“We are the children. It’s a pleasure to receive you.”
Remember how we always question why alleged alien abductees live to tell the story but don’t have the evidence to support their claims? It’s a bummer to hear how desperate they sound, and yet we cannot sympathize with them. Some of the alien-centric found footage films narrate such unthinkable encounters, but they mainly focus on pre-abduction rather than actual abduction. While they provoke our appetite for alien and human interaction, they fail to satisfy our longing to see what aliens do to the kidnapped humans. Surprisingly, The Alien Report stepped forward and took its shot at just this.
There was a risk in making this film, given the fact that found footage films about aliens have been on a decline recently, but The Alien Report manages to succeed in what was previously though unobtainable. Adding to this gamble is a premise involving catching aliens on camera, which many found footage fanatics and casual moviegoers might find questionable as alien and monster films in this subgenre often have little screentime with the creature. Yet, The Alien Report succeeds again when its intensity and fascination goes beyond what the supposed footage has captured.
Directed by Patrick Donnelly, the film is about what alien enthusiasts like me had always dreamed of: an alien abductee recording his bizarre abductions through self-constructed cameras that reveal the secrets of the otherworldly creatures, as well as other conspiracies attached to them. The story is highly engaging because the film jumps right into it from the beginning. It also doesn’t waste time elaborating on the main character, played by Braxton Hale, and his soul-searching and nonsensical life exploit just to prolong the story before the reveal. It was a bold move that ultimately pays off as it gives the film more time to indulge us in a series of overwhelming and transfixing alien footage.
But it gets way better because we are given high-definition footage rather than the typical rough and blurry variety that only shows momentary glimpses of the cosmic beings. The Alien Report doesn’t dwell on this subtlety but instead works hard on other aspects to keep our attention glued to the screen. One of them was, of course, the aliens themselves. Although we still see their usual depiction–gray-skinned, abnormally enlarged head, elongated and slim limbs, and big, buggy eyes–the film utilizes their frequent screentime to induce a creeping sense of discomfort from their unpredictability and impassiveness.
The alien encounters are also commendable, wherein the videos aren’t short-captured. They are full-lengths that encapsulate the extraterrestrial’s oddity and apathy as if experimenting on humans are mere walks in the park for them. The innovative use of atmospheric and sometimes ear-piercing musical scores spawned an extramundane virtual-reality-like point of view experience no one would’ve expected to get from a found footage film. The visuals are exceptional, given that the film worked with a “small yet dedicated crew.” The combination of practical and visual effects heightens the unearthliness of every footage. There’s a great bit where the film almost crosses into body horror territory when the abductee is desperate to separate himself from the aliens. Whether you like it or not, the graphical aspects of the film are a product of pure dedication.
There is no squandering around the camera, as the film keeps us engrossed with its two interplaying stories that pique then satiate our alien craving. The main story focuses on the kidnapping episodes, while the second one is about the main character’s pursuit of black cars. These black cars are ridden by “men in black” who supposedly monitor the character’s every move. While the alien encounter is already a good one, wait till you see how he chase the cars. The secondary story works so well because it serves as a thrilling filler that stuffs the gap between the abduction incidents and his daily life. It’s also a great supplement to the story as these men are permanently affixed to the extraterrestrial, elaborating on the alien myth beyond the videos captured.
On the other hand, the main character is not as interesting as the premise itself, as his characterization fails to stand out in the first half of the film. We’re more interested in what he sees rather than its effect on him. The only time we might find him worthy of our attention is during the second half, where we finally see the toll of the extraterrestrial encounters on him. However, his banal existence might also say something about the aliens in the film. His lack of public significance can be one of the aliens’ criteria in choosing their subjects. This gesture might explain their phlegmatic nature: they don’t see insignificant people worthy of living a normal and serene life.
The film is not clear of misgivings. While the movie is full of exciting footage, a few times when they flash bland and edgy portrait shots it loses sincerity. There are also snippets of the alien abduction that should’ve made the full-length treatment, specifically those out-of-this-world mutations. The narrative was also confusing until the second half, where the film does not initially construct a solid and engaging chronicling, leading us to think that these are all random videos assembled together even though they’re not. The ending might divide opinions because the acting is a bit over-the-top and unconvincing, and the mind-boggling audio-visual trip was frustrating and a little pretentious when it tried to expand the story further as if the story needed a last-ditch effort when it didn’t.
The found footage genre and aliens are both things that go well together because we always yearn to record the unbelievable and immortalize our encounter. However, both could also mean the end of each other when exhausted or mishandled. The Alien Report is proof that the horror subgenre is never dead, but constantly evolving thanks to dedicated people who are willing to step up the found footage game and respond to its needs.
The Alien Report is Screening as Part of the 2022 Unnamed Footage Festival