The Vicious Brothers’ (Colin Minihan and Stuart Ortiz) third film, EXTRATERRESTRIAL is a sci-fi/horror hybrid that takes its cues from plenty of genre films with interestingly mixed results. If you go in expecting something completely original, you may be mildly to moderately disappointed. On the other hand, it’s a fine example of the perfect mindless popcorn flick if you go in blind and let what’s here smack you around during its 106 minute running time.
Yes, it’s formulaic and yes, it’s maybe a few minutes too long thanks to some visual effects overindulgence, slow build-ups to stuff you know will happen and what I like to call a “jump & thump scare” sound mix where loud noises carry fright scenes more than the actors. Warts and all, you can clearly see the Brothers have scads of talent in what they do and how they do it – they just need a bit more polish in the polishing things up department…
The story has five hip college kids headed up to a cabin in the woods for a wild weekend find themselves trapped when a UFO crashes nearby. One of the kids blasts the alien that appears from the craft with a shotgun and after that, all hell breaks loose and those gray-skinned creeps exact their revenge. There’s a bit more here involving a local sheriff in the small town the cabin is in investigating animal mutilations and a few too many citizens disappearing to be coincidental. But the film only uses these elements as mere background for what the audience has already figured out. Those aliens that lawman refuses to believe in are indeed real and NOT at all like E.T. when it comes to how they treat humans and animals.
Brittany Allen’s portrayal of April makes most of the film, although her character goes through a weird emotional shift about 3/4 of the way in that has her go from hero to zero. She’s the one that shotguns that alien early on, but after she gets a few shocks and her supply of friends decreases, she does something SO incredibly horror flick silly about that it hurts the rest of the film. On the other hand, her actions do allow the Brothers to show us the impressive interior of one of the UFOs as well as see April all coated with icky gray goo. The other cast members range from adequate, but other than Michael Ironside popping up as a former Vietnam vet who knows a lot about the aliens and why they’re here, and Gil Bellows as the sheriff, everyone else is kind of meh alien fodder or in the case of Jesse Moss’ annoying as hell Seth, someone you want out of the film as soon as he appears.
While humor in the film is light to the point of non-existence, the film made me laugh because as I was watching it, I was reminded of everything from It Came Without Warning, Invasion of the Saucermen, the original Night of the Living Dead, a 2003 Sci-Fi Channel movie called Silent Warnings, The X-Files and a bunch of other movies and TV shows. wants to be everything and then some all during its running time, but thanks to some disjointed writing, feels like a cable TV mini-series that’s been cut down considerably to make a feature film. I wanted to find out more about Sheriff Murphy and his failure to put the pieces together until there’s an alien right in front of him, more about April and Kyle and definitely more about those aliens, but the film goes for what’s expected of it and not much else.
The film just drops ideas and fragments down and lets you deal with what the script says, but at times it felt like a few more scenes with characterization would go a longer way than those longer chunks of “thump” scares that draw things out a wee bit too much. Granted, it’s important to set a proper mood in a film like this and I highly commend the Brothers for getting that sound mix pounding when it needs to be. But cheap scares only go so far and for more jaded genre fans who’ve seen a lot more gore than is shown here, the film might seem too tried and true. Things do get really bizarre in the closing minutes thanks to a bit of “Wait, why did THAT happen?” before another “Wait, WHY did THAT happen” finale that may leave some with questions who weren’t paying attention to every line of dialog.
In terms of the gore quotient, the latter portion of the film drops a few bits in and there’s an anal probe scene that’s more amusing than shocking (but feel free to clench those cheeks when you see it coming). You get some cuts and scrapes, fake blood and bits, an exploding head somewhat hidden and that probe scene. There’s also a shot right at the beginning of April’s polka dot panty-clad bottom, but the film does the fair play thing and has Kyle pop up topless seconds later. This isn’t anywhere near the gratuitousness of too many 80’s “B” flicks, so don’t roll into that theater or click that VOD button expecting to see the boob patrol or gore galore. The Brothers serve up a genre-staple packed flick that’s good work for a first timer, but not great for a third film.
Still, this one makes a nice addition to a rainy weekend of horror movie watching because it’s not trying to be a “best in show” masterpiece at all. EXTRATERRESTRIAL packs a very familiar punch at the end of the day and if you don’t mind this at all, you’ll have a fine enough time at the theater or in front of your TV. As for the future, it would be really interesting to see what The Vicious Brothers can do with an adapted work or something that has them pushing the envelope more than mailing it in to see what happens. Nice try on this one, though…