Oh, you’re making a low budget horror film? Cool, good luck with that. No, honest, that’s me being sincere. I just mean that there are a lot of indie horror flicks these days, like three or more dropping every week, and, you know, most of them just aren’t very good. But hey, it’s the exceptions that make it all worthwhile. At least you’re not doing a found foota – oh. You are. Well that’s, I mean, there are some good found footage movies. IFC Midnight just released the very creepy and fresh The Den last month, so there’s always hope. And anyway at least you’re not planning on playing it off as being based on a true sto – oh. I see. Well that works sometimes too, so you’re still fine. Hell, if nothing else at least you have the mystery angle in your favor since the audience won’t know who or what’s behind the terr —
Oh. You’re calling it Alien Abduction? Hmm.
People have been disappearing off Brown Mountain for “centuries,” and that trend came to a head in October 2011 when 27 people went missing after witnessing strange lights in the sky. The Morris family were among the missing, but a recently discovered camcorder just may offer an explanation behind the tragedy. Blah blah blah.
“The Brown Mountain Lights are an absolutely real phenomenon.” This is the first bit of dialogue spoken, and it comes immediately on the heels of a handful of b&w interviews with locals sharing what they’ve witnessed over the years as well as onscreen text stating all of the footage we’re about to see is property of the U.S. Air Force. There’s no explanation given as to why the Air Force released the footage, why they chose to interview people in b&w, or why they’ve edited it Breaking Bad-style with the ending first followed by everything that led up to that point.
But whatever. Let’s go with that.
Peter (Peter Holden), his wife Katie (Katherine Sigismund), and their three children are heading into the mountains for a weekend of camping and family bonding. Their adventure is being recorded by 11 year old Riley (Riley Polanski), who in addition to being an amateur cinematographer is also the walking explanation designed to prevent viewers from asking why/how certain scenes were filmed during certain situations. He’s autistic. See? This is how he connects with the world around him, though the lens of a camera. And sure he doesn’t seem even remotely autistic in any other way – he carries on perfectly normal-sounding conversations, behaves like an 11 year old boy, and despite most autistic children’s distaste for non-literal phrasing he even calls his older brother a “meat-head” – but a backwoods local calls Riley “slow” so we’ll take his word for it. His 100% ADR’d-in-after-the-fact voice sure sounds authentic though.
The weekend is soon interrupted by strange lights, and it’s not long before what remains of the family is hiding out in a remote cabin. To be fair, one of the film’s very few strengths is that it avoids the usual found footage pitfall of having to drudge through sixty minutes of dull chatter before the action starts. It’s barely thirty minutes in that things start happening in earnest beginning with a scene that appears to pay homage to the long, dark, car-filled tunnel scene in Stephen King’s The Stand. It’s a much shorter tunnel, well-lit and devoid of bodies or scares, but it’s the thought that counts.
That quick move into action aside though the script (by Robert Lewis) is a litany of soft dialogue and poor decisions. We watch as the parents fight about the poor conditions of the back road they’re on even as we clearly see that they’re driving on a fully paved, brightly striped road. the camera, which offers a pretty stellar image most of the time, consistently goes to crap when anything cool is supposedly onscreen. Alien radiation is a bitch, but it sure saves on production costs! Even when it’s working though young Riley seems content pointing it again and again away from the action for conversations or reaction shots instead. He also manages somehow to make mid-conversation edits without losing the audio stream… almost like he had more than one camera. The magic of autism strikes again!
Surprise! Alien Abduction is not a good movie. Director Matty Beckerman made minor progress by getting into the action sooner than expected, and the opening shot of the camcorder falling out of a spaceship, through the atmosphere, and then crashing onto the ground is pretty inspired, but every other element falls prey to the usual found footage shenanigans. A cast encouraged to overact doesn’t help, and in the end we’re left with yet another piece of evidence in the case against this cheap to produce, difficult to execute well, incredibly ubiquitous style that is found footage.
The Upside: Stuff happens by 30 minute mark; looks good when alien shenanigans aren’t happening; shots moving through atmosphere; best scene in movie is during end credits; “Smell Yo Dick”
The Downside: Over-acting; poorly written; camera malfunctions when cool things onscreen; inexplicable edits mid scene/conversation; 10 minutes of end credits in this 82 minute movie; specific use of autism is in mildly poor taste; least convincing autistic kid since PeeWee Herman
On the Side: The Chiodo Brothers (Killer Klowns from Outer Space) created the practical alien effects that the film never lets you see.