Cinepub


31 Days of Horror 11: Dark Skies (2013) by Jamie

Haunted house movies! They’re a Halloween staple what with their ghostly object stacking, ghostly images appearing on CCTV footage and ghostly alien abductions. Yeah, you read that right. Alien abductions. Dark Skies is a haunted house movie where the force behind everything going on are aliens rather than ghosts. The main problem being that the aliens in this film do much the same bullshit that ghosts do in these movies.

In your average haunting movie you can explain away a ghost opening a fridge and throwing all the food on the floor or taking all the canned goods and stacking them as the typical actions of a mischievous spirit. It’s just a poltergeist fucking with people because that’s what poltergeists do. These silly pranks stretch credibility, however, when we are asked to believe that they are the work of beings who have travelled millions of light-years. Are they a race of highly advanced high-school pranksters? What’s going to happen next? Are they going to beam a bag of burning dog shit onto my front porch and ring the doorbell before flying away at the speed of light? Am I going to wake up with several hours of missing time and a wedgie?

And then, after doing these little pranks, the aliens begin to get nasty for no reason other than we’re later told by an expert that this is just how this shit always goes down. Yes, this movie has an expert. In normal haunted house movies it’s a priest, a demonologist or a paranormal investigator. In this movie, it’s another abductee in the form of J K Simmons and he’s here to do what every expert in these movies does. Show up near the end to explain what the force wants, what you might to to avoid your fate and just how small of a chance you have of avoiding it.

In all honesty, I know I’m making it seem as though I hated this movie but I didn’t really. It’s enjoyable enough, it’s just that I resent the film makers trying to make me think this isn’t just another stupid haunted house movie because aliens. It is. It follows the exact same structure as these movies do except where you’d normally have someone say poltergeist or demon, they say Grey. Still, the acting is a notch above your average haunted house movie and I have something of a soft spot for the Greys due to my years of watching the X-Files as a kid. It’s biggest problem is that it does seem to drag in places but if it happened to be on I’d say give it a watch or you could watch the superior ‘Alien Abduction: Incident at Lake County‘ but then I’d recommend that above many things. God I love that movie. Anyway, three pints out of five. Laterz.

Dark_Skies_Poster



Found Footage Friday: Alien Abduction: Incident in Lake County by Jamie

After the horror that last week’s inaugural entry into this feature left me with, I decided I’d go back to a little film that I first saw in the early 2000s. It was a different time and I was a very different person. I was young, idealistic and a fucking idiot. Why do I cast such aspersions on young me? Well I used to believe in everything paranormal. Ghosts, bigfoot, chupacabra. You name it and I believed in it. Hell, the only thing that I didn’t believe in was God and it was only as I explored scepticism through the internet that I came to be the rational individual I am today. Much of this blind belief in the supernatural came from growing up in a very specific time when a cultural juggernaut dominated the air waves. That juggernaut was a show called ‘The X-Files’ and because of it an entire generation grew up to believe in all kinds of crazy bullshit. And the area that interested me the most was the subject that also made up the core of the shows over-arching major plot: alien abduction.

Because of the popularity of the X-Files, supposed “real life” aliens permeated the culture of the 90s. It seemed as though every other day there was a special about the Roswell incident or alien abduction. In 1998, a full year before the ‘Blair Witch Project’, a little show called ‘Alien Abduction: Incident In Lake County’(AKA Alien Abduction: The McPherson Tape) aired. It purported to show actual footage of a family Thanksgiving dinner interrupted and terrorised by visitors from another world. When it hit, there was major debate about whether or not the footage was actually real and apparently this discussion still goes on today in some dark corners of the internet despite the fact that it ends with credits which include a cast list and Emmanuelle Chriqui (who plays Renee) went on to some success including playing Adam Sandler’s romantic interest in ‘You Don’t Mess with the Zohan‘ and appearing in ‘Entourage‘. I will say for my own part that I never believed the tape was real even in my silly less sceptical days. Still, that didn’t mean that it didn’t creep young me the fuck out.

The film begins with a family sitting down to Thanksgiving dinner whilst Tommy (Kristian Ayre) films it all. Suddenly the family experience a power cut and so Tommy and his two elder brothers, Kurt and Brian, head out to investigate. From there, shit goes down. And that’s as much synopsis as you’re getting from this time because there’s a very special surprise for you at the end of this review. If you’re wondering if it’s the entire film, then well done, you’ve spoiled the surprise. Arsehole.

Anyway, let me just say before you go watch it that yes, the acting is bad. The special effects are awful and there’s a weird pixilation effect that comes up every time the aliens are on screen, I assume to try and obscure just how bad the costumes are. There are also these terrible talking interviews which pop up and are unintentionally hilarious such as when one guy ascertains that this is not a fake because the people are clearly not actors. It almost feels as though he’s critiquing the film for you. And then there’s this guy, the greatest guy in the history of found footage films relating to alien abduction:


 

My God. Amaze-Balls. So yeah, anyway, despite how bad almost every aspect of this film is, it still holds a special place in my heart. It reminds me of a simpler time when my world was full of mystery. Stupid, stupid mystery. So enjoy Alien Abduction: Incident in Lake County and I’ll see you next week for more full found footage review. Not sure what it’ll be yet but I’m sure it’ll be horror related. Gives me the fear just thinking about it… D’you know what I mean?


 



Review: The Fourth Kind by Jamie

Alien Abduction. It’s a very serious problem which troubles crazy people on a daily basis. Or at least it used to. I mean, does anyone really care about the whole alien abduction phenomenon since ‘The X-Files’ went off the air? Haven’t we grown as a species and, apart from a few fringe die hard believers, kind of moved on from that ridiculous belief which once seemed so prevalent?

