Okay, I’ll admit that I am a sucker for this type of stuff. Ever since I read Whitley Streiber’s Communion a couple of decade or more ago, I have been fascinated with the notion that aliens from other planets may be coming to earth to spirit away humans in the dead of night in order to perform biological experiments on them before placing them back safely in their beds, as if nothing had ever happened.
Forget the fact that there is still no conclusive proof for any of the tens of thousands of abductees to provide as evidence that this is nothing more than mere attention seeking fiction or grisly wish-fulfilment. Nonetheless, whilst my cynicism remains unchallenged, it is no less an interesting choice for a feature length movie as anything else, as Close Encounters, Communion, The McPherson Tape, The Fourth Kind and Fire In The Sky have all proved without too much argument. To take any of these stories with any degree of credence, however, is not advised, regardless of what it might state on the cover or in the opening credits, come to that.
Many of the features that approach the myths surrounding the stories you may have heard concentrate their running time on the tension caused by things that go bump in the night and here Director Matty Beckerman also uses this tool to great effect, but this is not the only trick he has up his sleeve, as the story here, ensconced in a family camping trip in the Brown Mountains of North Carolina, chooses to shy away from the shadowy mind control and hynoptic removal from people’s homes. Here, the abductors are not too fussy about whether you’re awake or not, what time of day or night is, or even if you remember the events.
The Morris family are spending a couple of days together in the Brown Mountains. A quick wikipedia search would have told them that it may not be the first choice they should be considering when picking a holiday destination. This is probably one of the last places where you want to be cut off from civilisation. And the reason for this? Well, for a hundred years, there have been reports of ususual and unexplained lights in the sky around that area, not to mention the unsolved disappearances of people at the same time as the lights have appeared. Beckerman jumps on this lesser known fact and runs with it, citing a report from Project Blue Book, the alleged government study into the threat from UFOs that could be extraterrestrial in origin, as the basis of his fictional tale here.
The ‘I Want To Believe’ audience are well served and after a somewhat pedestrian half an hour spent with the family setting up camp and romping about in the woods, they inevitably get lost. The SatNav goes batty and the weather gets horrid. A few miles driving who knows which way down the wrong road and before you know it, they’ve already passed the sign for Silent Hill without even realising it. Once they spot some abandoned cars by the side of the road and a tunnel full of vehicles suffering much the same mysterious fate, they have already come too far to ever really think about getting out of this unscathed.
Choosing a found-footage method of delivering this story, as told through the camera lense of the youngest child, an autistic boy called Riley (Riley Polanski), the film is nowhere near as bad as you might have heard. Yes, it is true that it could not be described as wholly original, the script is flimsy and not overly adventurous though never cringeworthy. The acting (as I have said before, just how difficult is it to run around screaming?) is acceptable enough and never makes you question whether the cast feel like they’re suffering real peril. The special effects really amount to little more than some shaky cam and interference when the aliens are nearby, much like the aformentioned Silent Hill’s radio. The appearances of the aliens themselves are fleeting, with Beckerman doing the smart thing and saving money with the excuse of less is more. After all, the imagination of the audeince member is, on average, much more frightening than the budget here would have allowed for anyway.
In all, a perfectly watchable eighty minutes that will keep you entertained throughout. There are a handful of decent scenes and a couple of truly tense moments that will impress, but mostly this is average, consumable fare that doesn’t require either too much attention or a really big brain to deal with the concept. A good deal of guilty pleasure, in fact.