A sci-fi thriller as generic as its title, “Alien Abduction” generates only low-voltage shocks, taking a found-footage approach to its familiar scenario about hapless earthlings hunted by inquisitive extraterrestrials. Released simultaneously as theatrical and VOD fare, it’s bound to vanish as quickly as a fleetingly glimpsed UFO after a few close encounters with paying viewers.
Working from a run-of-the-mill script by Robert Lewis, helmer Matty Beckerman follows the misadventures of a family gradually decimated during an ill-timed camping trip. Parents Peter (Peter Holden) and Katie (Katie Sigismund) pay little heed to dark rumors about the true meaning of mysterious lights sighted in the Brown Mountain region of North Carolina — a real-life phenomenon, by the way — and drive deep into the woods to pitch tents and savor nature. Also along for the ride: Their two adolescent children (Jillian Clare, Corey Eid) and a third offspring, Riley (Riley Polanski), an 11-year-old autistic who constantly operates a camcorder as his way of coping with a sometimes scary world.
Yes, you guessed it: “Alien Abduction” consists almost entirely of footage supposedly shot by Riley, whose world actually gets very, very scary as he and his family witness such unsettling portents as downpours of dead crows and dozens of abandoned cars scattered along roadsides and inside tunnels. One thing leads to another, and the visuals get progressively shakier and more staticky, as extraterrestrials make their presence — and, more important, their intention — evident.
Beckerman and Lewis deserve some credit for bothering to logically explain why the person shooting their particular “found footage” might keep shooting and shooting even while ducking and dodging. And the filmmakers earn a few more points for a truly intriguing supporting character: Sean (well played by Jeff Bowser), a grumpy, gun-toting redneck who’s probably involved in criminal activities, and who is less than hospitable when Riley and what’s left of his family show up at the door of Sean’s isolated cabin.
“I came out here,” Sean rails at his unwelcome guests, “to get away from folks like you with your dumbass questions.” Later, however, Sean settles down, and even seems a mite protective while warning that the extraterrestrials hovering somewhere outside in the darkness are a lot like humans who go night fishing. As they consider what they’ve caught, Sean says, they’re discriminating: “Some they keep. Some they toss back.”
Except for Sean and a mildly clever final twist, however, there’s little to distinguish “Alien Abduction” from the dozens of similar small-budget suspensers already available in various homescreen platforms. Production values are average for the found-footage subgenre, with special effects only as special as they need be for a movie that relies more on the power of suggestion than on CGI spectacle.