Now, as I’ve stated before I used to be a believer in practically any paranormal bullshit that came along. I was an atheist but not yet a sceptic. The real big thing for me though was the Greys. Something about them just grabbed my attention when I was younger. I was even pretty convinced that my brother was abducted by aliens because he had a fear of masks (A common complaint amongst those who believe they’ve been abducted…. God, I wish I didn’t know that) and because he used to talk really loudly in his sleep. Not pleasant talk either, more aggressive and terrified.

Even know I have a soft spot for the big-eyed bastards. There’s just something about them that really gets to me and kind of still creeps me out. I remember how much pictures of them or seeing them in films used to creep me out. I’d always have to look away when ever they appeared in a magazine, book or on the screen but I’d always have to look again even though I knew it scared me. Yeah I was weird.

This is my probin’ hand, bitch.

Then came my great sceptical awakening. Still not sure entirely when it happened but certainly in my very early twenties, which kind of saddens me that I spent so much time and money pursuing my interest in the paranormal. To be fair having all this knowledge about the weird things people believe probably gave me the tools to be a better sceptic so swings and roundabouts I suppose. But yeah, one day I just stopped believing in all of it. I was an atheist because I didn’t see any conclusive evidence for the existence for a God and I kind of realised that I should probably apply the same rule to all these paranormal beliefs I had and, on further investigation, none of them held up to that kind of scrutiny.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that aliens definitely don’t exist. On the contrary, I think it perfectly reasonable to think that somewhere beyond the reaches of our pale blue dot, life exists but not because of that same old argument ‘Well, it’d be arrogant to assume we’re the only intelligent life in the universe.’ It’s not arrogant because we’re the only example we know of. It’s a pretty small sample to draw from. Still the fact that life has evolved on this planet and given the vastness of the universe, it’s perfectly acceptable to speculate that it’s probably happened somewhere else.

The idea that aliens have actually visited us, on the other hand, is a totally different kettle of fish. The physics involved with long term space travel just make it seem really, really unlikely. Not necessarily impossible but really, really unlikely.

Anyway, that’s my background with alien abduction and thoughts on it now. I suppose we should probably take a look at this little movie also dealing with this particular subject, ‘The Fourth Kind’.

Let’s begin with the movie’s biggest flaw. It starts off with Mila Jovovich appearing on screen and explaining that the film is based on actual events and dramatizations of those events will be interspersed with actual recordings that were taken at the time. This often takes the form of a split-screen with one side showing the dramatization and the other showing the ‘real life’ recordings. The main problem with this gimmick is that it’s fucking annoying. I don’t need two people saying the exact same dialogue. True, the gimmick does provide some of the better parts of the film later on but that is just the “actual” recordings played by themselves. The whole split-screen thing is just kind of intrusive, especially when they start fucking around with it and splitting the screen into multiple little boxes and they start moving all around the screen.

The worst example of this is during a fairly tense scene. A man who has uncovered some rather disturbing memories involving alien intruders has decided to hold his family hostage with a pistol. Mila Jovovich, playing the man’s psychiatrist, is trying to talk him out of killing anyone and the tension starts to build and them these squares just form and start moving all over the place and it kind of ruins the mood.

To be fair, that’s probably the worst thing I can say about this film. The problem is though that it happens a lot. What could have been quite a tense, fluid abduction thriller is constantly having it’s mood broken.

Now the film kind of plays out like an episode of ‘The X-Files’ just without Mulder and Scully. Which is no bad thing for me… except for the no Mulder and Scully thing. That kind of sucked. But yeah, ignoring the ridiculous gimmick, it’s actually a fairly well-paced thriller with a few generally creepy and outright scary moments.

There are a couple of scenes in particular in which a couple of characters are possessed by an alien who speaks ancient Sumerian that I actually found kind of difficult to watch alone by myself at night in a hotel. The noise the people make before the aliens begin speaking through them is pretty fucking horrific and, though it’s difficult to make out because the recording becomes distorted, something happens to the peoples faces during this possession that just reminded me of the final scene in ‘Rec’ which I will maintain is one of the creepiest fucking scenes ever put to film.

To be honest I wasn’t expecting much from this film. I was thinking it was gonna another shitty, boring film based on “true” events like ‘Paranormal Activity’ was but I was actually quite pleasantly surprised. Still it could have been so much better if they’d just restrained themselves with the whole stupid split-screen bullshit. Probably could have done without the whole ‘based on true event’ angle as well really. I know it isn’t, you know it isn’t so why even bother. Just make an interesting film for fucks sake.

Finally a note about the owls in the film. I kind of like the effect used around the owls eyes, like ink was seeping from their eyes into their feathers, giving them the appearance of the classic gray alien eyes but come on. Owls aren’t scary or threatening at all. Would it have hurt to show at least one alien? I mean seriously, I spent the whole film waiting to just get a glimpse of those little abducting bastards and instead I get fucking barn owls as a substitute. There is nothing remotely threatening about a cuddly, little barn owl…

Holy shit! Has anyone made a film about killer owls? Seriously Hollywood, if no one’s made a killer owl film, get on it. That shit would be awesome. They are purest evil.

Overall I’ll give ‘The Fourth Kind’ three pints out of five. It was a pretty decent paranormal thriller with some pretty good ideas but ultimately it’s kind of ruined by it’s own attempts to be different. Keeping it simple would have made it so much better. Laterz.




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