Altered is the long awaited follow up to Eduardo Sanchez and Daniel Myrick's The Blair Witch Project (this time, minus the Daniel Myrick). Well, maybe not so "long awaited" after all, I mean, I never heard of this one until a friend stuck it in my hand last week and told me to watch it. I always wondered what happened to Sanchez and Myrick though. I guess they found out making real movies is tougher than shooting a couple of douche bags lost in the woods and shaking the camera around real fast. I'm mostly kidding. Blair Witch is an effective little chiller but it's not something I would show film school students. Of course, it went on to spawn a series of copycats (Cloverfield, REC, Paranormal Activity, etc) in the so called "found footage" genre, some more successful than others. Hell, it was even accused of being a copycat itself (by that pretty shitty Jersey devil movie that I can't remember the name of). Anyway, the point I'm trying to make is that Altered is actually a real movie. We got real actors, constructed scenes not involving running while the camera shoots the ground, and real (often shitty) special effects. I kinda liked it.
Although, I think I liked the idea of the premise more than the actual execution. What we have here is an alien abduction picture only where the tables have been turned on the alien. Three country bumpkins (in their 20s) venture out into the woods (the scene of their abduction, by evil little green men, when they were teenagers). Their plan: to abduct a little green fucker and then, I guess, torture him. I don't really think they thought this thing through beyond the simple notion of vengeance. See, it turns out that five teens were abducted, but only four returned (our three numb skulls here, and also some survivalist named Wyatt who, coincidentally, doesn't live too far away from the scene of this particular space crime). The fifth guy apparently caught some sort of alien wasting disease and died during experimentation. As luck would have it, aliens are always out and about in these particular woods so catching one proves easy. A bit too easy perhaps. With bound alien in tow, the three friends head for Wyatt's isolated house, where a battle of wits, followed by an actual physical battle, commences.
The picture actually manages to be creepy, at least for the first half. We see the alien in pieces. Forehead here, arm there, claw over there. It spends most of the movie wrapped in cloth, tied to a table, and helmeted. Turns out Wyatt was the only one to have received successful experimentation, which means, I guess, he can read minds and is immune to the wasting disease they spread (through biting or clawing). We've got conflict between the friends (Wyatt wonders what purpose they're serving by bringing the thing here when all it has to do is telepathically communicate with it's friends to find it's location and also did you know that if one alien dies then the aliens will think nothing of curing the earth of humans?). There's also a conflict between the alien (when it wakes up) and the humans which consists mainly of biting and clawing, nail gunning, acts of torture, mind control, taunting, etc. It's an evil little green mother fucker basically.
I appreciated the fact that the alien was just a man in a rubber suit. The thing looked like a cross between Streiber's little gray men and Ripley's toothy Xenomorphs. Unfortunately, towards the end we see way too much of the thing (culminating in a ridiculous scene where it flies through the air at Wyatt - I think I've pretty much established him as the hero). I also had trouble figuring out motives of an alien race that travels billions of light years just to fuck with rednecks. What's with the fucking scene where the thing digs out one redneck's intestines and threatens to yank them all the way out if other rednecks come any closer? There's lots of this type of shit. Thankfully, the gore is effective (if a little bit comical at times). The acting is inconsistent as well. Adam Kauffman (as Wyatt) gives probably the most consistent performance with Brad William Henke (as Duke) fluctuating wildly between a "dag gummit" sheep farmer and a Seth Rogan type stoner. Hell, the best performance may have been James Gammon as the sheriff (it's a small part) who asks for something stronger than beer as his intestines mop the floor.
The conclusion sorta just comes out of nowhere and we're not really set up for it. These aliens have the ability to wipe out humanity with the push of a button but are apparently suseptible to a little C4. Still, nit picks aside I liked the thing. Some scenes actually border of the scary. Similar to Shyamalan's mostly brilliant Signs, it falls apart a little at the end (substitute water for explosives I guess). Like Signs, we see way too much of the creatures at the end. I'm excited to see where Sanchez goes from here. As a director, he's better than Syfy quality. Perhaps something that might hit a theatre or two, like ParaAbnormal or Blair Witch 3? Holy shit, I didn't make those up.