AKA: The first ‘Shaky Camera’ movie since Cloverfield I didn’t hate…
You know, I did a review of this movie way back when I started doing reviews, and it was part of the ramp up when I went professional with my reviewing as well as my writing. Basically when this film first dropped on Netflix, I was still largely focused on political commentary, and movies like Alien Abduction (2014) were part of my transition into taking horror seriously.
At that time, I really hated ‘Shaky Camera’ and considered it a ‘Band Wagon Genre’ as apposed to a filming technique. It was exceptionally rare I enjoyed a found footage movie, the last before this being Cloverfield (2008). This was one of those rare exceptions back before I think the industry really figured out what to do with the medium.
It boils down to this. Shaky Camera is an effect that can be used to cover a lack of budget, or used as a perspective to immerse the audience. The camera can either be a silent protagonist, or personified by the actual schmuck holding the camera.
And all three of those things can easily be fucked up by the camera guy taking too much video of himself tripping over his own two feet. It ruins the immersion if the audience doesn’t get to see the fucking movie.
The ‘camera man’ of Alien Abduction, is a twelve year old boy with autism. This adds to the story in more than one way (perhaps detracting from it in others). First, it gives us context. Why should we be concerned for the camera? Well, it’s a little kid. Second, why should we care what’s happening to the rest of the protagonists? Well, it’s that little kid’s fucking family! This perspective gives us so much to hold onto already.
They do kinda use the child’s autism as a ham-fisted excuse as to why the little boy keeps filming. Basically, the camera helps this little guy cope with a world that is entirely to much for him at times. Looking at it through a lens is a comfort that helps him process. Now, that’s pretty neat, but it also feels a little exploity.
But do you see what we’ve accomplished here with just the silent camera holder? We’ve provided context, a rational explanation, a whole story, and immersion, without even completely introducing the plot… which is Abduction Horror, of course.
I honestly haven’t seen an alien abduction story this good since Fire in the Sky (1993). The whole point of the genre is the inhuman and calloused way the protagonists are effectively tortured by the aliens as part of some unknown experiment. It almost has the same feeling as a child pulling the legs off a spider, just because they can. It might even be worse, as this is all supposed to have some kind of purpose, and the aliens simply don’t seem to care that they hurt you.
Yeah, this movie had it’s flaws, it’s a pretty low budget shoe-stringer. Despite that, it still managed to have a pretty solid atmosphere by filming in really well chosen locations. It also didn’t lean on the shaky camera to make up for a lack of setting. The director and crew were good enough to spend thought and effort into these things. The shaky camera effect was just used to cover the lack of an FX budgets. The rubber alien costumes were bad enough where they could’ve killed the wonderful atmosphere if they were placed front and center. That’s what the shaky camera is for!
The director and crew worked hard with what little they had. And for that, it’s actually quite good, despite the lack of budget. I can still give it my recommendation as a ‘must see’! And I recommended it as a must see when I hated Found Footage. It was my first example of “That’s how it’s supposed to work!” and I never forgot that. Again not perfect -the acting was okay, the plot was kinda thin, some of the setup was a little forced- but it was good for what it was, and that’s pretty impressive given the budget constraints.
The aliens get the whole family…
Yeah, watch this!
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