In this corner we have “Cabin in the Woods,” a horror concept so basic and simple it has inspired hundreds of films, dozens of satires, and one super-meta deconstruction that actually bears the title of The Cabin in the Woods.
In the opposite corner we have “Alien Abduction,” an enticing sci-fi sub-genre that doesn’t produce quite as many films as its opponent, but always seems to strike a chord with the movie geeks. And yes, there is a movie called Alien Abduction, but unlike The Cabin in the Woods, it really stinks.
Both sub-genres duke it out to a relative draw in the new horror flick Extraterrestrial, which clearly wants to come off as The Evil Dead meets Fire in the Sky.” To say it misses that lofty target would be accurate, but to those who dig “body count” thrillers and “alien stories” in equal measure, Extraterrestrial does deliver some rather appealing goods. Sure, you have to deal with some trite dialogue and a few truly annoying characters (for a little while, anyway) but once Extraterrestrial gets gruesome and starts delivering the mayhem, there’s certainly some fun to be found here.
Written and directed by Colin Minihan and Stuart Ortiz (aka The Vicious Brothers), Extraterrestrial isn’t as novel as their previous effort, the surprisingly good found footage chiller called Grave Encounters, but it does earn a few early points by slyly mocking the cliches and conventions of the “cabin style” horror movies, tossing in some colorful work from beloved character actors like Michael Ironside and Gil Bellows, and then getting down to the nasty stuff: these young party animals have not stumbled across a lunatic, a cult, or a monster. Nope. It’s aliens. And some of our fellow humans are in on the whole “abduct people and get busy with the anal probing” plan!
Yes, Extraterrestrial is precisely the sort of sci-fi / horror mash-up that not only revisits the nasty old “anal probe” concept, but also offers maybe the goriest version of that concept that you could ever imagine. (And why do aliens care so much about the human anus? Surely human beings have several other holes worth probing. I digress.)
Extraterrestrial is at its best when it’s aping the standard Saturday afternoon matinee movies we all (hopefully) saw when we were kids, and if the lead gang of walking stereotypes doesn’t interest you all that much, that’s OK. Most of ’em get splattered before all is said and done, plus I believe I mentioned the presence of one Michael Ironside, who is so good in his few scenes one wishes that this particular spice had been used more generously.
Regardless of how you feel about the set-up, the directors do a remarkably fine job during some of the swankier set pieces: the first appearance of a flying saucer is enjoyably intense, a few of the kills are amusingly nasty, and Act III takes us deep inside a spaceship that looks a lot like the inside of Satan’s lungs. As a final treat, the flick ends with an elaborately showy “tracking shot” that the film doesn’t exactly need, but does serve to end this combination of borrowed parts on a bleak yet energetic note.