Friday, July 20, 2007

Altered (2006)

A group of angry rednecks capture a little green alien, meaning to wreak vengeance upon it in response to their abduction fifteen years prior. This premise sounds like the stuff of low comedy, something Larry the Cable Guy might agree to star in, yet writer/director Eduardo Sanchez (one of the two guys who directed The Blair Witch Project) does the unexpected: He takes the premise dead seriously. There are some laughs, but they arise out of the surprisingly careful characterization or, occasionally, the grim absurdity of the situation. (One character asking for a beer as he's bleeding to death shows these two points nicely dovetailing.) It's interesting how well the characters are painted here; there's ample opportunity to paint these guys as standard-issue ig'nant hicks, yet Sanchez prefers to treat them as rounded individuals -- they're crass, vulgar and occasionally unintelligent yet always sympathetic, and their actions are not without reason. Sanchez, in this aim, is lucky enough to be working with some fine actors; Adam Kaufman brings spectacular intensity and resolve to the lead character of Wyatt, while Paul McCarthy-Boyington (as Cody), Brad William Henke (as Duke) and Michael Williams (also a Blair Witch alumnus, as Otis) are also quite impressive as the group's id, ego and superego, respectively. Furthermore, Sanchez proves that, even after a long hiatus, his skills for building tension and maintaining atmosphere are undiminished. So it's a shame, then, that the film collapses in its third act. Despite some good moments (Cody gruesomely falling prey to the alien's mind-control abilities is a queasy highlight), the film runs aground following plot threads into unresolved dead-ends (like the half-hearted subplot about Wyatt's "alteration" at the hands of the aliens) and eventually resorting to blowing everything up even though it's explicitly stated that doing so is a really, really bad idea. Sanchez shows enough talent to shake off any notion of Blair Witch being a fluke, but Altered has to be tagged a near-miss anyway.

Grade: C+


Anonymous Scott said...

There's also "Believers," which was directed by the other "Blair Witch" dude, Daniel Myrick. Not too sure about that one, but I'll probably watch it sometime soon.

(FYI: The pop-up comment system on Blogger really sucks.)

1:04 PM  
Blogger Squish said...

Mister Steven Carlson, you are most wolcome to the Kurosaw-a-Thon

10:35 AM  
Blogger Steve said...

Thanks for the invite. I'll try to pull something together.

2:09 PM  

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