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Review: IFC Midnight’s Alien Abduction

This movie would ruin camping for me if I'd ever enjoyed it in the first place.



Found footage is an increasingly silly subgenre, so when I sat down to watch IFC Midnight‘s newest thriller I was definitely dubious. Luckily the film is based on folklore far more interesting than any horror gimmick: if you can suspend your cynicism long enough, the mystery of Alien Abduction‘s true-life source material redeems its shortcomings.

First-time director Matty Beckerman‘s movie chronicles the Morris family’s ill-fated camping trip in North Carolina. Son Riley (Riley Morris) videotapes their journey to Brown Mountain, where the clan is happily ignorant of local lore about paranormal phenomena and unexplained disappearances. But once mysterious orbs of light show up, “bad shit gets to happenin’.” Here’s the trailer:

The source material is interesting enough that it does most of the heavy lifting for the writing and directing: big “jump moments”, eerie foreshadowing and one horrifyingly claustrophobic sequence capitalize well on the region’s lore. Let’s just say I definitely won’t be camping alone in Deliverance-style countryside anytime soon. Or exploring any abandoned tunnels.


Nope, no nature for me.

The movie’s biggest misstep is its lazy use of autism as justification for the “found footage.” Characters frequently reference Riley’s autism as an explanation for why he continues filming while the world around him goes to hell, but each new utterance of “he’s autistic!” was just offensive/lame enough to remove me from the story.

Alien Abduction has a great sense of pace, sympathetic characters, and a deliciously unsettling ending. But it’s also a found footage movie with a laughably literal title. The events that inspired the movie are more believable than the essential conceit of found footage– and it sacrifices the story to constantly insist otherwise.

Alien Abduction is available today in limited theatrical release and VOD via IFC Midnight. Check it out as introduction to a fascinating mystery.


(images via Alien Abduction)

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