Tuesday, October 28, 2014

30 Days of Nightmares #28: ALIEN ABDUCTION (2014)

The Story: A family encounters aliens on a camping trip near Brown Mountain, North Carolina, home of the legendary "Brown Mountain Lights."

Expectations: Alien abduction movies get a bad rap.  These days they're the red-headed stepchild in a family of well-loved ghosts and exorcists, but I'm still sort of intrigued by films like CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND (1977), COMMUNION (1989), FIRE IN THE SKY (1993), THE FOURTH KIND (2009), and even BANSHEE CHAPTER (2013).  A few years ago, I produced a TV show about alien abductions, and I heard some truly bone-chilling stories.  One of them was from a prospective interviewee who, in the end, opted not to do the show.  I can't really blame her.  When she told her story, her fear was palpable... I can't imagine having to live with what she remembers (regardless of whether it physically happened or not, I have no doubt that she 100% believes it happened), let alone remember it in detail for entertainment purposes.

One of the other people I talked to for that show was Whitley Strieber, author of Communion and Majestic and unofficial godfather of the modern UFO movement.  Strieber's abduction experience happened so long ago (1985) and has been rehashed so many times that he is now relatively blase about telling his story -- but his book Communion remains as compelling as the day it was written, because at that time (1987) he hadn't really developed a theory about what happened to him.  In my opinion, Communion (the book, not the movie) works because it's not about the things that people most commonly associate with it (little gray men and anal probes).  It's about the Unknown.

Who can deny that there are things in the world that we don't, or can't, understand (yet)?  And why should we casually discount the stories of people who say they have encountered, and been transformed, by something they can't explain?  Let me be clear: I'm not saying that I believe in aliens.  I'm saying that I believe in the possibility of things I can't explain.  Obviously it's easier for us to accept and explain experiences that somehow fit into our existing worldview (whether it's ghosts, aliens, astrology, angels or Jesus Christ)... but anyone who has ever had an experience that they couldn't readily explain should be susceptible to that great looming question of science-fiction/horror: "What If?"

Reaction: Unfortunately this is not a movie about the Unknown.  The title says it all.  It's a movie about the specific cliches that so many people have touted since Roswell (or, perhaps more accurately, since THE OUTER LIMITS episode "The Bellero Shield").  That said, it's a pretty entertaining movie about those specific cliches.  It does manage to create a few memorable set pieces (I really liked the bit in the tunnel) in spite of being yet another indie horror movie hampered by the found footage gimmick.  I'm starting to feel like a bit of a jerk for harping on this subject... but, really.... an autistic 11-year-old shot this movie??   Autistic or not, I have to believe that anyone being attacked by aliens -- or anything big and threatening, for that matter -- would drop the camera and run the other way.  (The only horror story that has ever persuaded me to believe otherwise was Clive Barker's "In the Hills, the Cities").  If I can't take for granted that basic understanding of the human instinct for self-preservation, it's pretty damn hard for me to suspend my disbelief in aliens.  And, while I'm griping, how come these hella vicious aliens can bend people in half with an unholy tractor beam but they can't open a fucking door?!

Sorry, maybe I'm getting too jaded for this horror movie marathon.

Most Nightmare-Worthy Moment: Once a credible threat has been established, the ridiculously simple routine of running through the woods at night with a camera--and using natural sound--is always effective.

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