2014 TFF Review: Extraterrestrial

Directed by Colin Minihan
Witten by The Vicious Brothers
Starring Brittany Allen, Freddie Stroma and Melanie Papalia

‘Extraterrestrial’ Continues to Screen at the 2014 Tribeca Film festival on Wednesday, April 23 & Saturday, April 26, 2014.

Collin Minihan and Stuart Ortiz, aptly dubbed The Vicious Brothers, are best known for writing and directing the cult horror film Grave Encounters and for writing and producing the sequel Grave Encounters 2. This year they’ve returned with their follow-up Horror/Sci-Fi scare, ‘Extraterrestrial’. Their latest film marks a departure from the paranormal “found footage” genre, leaning toward more of a polished traditional form.

I had little expectations walking into this venue. Actually, up until its premiere, I’ve never heard of the Vicious Brothers, or their films for that matter. I clicked through a few capsule reviews of their last two flicks before the projector fired up. Opinions were mixed, so I hoped for the best. 106 minutes later the Vicious Brothers gained a new fan – yours truly. The movie, in short, was awesome!

Sure, the malevolent alien invasion plot and the ‘cabin in the woods’ scenario has become somewhat of a Hollywood cliche. But fortunately, the solid performances, striking visual effects and overall eerie ambiance led to a frighteningly enjoyable experience. The Viscious Brothers, along with director Colin Minihan, command a certain style indicative of a Wes Craven and Rob Zombie mashup.

The filmmakers waste little time thrusting us into the action. In a cold open scene we’re caught in the midst of a menacing thunderstorm. A young girl, drenched and hysterical, runs up to a convenience store and begs the clerk inside for help. He ignores her plea. She dashes for a nearby phone booth and dials 911. An unsettling low frequency sound emerges as blinding red lights are cast down from above. Then, in a thunderous burst of energy, she’s sucked up into an alien spacecraft. Seconds later, the phone booth comes crashing back down to earth.

The story centers around April and her boyfriend Kyle, played by Brittany Allen and Freddie Stroma, who are gearing up for a weekend trip to her parents cabin to take some real estate photos for her mother and to retrieve a few personal affects for her father. April and Kyle are joined by their mutual friends, played by Melanie Papalia, Anja Savcic, Emily Perkins and Jesse Moss. Everything goes according to plan until the group witnesses a fiery object fall from the sky one evening. Curious, they investigate the crash site and make an out of this world discovery – a downed alien spacecraft. Panic sets in when mysterious footprints are are found in the dirt nearby. They rush back to the cabin – their safehouse . While seeking refuge in the basement, April finds her dad’s shotgun. She loads the gun and leads the terrified group upstairs where she comes face to face with an eight foot tall alien being. She raises her weapon and fires off a round, knocking the squealing alien off its feet. They attempt to flee the area in their truck, only to find a downed tree blocking their only escape route. Desperate, they turn to April’s dad’s friend who lives nearby. Travis, played by Michael Ironside, is Vietnam vet who seems unfazed by the groups outlandish alien story. Quite the contrary, Travis knows exactly whats going on. He warns the group to seek shelter as he takes up arms and heads out to settle the score on his own. The last 40 minutes or so are tense as members of the group split up to either escape on their own, take cover or do their best to fight back. There’s plenty of action, gore and a slight twist at the end to satisfy even the most die-hard Horror/Sci-Fi fans.

Brittany Allen gives a stand out performance in her role as April. Best known for her role as Marissa Chandler on All My Children, Brittany has made a seemingly effortless transition to the big screen by proving she has the acting chops to play a much more physical role, not to mention a terrified college student.

Keep a lookout for a cameo performance by Michael Ironside. Playing a Vietnam veteran isn’t much of a stretch for Ironside who’s played plenty of these types of characters throughout his career. But still, you can’t deny the fact that he’s an industry veteran who undoubtedly manages to steal the few scenes he’s in with his intensity, charisma and humorous dialogue.

The films visuals were not of Hollywood blockbuster caliber but were convincing enough to suspend disbelief. There were several scenes of alien spacecraft hovering ominously under the stormy night sky. The underbelly of the spacecrafts pulsed with red lights, which gave them a sense of life. During a visually striking abduction scene, a shaft of white light beamed down and engulfed one of the characters. At first lifting them gently off their feet, than in an instant sucking them up into the craft, as if the aliens were flaunting their technological superiority over us.

The aliens were really nothing spectacular; same grey aliens colossal black eyes we’re used to. My guess is that due to budgetary constraints the filmmakers couldn’t let their imaginations run wild with creature design options. However, I did feel they used these limitations to their advantage by taking a cue from Jaws, show very little while maintaining anticipation and suspense. They did this very well with a lot of smoke and mirrors, excellent sound design and lighting effects.

– by Stephen Reilly

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