J.B. Spins

Jazz, film, and improvised culture.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Tribeca ’14: Extraterrestrial

Ever heard of an alien abduction in the City? No you haven’t. As Rick Blaine would say, there are some New Yorkers you wouldn’t recommend poking and prodding. However, a group of college kids planning to party away the weekend in a cabin near the lake do not stand a chance in The Vicious Brothers’ Extraterrestrial, which premiered at the 2014 Tribeca Film Festival.

Right, since Kyle is planning to pop the question to April during their romantic country getaway, he naturally invites his loud mouth buddy Seth and two generic bimbos along, without consulting her. Meanwhile, she is polishing her its-not-you-its-me script. Things get so awkward it is almost a relief when the aliens to unleashing their standard issue strobe light effects. At least before they left, April’s newly divorced dad asked her to bring back his shotgun and fishing rod, so we know what that foreshadows—some intense fly-fishing.

Frankly, Extraterrestrial starts on a promising note, sounding a lot like an attitude-fueled Kevin Williamson take on the alien abduction genre, but halfway through it starts taking presenting its warmed over UFO themes with inappropriate seriousness. While the Viciouses’ cult favorite Grave Encounters tightly controlled the mood and pace, Extraterrestrial rattles all over the place. Even the big special effect sequence set inside the mothership looks nearly indistinguishable from similar scenes in films like Independence Day and the upcoming The Signal.

Still, the Brothers Vicious have an ace up their sleeve with genre legend Michael Ironside (as in Scanners, Total Recall, and V the original series) as Travis, the super-patriotic conspiracy theorist pot farmer and an old friend of April’s family. Whenever he growls and swaggers into the narrative, the energy level surges. Believe or not, Gil Bellows is also not bad as plodding Sheriff Murphy, who must have the lowest case closure rate of any law enforcement officer in the country.

You know Travis has plenty of guns, which would bode well for zombie survivability, but not so much for alien party-crashers. It makes you wonder what would happen if they abducted zombies, or better yet, zombeavers. Still, most of the cast are rather zombie-like. Daytime Emmy winner Brittany Allen has a bit of presence as April and Jesse Moss could not possibly be any more annoying as Seth, but the other kids fade so quickly from memory, it is hard to say there were ever really there in the first place.

Extraterrestrial pulls off a cool bit of business with a telephone booth, but it lacks the tension and vivid sense of place that made the original Grave such a breakneck monster. Instead, it slowly coasts downhill. Just okay for raucous midnight viewing, fans should not expect too much from Extraterrestrial, following its debut at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival.

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