honestly didn't see there being too many to the point where they became annoying. They felt appropriate to the story, adding to the tension, as many of the jumpscares were things that ended up not being a direct threat. The characters were likable, especially in the case of our mysterious woodsman who tried to save the rather helpless family.

We never learn what he was doing in those woods. I like think he was looking for Terabithia so he could burn it down.
The story, while formulaic, is set up rather well and the movie looks great all the way through. The aliens are rarely seen, but when they do pop up are suitably threatening. The legendary Chiodo brothers (Killer Klowns from Outer Space, Critters, Ernest Scared Stupid) brought the aliens to life, so it's no shock that they look good. And, as I said previously, working the reason for the kid keeping the camera going into his character was really a stroke of genius. Ultimately, while I can see people having a point regarding the movie feeling like something we've seen before, I find myself asking if that really matters. I mean, it was an entertaining film that was quite creepy and didn't leave us with a nice happy ending, so I consider that a success as a horror fan. If you enjoy watching people getting hunting and picked off by creepy alien bastards, give it a watch. It's definitely better than most people say it is. So, until people wise up and start learning to give up their dangerous camping fetish, I'll be here sleeping in my comfortable bed where the only things that will be probing my extremities are my bedsheets. Later days, bleeders.

Someone get Matty Beckerman to give Sean his own movie now!

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