Alien Abduction, Dir. Eric Forsberg

Asylum

Starring: Megan Lee Ethridge, Griff Furst, Marissa Morse

Reviewed by Danny Hydrus

Alien Abduction is a low-budget, low-expectation, independently produced, sci-fi/horror movie that was released straight-to-DVD. The director seems to have aimed for cheap entertainment, and this film certainly manages to shock, titillate, and amuse far more than it tells an exciting, unexpected, or original story. With references to genre films as disparate as The Blair Witch Project and Driller Killer, this title is in many ways more parody and pastiche than it is science fiction. (The production company, Asylum, gives the first clue—as does the 'hospital' that looks more like a lunatic asylum.)

From the opening shots of Miss Ethridge in shorts and a clinging t-shirt and the accompanying 'gonzo' handi-cam meta-cinematographic technique the viewer is uncertain if they've selected a sci-fi movie or a porn one. The categorization is further questioned when we meet the heroine's stereotypically blonde bimbo friend complete with fawning boyfriend—in this movie which inhabits a male fantasy land where women bend over a lot and don't wear bras.

Along come the aliens in rubber alligator suits and amid squeals and pouts the friends out on a 'camping' trip are whisked off to the circling spaceship. They awake fondling and caressing each other and the viewer sits back and waits for the anal probing to begin. But no, they're dragged into an abattoir where an alien with back-lit 'predator' like eyes rips out their innards to a chorus of shrill screams and—hooray we're saved from porn and can relax into a slasher movie. The DVD was in the right rack after all.

Adbucted by aliens, this group of four friends find their memories blanked when they come to in a secret military hospital. Somewhere between prisoners and patients, they and countless other inmates are detained, brainwashed, abused, mistreated, and physically modified in the name of "debriefing". The nurses come round with the drugs trolley in a scene reminiscent of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest and in the recovery room Megan meets 'The Major' with the harsh camp looks and manner of Servalan, the iconic fantasy dominatrix from Blake's 7. Drug therapy and bondage result in more writhing from our heroine, as seemingly on the point of orgasm she can't remember if she's in a porn or a horror movie. We have a vague wander through this 'secure' facility with unlocked doors where a patient has a food-blender attached to their cranium and flash their tits as electrodes are applied to the head.

There really isn't much more story to it than this.

Many elements of this film are clearly designed to shock, often in an exploitative manner, and not always by any means unsuccessfully, either by unexpected jumps, by gratuitous violence or gore, or by representing morally repugnant acts. The characters are abducted by aliens very early on and violently probed, not to say eviscerated; the aliens themselves are creepy and... well... alien; there are countless scenes of torture and disfigurement at the hands not only of the aliens but of the military establishment; we see disabled and/or sick humans living in conditions reminiscent of a Victorian asylum. One of the most stomach churning scenes may be the exploitation of the alien "semen moster" in a vivisectioner's breeding programme. It is just as well that these scenes are sometimes enough to turn the stomach, because in no case would concern for a character's well-being be enough to drive the story and retain the audience's interest.

This film, it must be said, is cheap in every sense of the word. With an estimated budget of $600 000 it is not Hollywood by any stretch of the imagination, but nor is it the cheapest independent movie I have seen recently. The special effects, although impressive in their scale, are not convincing. The characters and costume design are even worse: the short-skirted nurses' outfits were no doubt rather inspired by the need to titillate than a shortfall in the wardrobe budget, but the military uniforms were no more convincing, nor were any of the minor cast members required to act in the least, it seems. In fact the least successful character in the entire film was undoubtedly 'The Major', commanding officer of the military base, played by the consistently unimpressive Claudia Katz; I hate to be uncharitable, but in this case even the verb 'act' would be a compliment she does not deserve. The action scenes are also confusing and unconvincing: characters run or are chased through the hospital-cum-miltary base, alarms sound intermittently, guards are worse than useless,and random people seem to wander in and out of the action. Of course, this may all be a clue to the fact that the high-secutiry base may not be quite what it seems.

The cheap titillation in this film does not end with the Major and the nurses' short skirts, however. The lead character (Ethridge) spends most of the film in shorts or a hospital gown with her shapely legs on show, until escaping from the food-blender she slides down a refuse chute into a sort of slimy sewer which necessitates, on forcing her way into a store room, the most unconvincing "shower scene" in cinematic history when she bares her tits and arse for a wash under her canteen before going in search of her friends.

In the store room Megan also finds her video-cam which had been running throughout their abduction and disembowelment and so the 'plot' is revealed. Where are her scars? What is the connection between the semen-harvesting scientist and the Slither-type creatures that cause panic when they escape? All comes to light when, gathering the others and a 'friendly' guard (who also thought he was in a porn movie when he chanced upon our heroine slipping into her disguise), they find that this facility and the spaceship are one and the same. They no longer humans are clones grown from pods and being prepared for their return to earth. But unlike those screaming aliens from Invasion of the Bodysnatchers these ones keep the humans alive. They "do not kill their own", as 'Major Servalan' scolds. Megan, seeing what remains of her former human self, scars and all, predictably pulls the plug in an act of euthanasia. If that is the point, that no matter how bad the aliens are they are not as bad as humans, who are the inpatients in the asylum and why is the food-blender needed? Are these the clones that went wrong? Like the failed 'blue ribbon' kids in Disturbing Behavior—which also has an asylum scene not unlike that in this film—what happens to those that are less than perfect in an engineered perfect society?

It must be remembered, however, that this is an independent production, and that there is a certain style to this class of film that is worth more than the slick surface of a hundred Spielberg vomfests. It is good to see films produced outside of the big studios successfully distributed on DVD and publicised through active and dynamic companies like Asylum Pictures. This is a film with a sense of humour, that does not take itself too seriously, and that makes a game attempt to turn its shortcomings into self-deprecating pastiche (however successful or otherwise you might find this tactic). There are a few good scary effects in this movie, and some genuinely gross moments that will delight the low-budget horror fan.

Buy this DVD from Amazon.com

Home Current Back Issues Guidelines Contact About Fiction Artists Non-fiction Support Links Reviews News