Cliché-ridden yet enjoyable

by Nav Qateel

A group of cabin-in-the-wooders witness a saucer-like craft crash-land nearby. After one of the weekend revelers accidently-on-purpose kill an ET, the remaining survivors, now seriously pissed, open a can of alien-whoopass on the group of twentysomethings, proving they have no intention of simply “phoning home” like their cute Spielberg cousin ET. Well, at least not until they’ve murdered a few people and drilled a butt or two with their anal device.

From the creative duo Colin Minihan and Stuart Ortiz, collectively known as The Vicious Brothers, comes Extraterrestrial, their second movie since bursting onto the scene in 2011 with the popular found-footage horror Grave Encounters. Thankfully, even though Extraterrestrial could have legitimately been made as another found-footage horror, The Vicious Bros made the correct choice of going with a more traditional style of filming, resulting in a first-rate movie that looks fantastic.

Written & Directed by
The Vicious Brothers
Brittany Allen, Freddie Stroma, Melanie Papalia
Release Date
17 October 2014
Nav’s Grade: B

Extraterrestrial opens at night on a woman frantically banging on the door of a service station in the pouring rain. The jerk who runs the joint takes delight in turning off the open sign while smirking at the obviously terrified woman. She then runs over to the phone booth, where she tries calling for help. Suddenly, there’s a blinding light, then in place of the phone booth, it’s now just a smoking blank spot. A few moments later, the broken remains of the booth comes crashing back to Earth, with no sign of the woman. A baffled Sheriff Murphy (Gill Bellows) responds to the incident, where we eventually learn Murphy has his own reasons as to why a missing persons case like this would interest him.

While I enjoyed almost everything about this movie, one or two things did give me cause for concern. There were a bit too many familiar tropes that any fan of horror and/or alien lore worth their salt will immediately pick up on, and the characters weren’t the most fleshed out or likeable. When you picture the standard horror-film group of twentysomethings, the five characters created by Minihan and Ortiz are exactly what you’d imagine them to be, without exception. One thing that was in its favor was the fact that the cast brought a lot of experience to the gig and the acting was of a high calibre. It could even be argued they were a bit too good and played their parts too straight. Watching Michael Ironside playing a wild-eyed, pot-growing character was a hoot, and was a great score for the filmmakers.

Extraterrestrial was guilty of using almost every cliché in the book, although, thanks to a committed cast and some nice direction, I feel the Brothers managed to pull it off, if only just. Hard-core genre fans will find it difficult to forgive the directors for the lack of originality, than say, casual viewers who don’t get to see as many films. Yet I found myself entertained and satisfied with the end result of this polished, low-budget affair. The aliens, the smaller craft and the huge mothership, may not have been original, but what the Brothers achieved on a small budget should be commended.

Right at the end of Extraterrestrial, when the cleanup crew arrive, fans of The X-Files will recognize one of the characters who makes an all-too-brief appearance. None other than their own version of The Smoking Man. Whether this was a belated attempt at humor or a simple nod to the show remains unclear, but it was still a nice nostalgic touch for those of us raised on the exploits of Mulder and Scully.

If you can overlook the clichés, then you’ll be rewarded with a film that looks amazing, has excellent performances and is well directed. Because of my gig as a movie critic, I see way more films than your average person, and yet I still found it rather refreshing. Hence, I have absolutely no problem recommending Extraterrestrial.

The Vicious Brothers give a nice interview on YouTube about making the film here.