“OH MY GOD WHAT IS THAT?! WHAT IS IT!” – I don’t know, stop shaking the camera violently and I’ll tell you!
I’ve been watching a ton of “found footage” lately, not because I’ve furiously been seeking out such subgenre work, but those are the screeners that have been falling into my lap. There’s been a nice variation, from cyber killers to zombies, and vampires to the paranormal, but my most recent “found footage” watch branches into different territory – the final frontier. Alien Abduction is exactly that, a recounting of events that end with a camping family being abducted – but it stumbles into every generic “found footage” pitfall along the way. Mix that with my lack of interest in abduction stories, and you’ve got a sci-fi horror flick that’s a dizzying whirl of costumed actors, screaming children, and fuzzy imagery. Until I wake up to an extraterrestrial invader trying to feed me Reese’s Pieces, I’ll remain a skeptic of little green men – and Alien Abduction does nothing to change that.
While I’d love to expand more upon the story, as I usually do with my second paragraph in reviews, the Morris family has absolutely nothing else to offer in terms of development. Hoping to enjoy uninterrupted family bonding, campfire stories, and possibly a roasted weenie or two, their time is cut short by flashing lights and vanishing townsfolk. Struggling to find answers, autistic son Riley (Riley Polanski) keeps his camera running to capture every confusing moment. Can the Morris family avoid becoming test subjects?
While I’ve been drowning in “found footage” lately, the abundance of absolutely bonkers camera work actually worked against Alien Abduction. Sure, movies like Happy Camp underwhelmed and disappointed, but other first-person horror winners like Afflicted, The Den, and even Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones proved that the “found footage” subgenre is still bursting with potential – potential ignored in this ho-hum abduction frustration. Distortion, static, blurs, lens flares – any way director Matty Beckerman could prevent proper visibility, you better believe he did with the fury of a Tasmanian Devil. Think Jason Eisener’s “Slumber Party Alien Abduction” from V/H/S/2 – minus the fun, cheesy 80s atmosphere.
I get why our camera spins around like it’s in a tornado, because Beckerman has to hide the low budget effects, which he does to a degree. You only get momentary glimpses of our alien invaders, which when only visible for mere seconds absolutely look the part. Tall, gangly creatures with black eyes and all the distinctive alien features, glossy monster work remains the most impressive part of Alien Abduction. In order to create fear, you need something to fear – step one accomplished.
From this tempting launching point though, we’re subjected to misstep after miscue, starting with a cast called upon to do nothing but scream loudly and run through a dark forest. Sorry, unless you’re Peter Holden (our father), then your job is to get really angry for no reason in an attempt to create family drama – a drastic ploy to tug at non-existent notions of emotionality. Fake, childish anger from an adult yelling about being low on gas creates the opposite of tension, and while we’re on it, what’s with horror characters driving forever and not realizing they’re low on gas? A vacationing family forgets to even glance once at a gas gauge for, like, 150 miles, being chased by nothing? Ugh – horror pet peeve right there.
Here is the main problem with Alien Abduction – proper treatment of such topics could have resulted in a bit of indie horror success, but there’s too much complacency surrounding obviously rehashed “found footage” formalities. The gimmick wears thin after we’re exposed to shot after shot of aliens vanishing behind a snowy cloud of video feed interference, cutting out before intensity can be established. Characters run away from noises we can’t see, our camera blurs whenever something important is about to happen, and actors force personalities far too outrageous for their more simpleton character arcs. Absolutely nothing ties together, we’re sucked into a tension-less black hole, and slimy extraterrestrials take a back seat to cinematic frustration.
If you’ve seen even ONE alien abduction movie in your life, you’ve seen Alien Abduction. Creatures from another galaxy being shot at a different angle doesn’t qualify as originality, and there certainly aren’t enough fresh filmmaking techniques utilized to make a repetitive story exciting. Movies like The Fourth Kind at least attempted to rejuvenate tiresome topical space kidnappings, but Beckerman can’t even escape “found footage” robotics let alone vibrantly reinvent the wheel. Damn Houston, we seriously have a problem.