Monday, August 18, 2014
"Alien Abduction": a found-footage reenactment, based on the Brown Mountain Lights in the North Carolina Blue Ridge
“Alien Abduction” sounds like a rather obvious name for a low-budget found-footage thriller, and this little gem from Matty Beckerman, his first directorial effort, keeps your eyes peeled. The film is encapsulated as a video camcorder journal kept by “autistic” (probably Asperger) kid Riley Morris (Riley Polanski) of his family vacation on Brown Mountain, NC.
Now this area, near Boone, is actually a low foothill ridge (less than 3000 feet) that builds up to the higher Blue Ridge along the Parkway, leading to well-known Grandfather Mountain (almost 6000 feet). But this film is predicated on the folklore of the Brown Mountain Lights, a series of ghost lights that reportedly often appear in the area, which also reports abductions.
As dad (Peter Holden) drives a road near the Parkway, he notices he is almost out of gas. The GPS starts acting odd, and dead crows fall out of the sky. They approach a tunnel, which they find filled with wrecked vehicles (an idea known from Stephen King’s “The Stand”). The family investigates, there is a struggle and Dad seems to be taken away. The rest of the family tries to escape and winds up at a cabin inhabited by Second-Amendment survivalist (Jeff Bowser), who expects the kids to know how to use rifles to protect the homestead. It gets breached, and the likeable older brother (Corey Eid) is taken – and appears to be decapitated. These are not nice aliens. The rest of the kids escape to the road, find the tunnel, and then a police car, when they are all abducted into a tunnel of light. The footage shows the inside of the UFO as a fuzzy space of lights, and the vivisections of people are hinted.
The footage parachutes to Earth, to be found by the Air Force.
The closing credits takes up over 10 minutes of this 84-minute film, and presents two epilogues. The father is found near a town bridge, grizzled but intact, a year later by police. Then there are little interviews, in thumbnail black and white, of townspeople, who talk about abductions, and mention electromagnetic pulse effects in small areas associated with the lights, which seem to damage electronics nearby. (I recall that the novel “One Second After” is set in this area of North Carolina.)
I traveled through the Smokies in July of 2013, but to the south, near Mount Mitchell (over 6700 feet). I haven’t been in the Boone area since 1972. I may go there again soon, having seen this film, but I’ll have to be careful with my laptop computer and phones (which don’t work in the movie) if I’m in the area, if this is true. Another curious area in the mountains is the “Road to Nowhere” with a dead-end tunnel (mystery film review July 14, 2012)
The film is available on Netflix instant play. I don’t recall it in theaters; it may have played at the West End. It definitely would get an audience with a bigger release.
The filmmakers paired with National Geographic to offer a little short film about the Brown Mountain Lights (wiki).
The official site is here (IFC, Exclusive Media, and Freestyle). Yekra offers a deal for bloggers or social media users to get a cut of streaming sales; I don’t know how this works, but will look into it. Probably subscription rentals wouldn’t count. Could be a useful tool for indie filmmakers, the other side of Kickstarter.
My own script “Titanium” has a Texas journalist looking for an abducted fiancé near a small town (after he has cheated on her); from an assortment of characters, he learns that an alien invasion and “rite of passage” is going to happen, and it does in the last fifteen minutes of the film. I think it would be interesting to show in film the probable media reaction to a real unquestionable public alien landing (and abductions).
North Carolina is a big film state, with studios and a film school in Wilmington (on the coast).