Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Day 2 of Jezoween: Altered

For our next edition of #10daysofjezoween I bring to you a sleepy little 2006 direct to DVD creature feature film directed by Eduardo Sanchez of Blair Witch fame. *Altered.* I’ve been hearing buzz about this movie for years from friends and through horror geek blogs but managed to mostly avoid it. I tried watching it once but according to Netflix only got 5 minutes into it and likely switched to watching reruns of Golden Girls after that. I’m glad I came back.

The premise of the movie is pretty simple. 15 years ago a group of rednecks were abducted by aliens and now they turn the tables in a poorly thought out revenge fantasy. Spartan in both idea and execution it surprisingly serves up some pretty hefty themes that may or may not have been intentional.

What appears to be on the surface a relatively straight forward alien adventure film turns out to have a lot more lurking beneath. A shockingly well done examination and exploration of male sexual assault and the psychological ramifications that echo through the years. Shame, guilt, humiliation, and impotent rage are festering beneath the surface of everyone involved even years after the fact. Driven by revenge their lives are consumed with vengeance. They are incapable of moving on. They are plagued with paranoia, doubt, alcohol problems and criminal records. Their relationships falter and crumble, they cannot maintain jobs or any semblance of stability. They isolate themselves both emotionally and literally.

They were abducted, probed, and by their own admission Altered. (Hey! That’s the title of the movie!) This can’t be a coincidence. You could replace the alien with a human and change only a few bits of dialogue and story and you’d have just a cohesive film. It’s not just revenge or justice, it’s a quest for peace. You can feel the pain and grief radiating from each person and the different ways they deal with it. How do you reconcile something like this? How do you deal? You can’t tell anybody. They either wouldn’t understand or they wouldn’t believe you. Why did they pick *you*, what did you do to get their attention? It festers. Over years. The pain piles up until you’re so full of it that there’s no room for anything else in your life. And so you do the only reasonable thing you can think of, you go after it. A suicide mission that will either end in retribution or your own death.

This may seem like reaching or overanalyzing but having seen my fair share of alien abduction movies, hostage situations, exploitation/revenge films, and kidnap thrillers I can tell you this is all very unique in terms of presentation, dialogue, and story. I suspect that the screenwriter either explicitly intended for this to be an allegory or they have their own personal experience with such things that subconsciously colored their work. Either way, it serves as a fascinating glimpse into the intricate nature of the male mind and what happens when internal strife manifests into external violence when left unchecked.

All this aside it was also just straight up a well done picture. It was pretty low budget but this wasn’t a handicap for the most part. The actors aren’t as well known (or in some cases known at all) but they do a good job with the material. The sets are extremely limited but in a way that feels organic to the story so it doesn’t feel particularly cheap or hastily done. The set designer, if indeed it was a set and not an existing garage/workshop, did an exceptional job. The creature effects were pretty well done and chilling, and the gore was all practical, no CGI.

I would give this 4 very surprisingly thoughtful butts


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