Written and Directed by the Vicious Brothers
One reasonable response to the credits of the horror film Extraterrestrial might be, “‘A film by The Vicious Brothers’? Are these guys for real?” Naturally, the answer is no: writer/director Colin Minihan and writer Stu Ortiz (the Canadian team behind 2011’s Grave Encounter) are not related. They just wanted a unique and memorable name under which to make movies. There’s nothing wrong with choosing a badass nom de plume (as Samuel Clemens might have said), but there’s a lot wrong with Extraterrestrial. It’s a movie stuck in limbo, neither as scary nor as funny as it ought to be.
The plot is as spare and straightforward as possible: April (Daytime Emmy award winner Brittany Allen) is going up to her father’s cabin in the woods, and taking her boyfriend and a group of compadres with her. They plan to get drunk, get high, and perhaps chat a little bit with the crazy conspiracy theorist next door (Michael Ironside). But their weekend is foiled by the arrival of a strange visitor. Spoiler: he’s an extraterrestrial.
That’s a fair number of cliches in play already, and there are more to come. The actual design of the aliens had already been done to death when it was used in Close Encounters of the Third Kind or The X-Files. The look of the alien ship is as typical as you get, and the aliens’ powers and tactics have been a part of alien-abduction mythology since the 1950s.
Because of all those cliches being employed, one will be tempted to think that it’s on purpose, that The Vicious Brothers are intent on making a Cabin in the Woods-inspired parody. Ironside’s wild-eyed performance and other wry details certainly indicate that the audience is in on a bigger joke. But no bigger joke develops: the aliens and protagonists are both are exactly what we thought they were. There are no moments like Samuel L. Jackson’s final scene in Deep Blue Sea, where the filmmakers directly inform the audience that none of this is to be taken seriously. In fact it’s the exact opposite: Extraterrestrial only grows more somber as the body count rises.
Even if the film is not wry or cunning enough to be comedy or commentary, it should still be given a chance to succeed as a straightforward monster movie. Yet that is the ultimate sin of Extraterrestrial: it’s not remotely gory enough, especially considering that it comes from two guys who call themselves The Vicious Brothers. This is a film in which a dog is eviscerated, a man blows his own head off with a shotgun, and a character survives having his arm pulled off so that something worse can happen to him later … but each of those moments come off far worse when you read them in a review compared to how they appear in the film. Again and again victims are dispatched in the same way: a character goes off by himself, is soon wandering in the dark, and eventually encounters an alien via the most obvious possible jump-scare.
The Vicious Brothers should be admired in one respect: their film has that Robert Rodriguez sort of slickness where it looks like they had a budget about 10 times what they probably had. The final shot of the movie is also the best shot of the movie, an extended special-effects tracking shot with a morbid wit underneath it all. This isn’t an Asylum film or Birdemic; everyone involved knows what they’re doing and is committed to professionalism. But considerably more is required from a horror film in this day and age, and Extraterrestrial does not deliver it.