Alien Abduction (2014)

A vacationing family encounters an alien threat in this thriller based on the real-life Brown Mountain Lights phenomenon in North Carolina.

REVIEW: It's no secret that we here at the B-Movie Shelf love us our found footage movies. I know the majority of movie lovers seem to hate them, but I honestly can't get enough of them, as long as they're made well. I also love a good, creepy, alien abduction movie – something that seems to be rare to find (Fire in the Sky and the 90's Made-for-TV found footage movie Incident in Lake County are really the only two genuinely creepy ones I can think of off the top of my head), so of course when I saw that IFC Midnight was distributing the generically-named Alien Abduction, I just had to check it out and give it a review, especially since it's based off an actual unexplained phenomenon called The Brown Mountain Lights.

For the most part, this one can be added to the small 'genuinely creepy alien abduction movie' list. Hell, you really just need to look at that tunnel scene in the first half of the movie alone, for this movie to be added to that list. I don't want to spoil the whole scene in my review, but there's a part of the movie that takes place in a tunnel within the first half, right before the movie kicks into non-stop high gear for the remainder of its runtime, that is, quite honestly, one of the most unnerving edge-of-your-seat sequences in any found footage movie, ever. In terms of the feeling it leaves you with, think of the birthday party home video scene in Signs, but keep the tension going for a good 5+ minutes as opposed to 10 seconds. Luckily though, there's more creepy to be found here outside of just that one scene. 

The movie does a great job of capturing a growing sense of unease right out of the gate, from the family camping in the wilderness and being woken up by unexplained lights darting around the night sky, to coming across flocks of dead birds on the road, to having repeated car issues, right up to the second half of the movie which is pretty much a non-stop chase sequence as the family runs through the woods in the middle of nowhere, trying to get away from these seemingly omnipotent aliens that are after them; If you're the kind of person that is susceptible to panic attacks, you may want to schedule yourself some breather breaks when you sit down to watch this movie, because you will need them and once shit hits the fan, the movie does not let up or give you a chance to catch your breath at all.

The special effects (what you get to see anyway) are also pretty good and quite realistic which goes a long way to keeping you invested in what's happening in the moment on the screen. Found footage movies so often do a great job of building up the tension, but then completely undoing it at the last minute with laughably bad special effects that do nothing but take you out of the moment and make you laugh instead of being frightened (Happy Camp, I'm looking at you and your cartoony Hulk-Jumping Sasquatches). Here though, everything from the mysterious lights in the sky, to the shots of the UFO, to the blinding light the UFO emits, to the aliens themselves (unlike in the V/H/S 2 segment that this movie will undoubtedly remind people of, the aliens actually look like real aliens and not the Putties from Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers), to people being sucked up into the sky, it all actually looked real and convincing, making it easy to forget that you're only watching a movie and not actual real found footage.

Where the movie does remind you that you're only watching a movie, is with the acting. There are moments that the acting is quite good, but on a whole it really does just come across exactly as what it is – people acting in a movie, and that, more than anything, is where you get taken out of this movie. It also doesn't help that there's almost no characterization to be found here; When the movie ends, you pretty much don't know any of these characters any better than you did when the movie first started, with the only truly interesting angle (that being of the young boy behind the video camera being autistic) merely being glossed over and never really addressed much. Seriously, they state a few times during the movie that he's autistic, but you would never guess that otherwise since he plays the part just like he's a regular young boy, so I don't know why the felt the need to add that extra bit of info and then do absolutely nothing with it whatsoever. I kept expecting it to play some significant role at some point in the movie, but he just remains acting like any other regular little boy. 

In addition, there's a half-crazy loner hillbilly hermit character they randomly come across in the movie when they break into and hide out in his cabin in the middle of the woods, and this character felt totally unnecessary to me. Sure, it added to the bodycount later on, and he actually did genuinely care about helping this family out, which was a nice turn from how these things usually go in these kinds of situations in movies, but he was such the stereotypical cliche' loner hillbilly hermit character that anytime he was on screen he just came across as terribly cartoony and unrealistic, and that mixed with the subpar acting was more than enough to totally take me out of the movie during that middle stretch that took place in his cabin. Luckily, once the movie moves beyond that portion and that character gets done away with, it returns back to it's former creeptastic edge-of-your-seat glory.

In a genre that, IMO, has been hurting for a genuinely creepy movie that leaves you feeling uneasy and uncomfortable while watching, Alien Abduction is a really good step in that direction. It's not quite perfect (the ending also makes no sense whatsoever, in terms of how the camera is discovered), but it's easy to look past its faults when you consider just how often you find yourself having been holding your breath for longer than you probably should have been, during a lot of the movie.

If they had only spent more time on making the acting more believable, perhaps add in even just a couple more solid character-building moments, actually utilized the fact that the young buy is supposedly autistic, completely cut out the hillbilly hermit character, and tweak the final 60 seconds of the movie slightly, and this would have been pretty much a perfect found footage romp. As it stands though, it's still a really good attempt, filled with great special effects, that has pretty much mastered the feeling of dread, and I won't mind owning it on BluRay one day (hopefully) and re-watching from time to time, especially when I have easy-to-scare guests over for a movie night. That tunnel scene alone should be enough to make them ask to turn the lights back on, hahaha.

7/10 rooms in the Psych Ward



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