Thursday, August 18, 2011

Altered (2006) - A Guest Blog review

Trying something new here - I've invited a friend to do a guest review for me.  This review was brought to you by Nathan of Lost on Monster Island.  Enjoy!

NetFlix 3/5
IMDB 5.8/10
My Rating: 6/10

Five high school buddies are abducted by aliens from a farm in Florida -- but only four of them survive. Fifteen years later, the friends -- whose lives have been altered ever since -- return to the farm to face their enemy and seek revenge.

"From the co-director of The Blair Witch Project" is not traditionally considered a good method of advertising a film. Unlike your regularly scheduled reviewer, however, I have only been around for two-and-almost-a-half decades and am still naive and optimistic to say "At least they tried" when watching a bad movie. I also actually enjoyed Blair Witch Project, inconsistent as it was - because I think sometimes you have to watch the movie that defined a cinematic style to appreciate the movies that came after it. Without Blair Witch Project, vastly superior movies like Cloverfield, [REC], and Paranormal Activity wouldn't exist. I'm also glad that Altered was made, because for viewers with more refined tastes, it has a lot going for it.

The movie focuses on four men who, at the start of the movie, have successfully kidnapped an alien in revenge for their own alien abductions as children. How they catch the alien is never explained, which is probably for the best. I can't imagine anything convincing the writers could have come up with - first they'd have to lure the alien out of its ship, then I guess they would try to tackle it, and these aliens are psychic so you would immediately blow your cover as soon as you thought "Okay, we're close to the alien ship. How do we kidnap one of the aliens?" This movie works a lot better if you don't think about it too much, and it's silly fun.

The big draw of this movie in my opinion isn't the acting (which is decent) or the writing (which is...subpar) but the special effects. The aliens are actually handled entirely using a man in a suit, a concept that works much better for films which involve a lot of physical contact between the protagonists and the monster. The characters have to continually restrain the alien, which eventually escapes, and the fighting and wrestling that take place in the film are much more convincing because the alien has a physical presence. It's heavy, it's actually doing the punching and biting, and when it picks things up, things are being lifted by an actual onscreen hand. This works in the movie's favor, because the movie has a very low budget to begin with and shoehorning in cheap CGI would have made it completely laughable.

A lot of big-name movies are full of missed opportunities: jokes or characters that could have been removed, scenes that play too long, or even story lines that start half an hour too soon (Skyline would have been a great film if it had been half an hour shorter at the beginning and half an hour longer at the end - or it least it wouldn't have been quite as terrible.), but Altered actually has the opposite going for it. It is a very small-scale film, with a low budget, no big-name actors, and a relatively localized plot. The aliens would theoretically retaliate if their kidnapped member was killed, but at no point do we see a fleet of ships surrounding Earth or hints at a global conflict between mankind and the angry green aliens who are evidently very easily kidnapped.

This movie is fun. It doesn't take itself too seriously, the actors are clearly doing their best and enjoying their roles, the special effects are almost all practical and therefore much more convincing than the ones in films like Transformers: Indistinguishable Shapes & Unbearable Noise, and there is an especially gory and amusing scene near the end of the film that I will always remember Altered for. This movie hits the right combination of gross, silly, dark, and cheesy, and though it's no Aliens (it's not even The Creeping Terror) it's an enjoyable one. Definitely an average movie with some great moments where it becomes good, and that's really all I ask of my films. 

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