Did we need another alien movie? Probably not, but a sci-fi horror romp that effectively blended well worn conventions, humor, and jump scares could have been fun. Unfortunately, the Vicious Brothers, creators of Grave Encounters, messed up the serious to silly ratio and came up with a goofy, laughable picture instead.
An early warning sign comes when the camera zeroes in on star Brittany Allen’s butt in panties. Of course, a lot of horror movies exploit women, and to be fair April (Allen)’s boyfriend is the hunky, and initially shirtless Kyle (Freddie Stroma, achingly sincere but so adorable when he makes his “scared” face that you want to giggle). Allen is also a talented actress who does her best with weak material, like the moment when she passionately fires off a flare to get a spaceship to come back. (It’s that kind of a movie, guys.) But a hyper macho, vaguely homophobic sensibility hovers over the movie, and things get worse when April’s pal Melanie (Melanie Papalia) actually enthuses about their weekend at “the cabin in the woods.” Yep, they’re doing a cabin in the woods movie un-ironically post The Cabin in the Woods.
The ensemble cast includes Jesse Moss as the insufferably obnoxious Seth, Ally McBeal’s Gil Bellows as stern Sheriff Murphy, who has a connection to the alien invaders, and veteran actor Michael Ironside as the conspiracy-theory spouting Travis, maybe the only genuine, interesting character in the film. Alas, he’s given too little to do and growls “Come in peace my ass” for no discernible reason other than to provide fodder for the trailer.
In case you didn’t figure it out from the title, Extraterrestrial pits our motley gang of college kids against sinister Grays who arrive via a crashed space ship. The familiarity of the aliens’ appearance is part of the point, but the filmmakers do nothing new with the territory. They also try, and fail, to make us care about characters whose dramas play like lame, warmed over CW fare. Poor Papalia has to deliver an impassioned monologue that concludes with “That was the best summer ever!” Late in the film, Allen says “Kyle and April, where you go I go.” Stroma responds with the biggest howler in the movie: “Even outer space?”
All of this might not be so bad, but the film’s distinct discomfort with homosexuality is kind of icky: Moss declares “the gayest engagement party ever,” apparently having missed the memo regarding “gay” as pejorative slang (it’s so 1994), and is later anally probed to death. Yes, apologies for the spoiler but I thought you should all know that an alien drill penetrates his ass and kills him. Because anal rape jokes are, you know, so funny. Meanwhile, the rampant ripping off of everything from The X-Files to E.T. (great title, guys) just comes off as lazy. If you’re looking for a Redbox rental to watch with some beers and low expectations, be my guest, but otherwise, beam this one out.
Extraterrestrial screens as part of the Tribeca Film Festival Wednesday, April 23 at 9:30pm and Saturday, April 26 at 11:30pm.
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