DVD REVIEW: ALIEN ABDUCTION / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR: MATTY BECKERMAN / SCREENPLAY: ROBERT LEWIS / STARRING: KATHERINE SIGISMUND, COREY EID, RILEY POLANSKI, JILLIAN CLARE, JEFF BOWSER / RELEASE DATE: AUGUST 25TH
Hallelujah and praise the Gods of straight-to-DVD movies. Here’s something we thought we’d never seen again in our lifetime – a tense and inventive found-footage movie which belies its lurid title to deliver some effective, economical visuals, a few scares and a real 'didn’t see that coming' twist ending. Movie miracles can happen, it appears.
With its loose basis on real-life events – the ‘Brown Mountain lights’ phenomenon of North Carolina and the United States Air Forces’ Project Blue Book investigation into UFOs – Alien Abduction introduces us to the Morris family, vacationing in the Brown Mountain woods. Fortunately everything they say and do is being recorded by the family’s autistic son Riley (Polanski) and the film at least tries to rationalise his obsession with filming everything, no matter how terrifying, by depicting it as his way of coping and communicating with the world. Credulity is inevitably strained but our scepticism is soon swept away by the usual found-footage mantra of 'Oh my God, oh my God' as the first weird thing happens in the middle of the night.
And to be fair to Alien Abduction, much of it actually is pretty weird. The film quickly puts the Morris clan into jeopardy; brights light illuminate the night, dead crows rain from the sky and most creepily, they find a tunnel full of abandoned cars, amongst which stalk mysterious inhuman creatures. The family flee deep into the woods and encounter a dubious grumpy gun-happy redneck, all the time pursued by fleetingly seen creatures. It seems there’s no escape; before long the family are trapped, the blinding lights of some thunderous alien machine flooding through the cracks in the walls and ceilings. It’s eerie and it’s unsettling because of what we don’t see rather than what we do and it becomes gripping and unnerving enough for us to briefly forget that this nightmare is being scrupulously filmed by an 11-year-old boy who would in reality, have dropped his camera and run for the hills screaming at the top of his voice hours earlier.
The film punches way above its weight the last few minutes. Abductees are lifted into the air in beams of lights, their backs casually broken, before they’re swept up into some sort of machine in which terrible experiments are conducted. Riley’s still filming until the aliens decide that enough’s enough and chuck his camera out of their ship and it spins back down to Earth where it’s found and collected by the USAF. As the credits roll there’s one last twist in the tale which is genuinely worth sticking around for.
Alien Abduction is surprisingly solid stuff, a breath of fresh air in the stale found-footage world. The script gets the job done; the acting’s no better than it needs to be, but the film drips atmosphere and delivers moments of genuine unease as the Morris family come to terms with the fact that they’re dealing with something way outside the sphere of human experience. Their terror is real, it’s palpable and it’s believable. Even if you’re bored witless by found-footage films by now - and who could blame you? - Alien Abduction gives the genre a much needed shot in the arm and comes surprisingly highly recommended.