Directed by Matty Beckerman
The title may be generic, the trope may be overused, but Matty Beckerman’s debut Alien Abduction takes found footage to new heights. Literally. Inspired by a true case of an autistic child who used a video camera to perceive and communicate with the real world, Beckerman and company took that idea and created the character of Riley Morris – a high-functioning autistic pre-teen constantly filming his entire family as they embark on a camping trip along the back roads of Brown Mountain, North Carolina. Because of Riley’s condition, there’s a legitimate reason for the camera to remain on even during the more harrowing moments when any sane person would stop shooting and start running.
The Brown Mountain Lights are a real-life phenomenon that have been occurring off and on for years. Although somewhat similar to the Aurora Borealis in Alaska, the Brown Mountain Lights are reported to be multiple colored lights stretching four to five feet across that then dart and shoot off in various directions in peculiar fashion. Coinciding with sightings of the lights, people in the area of sound body and mind (you know, people with actual jobs) have witnessed UFO’s and some even claim to have been abducted during the Brown Mountain Lights phenomenon. The United States Air Force investigated the area under the guise of Project Blue Book but it was supposedly shut down in 1969. Although most of Project Blue Book’s findings have been released under the Freedom of Information Act, accounts surrounding Brown Mountain have remained under wraps. (Creeepy!)
What Beckerman understands is the importance of building tension even in the shaky-cam world of first person videotaping. Watching characters in other efforts improvise, leaving audiences to endure their disingenuous bickering, isn’t the formula for success and so often the only footage worth finding is the last five minutes of tape. True, the vast majority of dialogue is improvised here, but in Alien Abduction things start happening the very first night of the Morris family campout. The next day, as they travel to the next campsite, the GPS starts recalculating, they lose service, and come across a number of vehicles that seem to be abandoned. Then, as most of the family explores a highway tunnel, the fun really starts – that’s twenty minutes into the film. Things actually happen in Alien Abduction and that’s welcomed within a subgenre that’s usually trying to bore itself to death.
Effective jump scares are peppered throughout the short running time as the family tries to stay alive and on the ground instead of being snatched up to suffer miles off of the Earth’s surface. Speaking of the film’s length for a second, that’s another thing Abduction gets right since most prefer not to sit through two hours of this stuff (it’s barely eighty minutes). Seemingly everywhere at once – travelling perhaps by light – brief off angles and short glimpses of lanky oval-eyed extraterrestrials are effective and not overdone. In fact, these beings might even be messing with the Morris family a little at some points, almost as if they’re playing an interstellar game of hide and seek – or hide and abduct in this case.
Within its limited budget, Alien Abduction is forced to stay small even though its concept is big, and including the possibility of real-life accounts adds to the fear of seeing practical aliens that can’t afford to be aided by digital effects (ironic considering that conspiracy theorists believe fiber optics is space tech). Beckerman delivers a well-paced chase movie that isn’t afraid to dispose of characters and break a few bones.
Alien Abduction is available now On Demand and is in limited release starting today, April 4.
3 1/2 out of 5