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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.



Generation X – Part 3: Squeeze by Jamie

Generation X: Squeeze (Production No. 1×02)

Written By Glen Morgan & James Wong, Directed By Harry Longstreet.

BBC Air Date: 03/10/1994

Well we finally come to the first of the ‘Monster of the Week‘ episodes of the X-Files and what a monster it is. First, the synopsis. Scully is asked to help on mysterious murder case by an old friend Agent Colton (Donal Logue). The cases are mysterious due to the fact that there seems to be no obvious point of entry and the liver is torn from each victim with the killers bare-hands. Mulder joins the investigation with his own theories and immediately gets Colton‘s back up. They apprehend a subject and, when Mulder introduces some of his own questions during a lie detector test, Colton officialy gets him taken off the investigation and the suspect, Eugene Victor Tooms (Doug Hutchins), is set free . Mulder, believing Tooms to be a genetic mutant who needs livers in order to hibernate for decades at a time, continues anyway since the case has some similarities to one of his X-Files and Scully decides to side with him instead of Colson. In the end, of course, it turns out that Mulder was right and they finally capture Tooms again.

This episode was one of the first that gave us the sense that The X-Files was going to be something more than aliens and abductions all the time and thank fuck for that. I mean, seriously, the whole over-arching mythology is alright in small doses but there is no way in hell I‘d be able to take that for an entire series. Really, it‘s these Scooby Doo-esque episodes which make the series, especially later when the mythology just becomes bloated and convoluted.

So, allow us then to delve deeper into this episode. There are some awesome moments held within. Mulder in particular is in top form. There are some great character moments when he’s dealing with Agent Colton who basically seems to view Mulder as a fucking joke. One of the first questions Colton asks Mulder if he suspects little green men are responsible for the murders. Mulder responds completely straight faced that the little men are in fact grey, from Reticula and that they are notorious for the extraction of human livers due to an iron deficiency in the Reticulan galaxy. He then asks him if he knows what liver and onion goes for in the Reticulan galaxy before turning around and doing his fucking job like a real FBI agent. This episode also features on of Mulder‘s classic lines after realising he‘s just put his hand in human bile, “Is there anyway I can get it off my fingers quickly without betraying my cool exterior?” Classic Mulder.

It‘s also nice to see Scully siding with Mulder in this episode, having had enough of Colton constantly bad mouthing him. It‘s clear that, though she may not agree with all of his ‘spooky‘ ideas, she does have a certain amount of respect for him and regards him as a partner who she is loyal to. You also get to see her kicking the ass of a killer mutant who has already killed several people showing that she‘s more than just an expert in medical science. She‘s also an expert in Ass-Kickery.

Finally onto Tooms himself. This really needed to be a strong episode in order to show that The X-Files could be more than that show about aliens and stuff and thankfully it was. This was mainly down to the character of Eugene Victor Tooms, a genetic mutant who is over one hundred years old, eats human livers in order to allow him to hibernate for periods of thirty years and also has the ability to stretch and squeeze into tiny places. That is a fucking awesome concept for a monster and it‘s the reason that Tooms remained one of the series favourite villains despite only appearing in two episodes.

I did always feel a little sorry for Tooms though. I got the impression that if he didn‘t get those livers and enter his hibernation, he‘d wither and die. Of course if he‘d just end up aging naturally at the same speed as everyone else or at a much faster rate is up for debate I suppose. You also do get the strong impression that Tooms does quite enjoy his little acts of murder.

Overall this is a thoroughly enjoyable episode that kicks of the whole ‘Monster of the Week‘ concept and kicks it off strong, deepens the characters of both Mulder and Scully and presents an awesome villain. Four and a half pints out of five. Laterz.



Generation X: Part 2 – Deep Throat by Jamie

Generation X: Deep Throat (Production No. 1×01)

Written By Chris Carter, Directed By Robert Mandel.
BBC Air Date: 19/09/1994

In this episode Mulder and Scully investigate the disappearance of an Air Force Colonel and a possible cover-up involving crashed UFO’s, hybrid experimental aircraft and a pseudo-Area 51. Mulder is warned to stay away from this case by a mysterious man in a bar bathroom, the titular Deep Throat, but decides to investigate anyway. He comes closer to the truth than he ever has before but also comes to experience first hand the kind of power that those behind the conspiracy wield.

There, I think I’ve got that little problem with my synopses going on forever sorted at last. Anyway, on with the review. This is the first full on episode of the X-Files complete with theme tune, opening credits sequence and is the introduction of Mark Snow as the series composer. I have to say that I really do love that theme. It just sums up the feel of the series, evoking the feeling of creepiness and mysteriousness that comes with dealing with the paranormal.

