×

Film Review: ‘Extraterrestrial’

The Vicious Brothers' latest offers a fairly standard cabin-in-the-woods horror until a late narrative leap.

With:
Brittany Allen, Freddie Stroma, Jesse Moss, Melanie Papalia, Gil Bellows, Michael Ironside, Anja Savcic, Emily Perkins, Sean Rogerson.

The inevitable nubile teens at the inevitable cabin in the woods fall prey to a different kind of horror in “Extraterrestrial,” though most of the Vicious Brothers’ feature plays like pretty standard slasher fare. It’s in the final act that the pic becomes more ambitious and interesting, though not quite enough to lift the whole from decent-time-filler status to something more inspired. Like the duo’s prior “Grave Encounters” movies, this is a well-crafted, watchable genre effort short on novel ideas and distinctive dialogue/character writing. Already out on VOD, it’s opening in 10 U.S. markets this Friday, and should do moderately well in various formats.

After the usual prologue providing a first, never-seen-again victim, this one a panicked young woman (Emily Perkins) fleeing an unseen force outside a rural gas station, we’re introduced to protags that never develop much beyond their stereotype-fulfilling first impressions. There’s the designated lead/Final Girl, April (Brittany Allen), a college student who’s taking the weekend to clean out her divorced parents’ country getaway before it’s sold. She’s planning on spending that time alone with longtime b.f. Kyle (Freddie Stroma), as she has some important news to tell him. But for reasons that make no sense besides providing the titular menace with more cannon fodder, he surprises her by inviting along others: obnoxious Seth (Jesse Moss), blonde airhead Lex (Anja Savcic) and stoner Mel (Melanie Papalia), plus somebody’s Irish setter.

After a long drive, during which Seth’s asinine antics attract the attention of area police (Gil Bellows), the quintet settle in for some serious partying — or at least the three tag-alongs do, while April and Kyle try to have a serious discussion about the future of their relationship. The ensuing argument is interrupted by a strange sight in the night sky that turns out to be, apparently, a crashed UFO. Spooked, the youths attempt to flee, only to find the sole road back to civilization blocked. Soon they react to a “close encounter” in terms that seriously tick off the otherwordly visitors. Eventually enlisting help from a pot-farming, heavily armed older local (Michael Ironside), they try to fight back, but are wildly overmatched.

Until the 80-minute mark, “Extraterrestrial” is a slick, pacey but not particularly scary or surprising not-quite-slasher movie, the only real difference being that instead of getting bloodily offed, the characters mostly get snatched by their abductors (depicted as the standard humanoid “gray aliens” of UFO lore) to a fate unknown. Unknown until that mark, that is: The pic then makes a welcome leap, allowing for some nicely designed and executed larger-scale f/x work. Unfortunately, this too-brief, visually impressive (if not all that inventive, narrative-wise) interlude is followed by a coda that’s strenuously sentimental in ways the script hasn’t remotely earned the right to exploit. That attempt at depth is further undercut by a gimmicky final shot scored to a jokey retro song choice.

Performances are solid enough, but as with Colin Minihan and Stuart Ortiz’s two “Grave Encounters” scripts, the characters as written aren’t interesting enough to up the pic’s game from genre formula. Here, again, they spend a lot of time stepping on each other’s (and our) nerves, so when the filmmakers suddenly expect us to care about them, they’re asking for too much.

Nonetheless, the widescreen film is good-looking and entertaining, if unmemorable. Given that nearly all its intrigue is crowded into the last reel (and just tentatively explored), there’s certainly room for a sequel — hopefully one that will move forward from rather than just basically repeating its predecessor’s basic elements, as the disappointing “Grave Encounters 2” (which the duo only wrote) did. Assembly is polished.

Film Review: 'Extraterrestrial'

Reviewed online, San Francisco, Nov. 18, 2015. Running time: 101 MIN.

Production: An IFC Midnight release of an Abduction Films presentations in association with Manis Film, Vicarious Entertainment, Twin Engines Films and Pink Buffalo Films. Produced by Shawn Angelski, Martin Fisher. Executive producers, Paris Kasidokostas, Terry Dougas, Randy Manis, Mark Lindsay, Kim Arnott, Marina Grasic, Jonathan Bronfman, Arni Johnannson, Mark Cohen, Fraser McKeen, Dale Wallster, Geoff Mclean.

Crew: Directed, written, edited by the Vicious Brothers. Camera (color, widescreen, HD), Samy Inayeh; music, Blitz Berlin; music supervisor, Sean Mulligan; production designer, Scott Moulton; art director, Andrew Rogers; set decorator, Janessa Hitsman; costume designer, Alecia Ebbels; sound, James Schoening; supervising sound editor, Nunes; re-recording mixers, Miguel Nunes, Gord Hillier; special makeup effects designer, Joel Echallier; effects coordinator, John Sleep; assistant director, Peter Dashkewytch; casting, Tiffany Mak.

With: Brittany Allen, Freddie Stroma, Jesse Moss, Melanie Papalia, Gil Bellows, Michael Ironside, Anja Savcic, Emily Perkins, Sean Rogerson.

More Film

  • Themba Ntuli and Ashley Lazarus

    Ashley Lazarus, Director of Apartheid-Era Cult Classic, Returns to Screen

    DURBAN–Director Ashley Lazarus, whose film about the interracial friendship between two young boys during the apartheid era became a South African cult classic in the 1970s, is set to return to the big screen with a film that builds on his life-long passion for early-childhood education. “Teacher Wanted” is the inspirational story of a teacher [...]

  • Channing Tatum

    Channing Tatum's Free Association Partners With Atwater Capital for Film Development Fund

    Free Association, a production company led by Channing Tatum, Peter Kiernan and Reid Carolin, has entered into a film development fund with Atwater Capital. The four-year $2 million revolving fund stipulates that Atwater will finance a minimum of five films with Free Association. Michael Parets, VP of production, will oversee the deal. Free Association will [...]

  • Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

    Box Office: Tarantino's 'Once Upon a Time in Hollywood' Takes on 'Lion King'

    Rick Dalton and Cliff Booth, Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt’s characters in Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” will have to take on much more than a changing showbiz landscape. This weekend, the washed-up actor and his majordomo are battling Disney’s juggernaut “The Lion King” at the domestic box office. Tarantino’s R-rated auteur [...]

  • Margot Robbie Once Upon a Time

    Margot Robbie Says 'Barbie' Movie Will Put 'Positivity' Into the World

    Over the last 10 years, Margot Robbie has stepped into the skates of Tonya Harding, taken up the mantle of Harley Quinn and, next up, she’s playing the world’s most famous doll, Barbie. The live-action film is due out in 2020 and set to be written by Greta Gerwig and Noah Baumbach, while Robbie serves [...]

  • 2018 NALIP Gala

    National Association of Latino Independent Producers Celebrates Its 20th Anniversary

    Ben Lopez has seen the future of the entertainment industry, and says it is the Latinx community. “In the next 20 years, we’re going to be prioritized — because not only will we have the numbers demographic-wise, we’ll have the spending power,” says Lopez, the executive director of the National Assn. of Latino Independent Producers, [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content