The location is Florida; the middle of some woods that rests apparently not very far from or on a farm. Three men find themselves there at night, clearly hunting something. They bring with them high-tech weaponry and have traps already set all around them. If the dark shadows that linger nearby and sometimes make a peculiar noise before vanishing yet again are any indicator, what they are hunting is at least not of their own species. When one of these things falls into one of their traps (the famous rectangular-hole in the ground), we get confirmation that it isn't human. And these guys have got some serious beef with its race. The names of the men are Cody (Paul McCarthy-Boyington), Duke (Brad Henke), and Otis (Michael C. Williams). They bring the creature, alive, to their friend Wyatt's (Adam Kaufman) house.
So that officially makes four of them. Four men who we learn in due time were all at once abducted by the strange beings that dwell in the farmland forest about fifteen years ago. The beings (let's just go ahead and refer to them as aliens; that's what they are) took the life of a mutual friend, and now they are hungry for not only vengeance but answers. Once they're at and inside Wyatt's house, upsetting his girlfriend Hope, most of the action occurs there. They tie the alien down and cover its eyes with duct-tape so that it cannot influence the brains of the mortals present with its mind-controlling powers. They make an incision in its torso and emerge with an organ of some sort that will signal an entire army of extraterrestrials to its current location. It's only a matter of time before the shit hits the fan.
But what's a movie about people waiting for something to happen without an up-close-and-personal study of the people themselves? This is where Eduardo Sanchez's "Altered" is one of the best alien horror-thrillers since M. Night Shyamalan's "Signs"; the characters and the overall situation both feel incredibly real for a film that, at a glance, might seem to have bigger B-movie aspirations than it actually does. It's fun, sometimes quite gruesome and thoroughly creepy; but also surprisingly human. The film scores big in representing the grueling psychological effects that the abduction must have had on the boys; Wyatt appears to suffer the most.
I've heard word of the film being initially conceived as a horror-comedy. For the first half or so, it's a completely serious horror film that deals in ambiguity and claustrophobic tension. Within the second half, or whenever the aliens finally show themselves, it more or less becomes some embodiment of the film that Sanchez originally wanted it to be. In this second half, it gets over-the-top with rubber monsters and even a bizarre scene where a guy's life is in the hands of an alien with his bloody intestines in its own, until it all kind of simmers down in a somewhat disappointing and ultimately forgettable climax. Nevertheless, I enjoyed "Altered" throughout and found Sanchez's balancing of these different tones most impressive.
The film proves that there is life after "The Blair Witch Project" for Mr. Sanchez. He is clearly a talented filmmaker who knows how to turn rags into riches when it comes to his material (as exemplified brilliantly in that spooky first film of his). "Altered" is low-budget and low-key for the most part, but that never completely goes to its head. It does so much with what it's got, which doesn't seem like very much on the surface, and I admire it quite a bit. This isn't extraterrestrial, claustrophobic terror at the level of John Carpenter's "The Thing", but it's a whole lot smarter than you probably think it's going to be. I recommend it as long as you're one of those movie-goers who won't mind waiting for that thing to happen along with the characters so long as that thing is good payoff and the build-up is solid. In my honest opinion, the build-up here is more satisfactory than the payoff; but they can't all end well. It's the bulk of it that really counts.
When trying to describe Altered to my friend, I said "It's like someone took Alien, Signs, I Know What You Did Last Summer, and a bad Jeff Foxworthy comedy sketch and put them all into a blender". That gives a fairly accurate picture of the movie. Plot: It follows the fate of four friends who are haunted by a night years ago when one of their friends died, killed by a mysterious creature. At the time, they were little more than boys, but now that they're men, they're out … more
It's very likely that the only kind of reviews I'll ever post here are movie reviews. I'm very passionate about film; and at this point, it pretty much controls my life. Film gives us a purpose; … more
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