October 17, 2014
The Vicious Brothers
Brittany Allen as April
Freddie Stroma as Kyle
Michael Ironside as Travis
There’s nothing new here.
That being said, let’s take a journey through the good stuff. It’s a nicely cast picture, including April (lead actress Brittany Allen, who distractingly seems a bit older than her co-stars) and her hunky boyfriend Kyle (Freddie Stroma — Harry Potter’s “Cormac McLaggen”). They’re happily going through life, until April decides to take a job far-away, with the intention of leaving Kyle in the dust. So their weekend getaway to April’s family cabin in the woods, is going to be a sort of “coming to Jesus” moment for their relationship. April’s going to give Kyle the big news (basically break-up with him). Annnnd… Kyle’s going to propose. Awkward! A mis-matched group of friends tag along, with the idea of making it a grand party weekend full of drugs, booze and aliens. Wait, what? And there’s our set up.
The performances are all decent, with a couple of recognizable faces in the mix. Gil Bellows shows up as the more-willing-to-believe-than-you-might-think Sheriff Murphy, providing a little extra cache in a mostly unknown cast. But it’s the arrival of the awesome and always dependable Michael Ironside that gets the kudos. He’s easily my favorite character in the film, despite the fact that his post-Vietnam, conspiracy-theory fanatic Travis is textbook loony. Again, we’ve seen this all before. But Ironside’s got that yummy gravel in his voice and no one can play grizzled crazy old man like he can. This guy should always be working, and you know what, he always is. That could mean only one thing. Somebody up there likes us! Not those somebodies in the bright-light space-crafts. You dig?
The leads are all serviceable and believable (if sometimes boring and underdrawn), with one of the “tag-along” friends beating the rest of them out with one single scene. Melanie Papalia gives us “Melanie”, April’s long-time best friend. Things have gone wrong for our cabin-dwellers and there is a nice scene between the old pals. This kind of exchange could easily come off as a bit cliché, especially at this point in the picture, but Melanie sells it, making the moment actually heartwarming and sad. And it’s also a very clever way to usher in April as our Final Girl (don’t tell me you won’t see that coming).
More good, and then we’ll give you the negatives. We’re getting there. The film looks good. Great X-Files-y locations (it was filmed in Canada). There are some really top-notch effects, especially in the opening moments in the phone booth and the eventual trip inside the alien ship. Wow! The aliens are scary as all get-out, with many of their creepiest moments lifted directly fromSigns. And these lead to several very effective “boo” moments. With the exception of a few dragging minutes in the middle, all of these good elements kept me along for the ride.
The soundtrack is good, including some deep bass, shake-the-room-every-time-the-alien ship-appears. It is disturbingly similar to the eerie sound made by the tripods in Spielberg’s War of the Worlds. It gets under your skin and just rumbles there. And there’s a great song with killer lyrics toward the end of the film called, “The Book of Love” performed by The Magnetic Fields. It’s an uber-appropriate choice for that moment in the film – very nice touch.
Some of the standout moments include the Cloverfield-esque arrival of the UFO. It’s a party situation (although not after the marriage proposal fiasco) and we see it on a hand-held camera. The reactions are all legit and for once, I believed that these characters would do what they did. They went to investigate. Wouldn’t you? And there it is, the flying saucer in all its glory. Oh, and the footprints. Which brings me to this point: There are several times in the film where suggestions are made for a course of action, but then dismissed, negotiated or forgotten. While I appreciate the writers “writing off” the obvious next move in order to keep the characters in jeopardy, just once it would be nice to see characters in a horror film, make the sensible and seemingly correct choice. Then just have that action blow up in their face in a different way! It’s just so clear! On the other side of that argument, I did buy many of their choices. And in horror, that’s a big deal.
So what’s the problem? Again, it didn’t offer anything new. And that’s the biggest issue here. It’s always been irksome to find filmmakers with immense resources at their mercy, a stable of great actors and technical capabilities available and ready to amaze… and yet the story and majority of the characters don’t pop from the screen. It all has to start on the page. And I don’t really believe it did in this case.
So the bottom line then, if you’re not invested in the characters and don’t really care either way if they’re alive or dead by the end, well that can never be good.
There are a few surprises in the picture, which clearly I will not reveal. The fates of some of the characters are rather shocking, and in at least three cases, incredibly ironic.
Is this worth $13.00 and a tub of $40.00 popcorn to check out in your local cinema? Not really. However, I don’t want to detract you from ever seeing it. It has some great ingredients, but overall, it doesn’t totally gel and it doesn’t have an original bone in its body.
I’ve got just one final thought. I’ve just revisited the trailer and wow, I’d love to see that film! It’s just another sad reminder that the trailer is meant to get you in the door with that cash money burning a hole in your pocket. Again, Extraterrestrial is not a bad time, but definitely not the film you were promised in that amazing trailer. Such is life.