MOVIE REVIEW: EXTRATERRESTRIAL / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR: COLIN MINIHAN / SCREENPLAY: COLIN MINIHAN, STUART ORTIZ / STARRING: BRITTANY ALLEN, FREDDIE STROMA, MELANIE PAPALIA, JESSE MOSS, GIL BELLOWS, MICHAEL IRONSIDE/ RELEASE DATE: OCTOBER 29TH
From Skyline to Skinwalkers to the Slumber Party Alien Abduction segment of V/H/S/2, it seems that modern horror just cannot seem to get aliens quite right. True, there have been reprieves in the likes of The Fourth Kind and Dark Skies, but audiences are yet to see any modern alien horror in the vein of Ridley Scott’s Alien, James Cameron’s Aliens or John Carpenter’s The Thing. Well, all of the above were clearly in mind for Colin Minihan and Stuart Ortiz (collectively known as The Vicious Brothers) newest sci-fi horror, Extraterrestrial. A film with a whole host of inspirations, and while it doesn’t meet its aspirations, there is an undeniable care in some of the craft.
Extraterrestrial features a bog-standard horror set up (one of many aspects that liken the picture to more of a slasher flick at times). April (Brittany Allen) and Kyle (Freddie Stroma) prepare for a break away to April’s father’s old cabin in the woods (sound familiar?), only for Kyle to drop it on her that his mates are coming along too. All becomes clear though as Kyle has a proposition for her but things are interrupted when a craft crashes nearby. So obviously, these kids must investigate but when they meet the inhabitants of said craft and incur their wrath, they are in for the fight of their lives. From the opening abduction scene, you are sure that The Vicious Brothers are not going to be gunning for originality and that is indeed the case.
Cabin in the woods, drunken, profane mates, mirror jump-scares, shower hiding, weed farms, a sheriff on a mission, there is a galaxy of clichés here for hardened genre fans to see. If you are looking for a brave new voice in this genre, you will leave disappointed. Yet, while Extraterrestrial does not particularly reinvent the wheel, it has to be said that the film looks rather impressive. The special effects are brilliant (aside from some very iffy looking military helicopters in the climax) and the aliens themselves look quite animalistic and imposing. True, it all gets a bit much with the recycled red-lit UFO scenes and overload of effects in the closing part of the film, but we have seen worse effects (and acting for that matter) in films that get a mainstream distribution.
It is a shame that the script did not restrain itself, because you cannot help but somewhat admire the work that has gone into this; but that does not excuse some major issues within. The Vicious Brothers cut their teeth with the effective (if overrated) Grave Encounters, and it’s seriously ill-judged sequel, but Extraterrestrial is more fun; sharing a heck of a lot of surprising similarities with the recent remake of Friday the 13th (which will signify, perhaps, how you will take to it). There is no doubting that the plot treads very familiar and well-worn ground and that modern horror's infuriating necessity to have a-hole characters is indeed a factor here too. That said, Brittany Allen and Freddie Stroma are likable leads and familiar faces Gil Bellows and Michael Ironside seem to be having fun with some of the cheese.
Extraterrestrial has not picked up especially outstanding feedback on its festival run, but in terms of Saturday night gory thrills it does its job well enough. The aliens actually look great, and while the climax is almost clearly a rip off of H.R. Giger’s Alien backdrops, the grossly-rendered sets are effective. The plot, dialogue, and supporting characters pull the film back from the promise offered by some X-Files-esque opening titles and an actually quite effectively morbid closing act that suggests the dangers of the earth are every bit as great as the dangers surrounding it. Extraterrestrial is an untaxing albeit regularly clichéd watch, but still a fun dose of sci-fi horror, even if the search for a truly great modern alien horror goes on.
Expected Rating: 4 out of 10