Now, this whole episode draws heavily from the myths surrounding the top secret US Air force base, Area 51 or Groom Lake even going so far as to have a parallel to the Little Ale’Inn, which is just down the road from Area 51, in the form of the Flying Saucer Restaurant. What I don’t understand is why they didn’t just go ahead and use the name Area 51? I mean, they use the real name in later episodes, including some brilliant ones that have Michael McKean making a special guest appearance. Anyway the point is that if you’re blatantly just going to use Area 51, just call it fucking Area 51.

This episode also has some great examples of some early 90s CGI in the form of a hovering triangle that has a few bright lights. Of course it’s easy to look at it now and comment about how shitty and cheesy it looks by today’s standard. We think we’re so fucking great with our ‘Avatars’ and our ‘Iron Mans’. We sicken me. Anyway, I’m sure that little nine year old me was suitably impressed watching it in the darkened living room of our house. I bet I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. The most worrying thing is that it actually looks about as good as some of the CGI effects I’ve seen in the incredibly recent series ‘Spartacus: Blood And Sand’. Damn that show’s cheap looking.

As for what goes on in the episode, well, there are a few key scenes. The introduction of Deep Throat is a pretty big one and I’ll delve into that a little bit later. What you really get is an idea of the clashes between the personalities of the two agents but also how dedicated they are to ensuring each others safety. You also get an idea of just how dedicated Mulder is to trying to uncover the truth behind the conspiracy, going so far as to break into a top secret military facility and strolling onto the runway to get a better look. Honestly it’s pretty fucking stupid for someone who’s apparently a Cambridge educated FBI agent but what’re you gonna do? This is a series that kinda hinges on suspension of disbelief.

As far as being a ‘Mythology’ episode this one isn’t as bad as later ones would become. It doesn’t have the huge, convoluted history behind it so it’s still a bit light and generally an easy watch. Since it also has a separate mystery going on beside the mythology stuff, it manages to keep you interested whereas I think that some of the later ones that had Mulder and Scully investigating the conspiracy for the sake of investigating it lacked that aspect.

Finally I’ll just go back to the fact that this episode introduces us to the character of Deep Throat, obviously based on, and possibly intended to be, the Deep Throat who leaked information during the Watergate scandal. Deep Throat was the first of many informants that would approach Mulder and do what seemed as little as possible in order to aid him in the quest for the truth. His first scene is a little odd. He approaches Mulder in the bathroom of the bar and advises him not to investigate the case as the military won’t look to kindly on an FBI investigation. I don’t know about you but if an older gentleman ever approaches me in a bar bathroom and his name is Deep Throat then I’m getting the fuck out of there. Still, he’s an important character and does help in providing some information on the conspiracy without which we’d probably be as lost as Mulder. He also finishes the episode with a fantastic line. When Mulder ask him if ‘they‘ have really are here on Earth, he responds with “Mr. Mulder, they have been here for a long, long time.” Awesome.

Overall it’s a decent enough episode if not just a bit average. I’ll give it three pints out of five. Laterz.



Generation X: A Look Back At The X-Files: Part 1 – Pilot by Jamie

It’s hard to imagine now just how big The X-Files was back in the 90s. It permeated everything and as a result the 90s was also a time filled with bullshit about the paranormal and conspiracy theories. Every week it seemed as though there was some special documentary about the Roswell Incident or whether or not the moon landings were faked. Still, as much as the X-Files was responsible for a lot of belief in complete and utter bullshit I feel as though it’s also responsible for the Sceptical movement coming to such prominence over the past 10 years or so as people battle tirelessly to undo the damage the show has done.

The show started on September 10, 1993 in the US and came to the UK in 1994. I was but a young lad of 9 when it first started and I distinctly remember watching it from the beginning and, like so many others, I completely bought into the paranormal and believed in practically all aspects of it until really quite recently. I gobbled up those documentaries, read book after book and had quite an extensive collection of magazines that dealt with the subject. Still much in the same way that the X-Files is probably at least partially responsible for the growing sceptical movement, it’s probably also the reason that I am a sceptic now myself. Without it I probably would have never paid much attention to the paranormal and so wouldn’t care about ridiculous beliefs in it either way.

The X-Files influence on me doesn’t end there either. The X-Files is possibly responsible for my having a ridiculously large DVD collection. When the series began to be released on the new format I bought them as soon as each one was released. It pretty much gave me the collecting bug and from then I was pretty much fucked and doomed to have a collection far beyond the size of anything that I really should.

So keeping the massive effect the series has had on my life in mind and considering the fact that I haven’t really watched them for years, I’ve decided to go back, revisit the show and review every damn episode. Why? Well because an undertaking of this magnitude will probably cut into my movie viewing somewhat (not to say that this will completely overtake the blog, there will still be movie related things of course including some big video things that I’ve got planned) and it’s a good excuse to have a consistent stream of things to post. Let’s get underway.

