Genre: Sci-fi, Horror
Directed by: Colin Minihan
Starring: Brittany Allen, Freddie Stroma, Melanie Papalia, Jesse Moss, Anja Savcic
Colin Minihan’s Extraterrestrial is a teen horror movie about a group of five adolescents who take a break from the hard partying they usually get up to and instead decide to smoke and drink in the peace and quiet of the country where one of the teens has a family cabin. Naturally, as things do when hateful teenagers take a vacation to an unreachable location, that peace and quiet is rattled by a very stereotypical UFO and, more literally, by an excessive use of shaky-cam that makes you wonder if the director was drunk on the same booze that the characters were getting pissed on.
By now, you would’ve thought that what Evil Dead did so well and Cabin in the Woods expanded upon in 2012, has made cabin films a genre in itself. It is a shame then, that one of Extraterrestrial’s only strengths is in its unoriginality. The fact that the big threat – the lanky, grey aliens – can be shot down relatively easily detracts from the fear, and doesn’t carry anywhere near the same weight as the malevolent force of Sam Raimi’s classic and relentless possessive evil.
The film knowingly, or ignorantly (it’s unclear), takes cues from these more esteemed versions by using clichéd tropes of its genre. The lavish use of blood-red colours, an immovable object that stops the conventional horror film characters on their way to safety, and a dead dog, all amounts to what is essentially Evil Dead with aliens, but without the scares, the same level of black humour and a genuine feeling of dread.
The main protagonist, April (Brittany Allen), even has a badass family friend called Travis (Michael Ironside). He’s a veteran who conveniently knows about top-secret national security like, for instance, an absurd pact between the US government and aliens, and also owns his own arsenal of weapons and radar equipment. As ridiculous as his character is, he’s one of the most likeable, which in itself is a problem because his being there just asserts this level of safety we shouldn’t have in a film of this nature.
The same goes for Sheriff Murphy (Gil Bellows), who delivers the best performance of them all and even manages to occasionally make the laughable script genuinely funny with his dry sense of humour. Unfortunately it shouldn’t be the supporting characters that make the film watchable, especially when it emerges that the Sheriff actually has one of the most intriguing subplots of the story.
The embarrassing use of exposition also supports just how humorous the script tries to be. Characters ask where missing people have vanished to, before looking directly to the stars and referencing word-for-word “cabin in the woods” (no joke). On at least two occasions the teenagers even assure each other that everything will be fine right before the lights cut out or a loud noise starts banging repetitiously from the floor above. The floor above the basement that is (because every dark and eerie cabin needs at least one basement scene).
Extraterrestrial is not without its credible moments. The acting is perfectly acceptable and even has some strokes of brilliance, particularly from Bellows’ Sheriff. There are some humorous bits too, though by no means as much as the film would have liked. What makes the film funnier to laugh at than along with is how it’s never really sure of whether to simply be a horror film or a dark comedy as well. This confusion makes it hard to differentiate between when the film is taking itself seriously and when it’s not.
For a movie that has literally gone out of this world to try and offer something fresh in this sub-genre of horror, there is nothing particularly innovative to be seen. The biggest disadvantage Extraterrestrial has is with its one-dimensional main characters. You’re actually left hoping our lanky, grey friends will abduct them just because this world won’t ever miss them. And just for a brief moment you’re satisfied this happens until you realise just how merciful and consequently boring these aliens can be too.