‘Extraterrestrial’ knows its history, a little too well
BY SEAN EGAN | The filmmakers call themselves The Vicious Brothers, and they’ve called their film “Extraterrestrial.” That should be enough information to give you a good idea of whether or not you’ll dig their new movie. If you’re searching for subtlety, don’t come looking around here. But if you’re the kind of person who can appreciate an honest-to-goodness take on the monster movie genre, you’re in for a good time.
With “Extraterrestrial,” the Vicious Brothers (Colin Minihan and Stuart Ortiz) have created a stylish and fun creature feature, done with reverence and respect for the home-invasion horror, sci-fi thriller and cabin-in-the-woods genres — which is something to value in a market saturated with ironic and detached takes. This reverence, however, proves to be the biggest weakness of the movie — their script follows the conventions of the genre to a tee.
The Brothers’ debut cult hit feature, the low-budget, found footage horror “Grave Encounters,” was funny and self-reflexive, excelling at playing off horror conventions to achieve moments of unexpected comedy and seat-jumping scares. Unfortunately, “Extraterrestrial” doesn’t have the same spark as their earlier effort. It’s so concerned with faithfully abiding by the formula that it never provides a fresh spin on the tropes. There are some attempts at self-awareness, but the Brothers’ tongues are planted just far enough in their cheeks to know that they’re aware of the clichés they’re playing with, but not deep enough to do anything different with them. The close adherence to established structures also unfortunately diffuses any real terror that could be derived from the alien invasion premise.
Fortunately, though the script is lackluster, the Vicious Brothers are able to stick the landing due to the total commitment of everyone in front of and behind the camera.
FILM | EXTRATERRESTRIAL
Directed by Colin Minihan
Written by The Vicious Brothers
Runtime: 106 minutes
The direction, credited to Minihan, is stellar. Shedding the limitations of the found footage genre, the film reveals that the Brothers are more than capable genre stylists, and this film works as a highlight reel for their impressive talents, with showy camerawork on display throughout. The frenetic editing and direction help to create tension during the action sequences, despite the predictability of the story (which is no small feat).
The cinematography and special effects are also worth mentioning. They look just as good as productions with much larger budgets, and help draw you into the world of the film.
The cast is all game too. Michael Ironside is a highlight, hilariously infectious as the resident stoner/UFO-expert/grizzled Vietnam vet. Jesse Moss and Brittany Allen fare well as the kids in the woods, with Moss in particular going all out with his jerkwad best friend routine, and Allen providing the film with a sympathetic center.
Plus, it’s hard to hate a movie with such a bonkers ending. In the final reel, the Brothers zoom from a disturbing, dark fortress in the stars and back to Earth — whiplashing between tones and wrapping things up with a spectacular tracking shot. If the Vicious Brothers can unite the wit and scares from their debut with the polish and filmmaking prowess on display here, their next effort could be a classic.
As it stands, they’ve produced a wildly fun modern-day midnight B-movie that fits like a comfortable shoe. While it’s nice to watch in the moment, one hopes that it will be a stepping stone to something even bigger.
CORRECTION In last week’s arts section, the review for “Extraterrestrial” — then playing at the Tribeca Film Festival and currently without a theatrical release date — did not, in fact, contain the actual review. Instead, we ran the text for “Summer of Blood,” whose review appeared on the same page. Although arts editor Scott Stiffler would like to blame outside intervention from a sinister alien presence, it was, in fact, plain old human error. He apologizes to you, the reader — as well as the filmmakers, who are hopefully more forgiving than their name (The Vicious Brothers) would indicate.