The Vicious Brothers’ “Extraterrestrial” tackles the alien invasion genre with what some might call clichés, but what I call respect, and it is all thanks to a woman in a wife beater.
Horror movies have been attacked by critics and the press in the past for their portrayal of women and violence. It seems that in the past there has been a myth that women in horror movies are simply there for the three M’s: Mammary, Murder and Misogyny. It was always thought that women being pursued by killers in a film was a way to objectify them while seemingly fulfilling some fantasy in males to tear them apart.
But I would be hard-pressed to think of any horror movie where a female was not the hero in the end, taking out the killer or disposing of him or her in some way. Look at the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre or Friday the 13th. Although these films were heavy on brutality towards women, the fairer sex always seemed to prevail. “Extraterrestrial” is a film that uses this scheme, but with a very different ending.
The Vicious Brothers, Colin Minihan and Stuart Ortiz, seem to understand the way a horror movie is supposed to work. In fact, they frequently take effective elements from other horror films and incorporate them into their own. They weren’t the first to use the “found footage” gimmick, but they certainly used it to great effect in “Grave Encounters”.
So it was with great excitement that I paid for “Extraterrestrial” on Amazon.com. Having seen and been impressed by “Grave Encounters” I was eager to see what they could do with the profit from that movie to produce this one. And it definitely was money well spent on both of our parts.
“Extraterrestrial”, directed by one half of the brothers, Colin Minihan, but written by both, is a science fiction/horror movie that is not so much scary as it is thrilling. The premise is simple (see if you can identify their cross-homages to the genre), a group of friends head out for a weekend together in a cabin in the woods. That night a strange, fiery object falls from the sky and crashes nearby. Armed with a video camera and curiosity, the friends head out to investigate. What they find is a crashed flying saucer; one that looks like it was built by aliens in the 1950’s, but updated to modern standards.
As it goes, the young adults head back to the cabin to discuss what to do next, when a tall, oval-eyed, humanoid alien approaches and is met with a shotgun blast to the torso, killing it. This sets off a night of revenge from the aliens, as we find out that humans and aliens have a “do not engage” treaty going back many years.
The movie kicks into gear at this point as the group frantically tries to leave the woods, but are never allowed to do so by the enraged alien creatures. Sensible April (Brittany Allen) tries to rally the troops, but with so many personalities to contend with, her job is desperate and failing.
The Vicious Brothers have so much respect for the science fiction genre that they give frequent homage to other movies in the course of the film. In one scene, a character is trapped in a basement, suddenly a bright, red glow pierces through the outline of the basement door, giving a great nod to “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”.
In another, the “probe” joke that is carried throughout the film is realized in what might be an homage to Maximilian’s weapon in “The Black Hole” only in a much smaller scale. It is this fun aspect of the film that one doesn’t mind the distractions from the plot.
As with most modern horror movies, it is never apparent which characters, our heroes, will make it to the last reel until at least the middle of the film. Once the other characters are disposed of, the viewer can then focus on why these actors are getting paid a lot more than their red shirt counterparts. And for the most part our leads do a very good job.
Without giving too much away our heroes are romantically involved and locked in a relationship crossroads, they play cat and mouse with the E.T.’s until finally our heroine in a wife beater, is beamed aboard an alien craft, searching through its viscous corridors for her friends.
With an ending that probably had the nerds in focus groups frantically writing in the comments section about how they would have done it differently, “Extraterrestrial” is a fun ride, with good acting and gratifying special effects. “Extraterrestrial” probes the genre for its treasures and offers them up to fans as tribute in hopes they will appreciate the oblation. Those that don’t will have a good time as well, but probably won’t get the cameo in the last minute of the film.
“Extraterrestrial” isn’t without its flaws; the love story could have been fleshed out a little more and the supporting actors could have studied more of the personas they are manifesting instead of making them the least enjoyable part of the film. But these are minor gripes because even this could be part of the Vicious Bros. design.
Other mainstream media outlets tend to dismiss movies like these because they fail to understand the underlying motivations of the filmmakers; to entertain the fans by invoking their own giddiness. Even Steven Spielberg indulged his certain cinematic affections by making the Indiana Jones franchise.
The Vicious Bros. are ones to watch. So far they have made 3 very effective films which manage to go beyond the VOD budget culture. With their insight and imagination, let’s hope their next movie explores more worlds, ones that involve zombies or serial killers, or both.
You can rent “Extraterrestrial” on Amazon.com or other streaming movie applications.