Pilot (Production No. 1X79)

Written By Chris Carter, Directed By Robert Mandel.
BBC Air Date: 19/09/1994

So then, this is it where it all begins with the imaginatively titled pilot episode, ‘Pilot’. It’s our first introduction to many a character including the Cigarette Smoking Man, their boss who isn’t Skinner at this point and, of course, Special Agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully. It’s pretty obvious that David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson pretty much had the characters down from the beginning. Mulder is the sarcastic, witty and all around charming guy and Scully is the sceptical, scientific and slightly serious character that they would pretty much remain throughout the entirety of the series. The only major difference is that in this episode Scully seems a little more open to Mulder’s point of view and a little quicker to accept his paranormal explanation then she would in later episodes.

There are a few things which mark this out as a pilot. For example the iconic theme music is no where to be found at all in this episode. There’s not even an opening credit sequence, instead just a black screen filled with large white letters exclaiming that ‘The following story is inspired by actual documented accounts.’ Of course they are.

Still, other then that there’s not really that much to distinguish this from and average episode. We hear how Mulder discovered the X-Files and the story of how he saw his sister Amanda being abducted by aliens for the first time but it doesn’t really seem like the big thing that it would become later in the series, more like an event that just led to his interest in these kind of cases.

Now the story of the first episode is essentially that a small town has had a rash of unexplainable deaths, each one involving the graduating class of the local high school. Mulder and Scully go off to investigate after Scully is assigned to work with Mulder, essentially being instructed to keep an eye on exactly what he‘s up to. Mulder seems to believe that extra-terrestrials are somehow involved in the case. As they are driving towards the town the radio and clock in their car go a bit haywire and Mulder pulls over, marking the spot with a big red X.

They begin to investigate the deaths much to the chagrin of the local sheriff and medical examiner who both seem to know more then they’re letting on, arousing Scully’s suspicions. They visit two of the graduating classes remaining survivors in a hospital finding one in a wheelchair and the other in a vegetative state due to a vehicular accident that both were involved in. Mulder notices that both have strange marks on their body and decides to exhume the body of one of the former victims in order to see if it has similar marks upon it.

What they discover in the coffin is a little bit of a shock as it doesn’t appear to be the body of a human but rather that of a desiccated orang-utan. They take some X-Rays of the thing which reveals a small, metallic implant in it’s naval cavity. Mulder decides to go and check out the woods were all these incidents have been occurring… Fuck, I wanted this to be a concise synopsis. Right, on the way back from the woods the two agents experience a blinding flash of white light and seem to have lost nine minutes, a phenomenon generally reported by those who believe that they have been abducted by aliens.

Upon returning to their hotel they find out they receive a mysterious phone call telling them that the girl from the hospital is dead. Whilst investigating this new death, their hotel catches fire, destroying all the evidence they have gathered up to this point which really pisses Mulder off. They meet the person who had phoned them, the medical examiners daughter who it turns out was also part of the graduating class and Mulder begins to suspect that the boy in the vegetative state is involved in the murders. A visit to the hospital reveals he has dirty feet and Scully begins to turn around to Mulder’s way of thinking.

Since the soil samples that they had taken in the woods before had been destroyed in the fire they decide to the woods to gather more, only to find that the sheriff is here. It turns out that he has been tracking his son who is up and about again, having seemingly kidnapped the medical examiner’s daughter. Mulder and the sheriff witness a blinding white light surround the two youngsters whilst Scully is distracted elsewhere. When the light dissipates the two are standing there, the boy apparently aware of his surroundings once more and the mysterious marks having disappeared.

Mulder and Scully return to Washington and she presents her report on Mulder’s activities to her bosses, seemingly taking his side on the case which pisses them off to no end. The episode ends with the Cigarette smoking man putting a metallic implant, the one piece of physical evidence into a box in a massive warehouse filled with boxes probably containing masses of evidence pertaining to the supernatural in a clear homage to Indiana Jones.

So there you go. That’s the first episode of the X-Files and the beginning of, in my personal opinion, one of the greatest on-screen partnerships in all of television history. There are a few things which happen in this episode which I don’t think are ever really mentioned or explained in later episodes primarily whether or not Mulder and Scully where actually abducted. I know they are both abducted at later points in the series but I’m not sure if this experience is ever brought up again. I’m sure I’ll found out as we go along.

Still overall it’s a pretty good episode and is much better than many of the ones that would deal with aliens later on, the so called ‘Mythology’ episodes that dealt with the over-arching conspiracy. This one plays off much more like the preferred ‘Monster-Of-The-Week’ episodes even though their isn’t really a monster. Of particular note is David Duchovny who is fucking hilarious throughout this episode. Almost every other line is some witty or sarcastic remark particularly during the pairs first meeting. It’s good stuff and one of the reason I loved this show.

So there you go. That’s the first part of this ongoing X-periment. Hahaha. Did you see what I did there? I crack me up. Anyway, I’m sure I’ll get the hang of this as I go along and try and tighten up those synopses. Next up is the first of the proper Mythology episodes, ‘Deep Throat’. Until then, laterz.




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