Thursday, September 27, 2012
30 Days of Nightmares #1: ALTERED (2006)
The Story: Four friends in a cabin in the woods, bound by a common experience with alien abduction, instigate a small-scale war with visitors from another planet.
Expectations: I had high hopes for this one because of its pedigree. The film was directed by Eduardo Sanchez, one of the creators of THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT (1999). I know that some horror fans hate BLAIR WITCH, but it worked for me. The film was distributed by Rogue Pictures, who'd had a decent track record with SHAUN OF THE DEAD (2004), SEED OF CHUCKY (2004), CRY WOLF (2005), and THE RETURN (2006). The story sounded to me like a variation on Stephen King's Dreamcatcher, but hopefully scarier and without all the flatulence.
Reaction: I'm a little bummed that I started my 30 days experiment with this one. It's fairly well plotted, but the execution feels very by-the-numbers. It's basically a claustrophobic siege movie, focused as much on the interaction between the characters as on the alien threat. Unfortunately, the bickering between the four friends quickly becomes tiresome, making this seem like a very lightweight version of THE THING (1982). Compounding the problem is the fact that the alien itself isn't very scary. The visuals are okay (thankfully, not entirely digital) but there's very little mystery about the nature of the beast and/or its intentions.
This got me wondering why there are so few great horror movies about alien abduction. Done right (see COMMUNION and FIRE IN THE SKY), they're as terrifying as any great ghost story... but I think most filmmakers get caught up in UFO cliches and overlook the fact that the only way to create a believable threat is to create believable human characters who can respond to it. Without that, the movie is just going through the motions. If you want to watch a good recent alien movie, SPLINTER (2008) and ATTACK THE BLOCK (2011) are more fun, DISTRICT 9 (2009) is more intelligent, and THE FOURTH KIND (2009) is much scarier.
Most Nightmare-Worthy Moment: One of the characters plays tug-of-war with the alien... using his own intestines. Guess who wins?
Labels: 30 Days of Nightmares