At Least it’s not Rednecks Kidnapping the Campers.
I live near the Great Smokey Mountains National Park. One of by-products of this, beyond lush vistas and copious tourism, is that there are a lot of missing persons reported in the area. Most of these turn up as just lost campers or hikers, but some of them go unanswered, and a smaller minority have an unexplained element to them as well. This of course leads to a lot of local legends, be it of Bigfoot or feral humans, but not many of them surround aliens.
The Brown Mountain Lights in North Carolina are a phenomenon referred to as earth lights. Earth lights are generally regarded as strange balls of light that seem to come directly from the earth, often emitting from the same location. Brown Mountain is one of the most well-known of these locations in the United States, and the lights at Brown Mountain are the jumping off point for 2014’s Alien Abduction.
Although I am not sure if there have been any verified abductions from Brown Mountain attributed to specific times the lights were noticed, there are theories that associate the lights with alien craft or inter-dimensional weirdness (if these things interest you as much as they do me, check out the Asheville, North Carolina based The Gralien Report here). Alien Abduction (directed by Matty Beckerman and written by Robert Lewis) posits that there have been a lot of people go missing from Brown Mountain, and that the lights directly correspond with these abductions.
The film begins, after a disjointed sequence of a camera falling to earth after being dropped from a chute, with various news reports linking the abductions to the lights and even referencing Project Blue Book as an ongoing report (Blue Book “officially” ended in 1970). After the introduction we meet Riley Morris (Riley Polanski), an autistic teenager who records everything he does as a coping mechanism, while he is on a camping trip in North Carolina with his family. The trip goes well until the last night when Riley wakes his siblings Corey (Corey Eid) and Jillian (Jillian Clare), to points out three objects in the sky that vanish right before their eyes.
The next day, while attempting to make it to the highway, the family’s GPS starts going haywire. The GPS seems to be leading them nowhere fast and the patriarch of the family Peter (Peter Holden) informs the brood that they are low on gas. The brood’s mother Katie (Katherine Sigismund), notices that their cellphone coverage has dropped as well right around the time a dead crow hits their car. Needless to say none of these things are very pleasing to the family so they decide to stop the car to regroup.
After the brief respite, the family gets back on the road and quickly comes to a tunnel that is filled with abandoned cars. None of the vehicles appear to have been in or near the tunnel for that long so the three males decide to go investigate. They are eventually approached by a creature that emits incredibly LOUD screeching noises and seems to discombobulate the three pretty badly. Peter is eventually killed/stunned, and Riley and Corey run back to the car with the females and they high-tail it out, only to have the car stop running a few minutes later after more electromagnetic interference occurs. The family stumbles upon a mailbox so they go looking down a dirt road for signs of life. In the interest of not giving too much of the plot away, I will stop with the summary now. Just know there are hillbillies, aliens (?), and really LOUD noises.
So how is Alien Abduction? It’s okay. It’s a competently made movie with a pretty neat premise that quite simply gets bogged down by too many jump scares and not much pay-off. I am going to say that the budget constraints are probably to blame for most of its issues.
The biggest complaint that I have with the movie is the lack of a clear-cut monster. I am all for hiding the creature in the beginning, but it either needs to be something the audience never sees i.e The Blair Witch Project, or something that more and more is revealed of throughout the movie. The most the audience sees of the monster is in the first glimpse in the tunnel. After that it’s all just a frame here or a few frames there. This was very disappointing to me and a pretty big cop-out for a movie that relies a little too much on shaky cam and LOUD noises.
My other main complaint, and this is the big one, is that no real connection is ever felt for the family. I mean, yeah, I didn’t want them to get hurt because they seemed like okay people but the audience isn’t really made to feel anything for them beyond that. They are just chess pieces to get us from point A to point B, but not in a detached David Lynch or David Cronenberg type way, more in an ad-libbed line sort of way. Movies like this make me think that an outline was followed and not a script. That can work in some cases, but in the case of Alien Abduction I feel like a tighter script would have been a very good thing.
There are however, a lot of things to like about the movie. The setting is beautiful, particularly for someone who might not be familiar with the area. Whatever people say about the southern United States (some of it deserved, most of it not) it has some of the best scenery in the country.
The set-up of why the camera is constantly on is pretty novel as well. As the found footage sub-genre of horror has taken shape, it gets harder and harder to come up with novel idea, and Beckerman and Lewis did a good job of adding something cool to the concept. I hope other filmmakers take notes on that if nothing else.
All in all Alien Abduction is worth a watch. It’s not as good as something like As Above, So Below (review here) but it is an interesting premise with good performances and some cool scenery. As a long time U.F.O. buff I do like a lot of the references the film makes, and I hope that it might lead some people to learn more about the Brown Mountain Lights and Fortean phenomena in general. Overall the film is creepy, well-shot, and well-acted. That’s more than I can say for a lot of horror movies out there.
Until next time…