Skip to main content

Holy shit! I heard about a weird car driving around.

Extraterrestre 
(Extraterrestrial)
(2011)

Anyone who has suffered the debacle that is Skyline (so bad, a sequel is guaranteed) would understandably be give pause by the premise of Extraterrestre. An alien invasion told from the vantage of an apartment building. Except that this is only very loosely a science fiction movie, and certainly not an alien invasion one. An offbeat romantic comedy, Nacho Vigalondo’s film plays with the tropes of the genre but through the expectancy of those who have seen such fare rather than anything the aliens do. The result is an unremarkable but agreeable comedy of misunderstandings.


Vigalondo’s previous (and debut) picture Time Crimes is also a science fiction piece, and a frustrating one. Vigalondo worked up some striking ideas and presented them in an often unsettling and visceral manner, but the picture lacks internal logic (that is, the internal logic of the protagonist rather than the internal logic of the time travel device).  Extraterrestre is much gentler in form and eschews hard SF concepts. Tensions also tend to be punctuated by humorous developments, yet both films share protagonists labouring under mistaken assumptions who create bigger messes as they attempt to resolve their situations.


Julio (Julian Villagran) awakes in the apartment of the girl with whom he spent previous night. Julia (the mighty purdy Michelle Jenner) clearly doesn’t really want him there, but outside events soon overtake such awkwardness. The streets are deserted, the phones are down, the TV and Internet aren’t working, and there’s an enormous spaceship hanging over the city. Added to this, Julia’s stalker neighbour Angel (Carlos Areces) has remained behind to give her his full attention (he is less than happy at Julio’s presence) and then Julia’s boyfriend Carlos (Raul Cimas) returns.


Face with a very awkward situation, the only option is to lie. First that Julia found Julio passed out on the street. Then, taking cues from Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Julio and Julia cast aspersions on Angel, suggesting there is something strange about him. Events spiral out of control from there; there are attempts to send Angel packing, and Carlos reveals a survivalist instinct (separated from them, he departs to make bombs in another part of the city).


The most effective aspect of Extraterrestre is the manner in which the “invasion” is undercut by the domestic intrigues and subterfuge of the quartet. Julio and Julia continue their carry on, perhaps because Carlos’ presence makes it exciting. Angel, meanwhile, devotes himself to exposing their behaviour to Carlos. This involves taking up residence in an apartment across the street, and attempting to announce Julia’s cuckoldry through banners and firing endless quantities of tennis balls through Julia’s apartment windows.


The escalating tensions between the dogged Angel and Julio make for the funniest scenes; they, and Julia, are out for what they can get, and more than willing to behave manipulatively (if Julio had behaved honourably in the first place the situation wouldn’t have gotten out of control). It’s appropriate then that Julio should be called upon to right the wrongs he has instituted, brewing up one more dose of confusion.


At points the low budget emptiness recalls the Geoff Murphy’s The Quiet Earth, and it’s fitting that the aliens should never make their physical presence felt (except as the paranoia of others). It might be the anti-Pegg and Wright picture, taking a genre staple and backing away from it. There’s an especially deft running gag about a weird alien car (which Julio has designed for a carnival but everyone re-interprets as evidence of invasion), deployed for the Julio’s redemptive act.



Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Who’s got the Figgy Port?

Loki (2021) (SPOILERS) Can something be of redeemable value and shot through with woke (the answer is: Mad Max: Fury Road )? The two attributes certainly sound essentially irreconcilable, and Loki ’s tendencies – obviously, with new improved super-progressive Kevin Feige touting Disney’s uber-agenda – undeniably get in the way of what might have been a top-tier MCU entry from realising its full potential. But there are nevertheless solid bursts of highly engaging storytelling in the mix here, for all its less cherishable motivations. It also boasts an effortlessly commanding lead performance from Tom Hiddleston; that alone puts Loki head and shoulders above the other limited series thus far.

As in the hokey kids’ show guy?

A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood (2019) (SPOILERS) I don’t think Mr Rogers could have been any creepier had Kevin Spacey played him. It isn’t just the baggage Tom Hanks brings, and whether or not he’s the adrenochrome lord to the stars and/or in Guantanamo and/or dead and/or going to make a perfectly dreadful Colonel Tom Parker and an equally awful Geppetto; it’s that his performance is so constipated and mannered an imitation of Mr Rogers’ genuineness that this “biopic” takes on a fundamentally sinister turn. His every scene with a youngster isn’t so much exuding benevolent empathy as suggestive of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang ’s Child Catcher let loose in a TV studio (and again, this bodes well for Geppetto). Extend that to A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood ’s conceit, that Mr Rogers’ life is one of a sociopathic shrink milking angst from his victims/patients in order to get some kind of satiating high – a bit like a rejuvenating drug, on that score – and you have a deeply unsettli

It’ll be like living in the top drawer of a glass box.

Someone’s Watching Me! (1978) (SPOILERS) The first of a pair of TV movies John Carpenter directed in the 1970s, but Someone’s Watching Me! is more affiliated, in genre terms, to his breakout hit ( Halloween ) and reasonably successful writing job ( The Eyes of Laura Mars ) of the same year than the also-small-screen Elvis . Carpenter wrote a slew of gun-for-hire scripts during this period – some of which went on to see the twilight of day during the 1990s – so directing Someone’s Watching Me! was not a given. It’s well-enough made and has its moments of suspense, but you sorely miss a signature Carpenter theme – it was by Harry Sukman, his penultimate work, the final being Salem’s Lot – and it really does feel very TV movie-ish.

What's a movie star need a rocket for anyway?

The Rocketeer (1991) (SPOILERS) The Rocketeer has a fantastic poster. One of the best of the last thirty years (and while that may seem like faint praise, what with poster design being a dying art – I’m looking at you Marvel, or Amazon and the recent The Tomorrow War – it isn’t meant to be). The movie itself, however, tends towards stodge. Unremarkable pictures with a wide/cult fanbase, conditioned by childhood nostalgia, are ten-a-penny – Willow for example – and in this case, there was also a reasonably warm critical reception. But such an embrace can’t alter that Joe Johnston makes an inveterately bland, tepid movie director. His “feel” for period here got him The First Avenger: Captain America gig, a bland, tepid movie tending towards stodge. So at least he’s consistent.

You nicknamed my daughter after the Loch Ness Monster?

The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2 (2012) The final finale of the Twilight saga, in which pig-boy Jacob tells Bella that, “No, it's not like that at all!” after she accuses him of being a paedo. But then she comes around to his viewpoint, doubtless displaying the kind of denial many parents did who let their kids spend time with Jimmy Savile or Gary Glitter during the ‘70s. It's lucky little Renesmee will be an adult by the age of seven, right? Right... Jacob even jokes that he should start calling Edward, “Dad”. And all the while they smile and smile.

Here’s Bloody Justice for you.

Laughter in Paradise (1951) (SPOILERS) The beginning of a comedic run for director-producer Mario Zampa that spanned much of the 1950s, invariably aided by writers Michael Pertwee and Jack Davies (the latter went on to pen a spate of Norman Wisdom pictures including The Early Bird , and also comedy rally classic Monte Carlo or Bust! ) As usual with these Pertwee jaunts, Laughter in Paradise boasts a sparky premise – renowned practical joker bequeaths a fortune to four relatives, on condition they complete selected tasks that tickle him – and more than enough resultant situational humour.

I'm offering you a half-share in the universe.

Doctor Who Season 8 – Worst to Best I’m not sure I’d watched Season Eight chronologically before. While I have no hesitation in placing it as the second-best Pertwee season, based on its stories, I’m not sure it pays the same dividends watched as a unit. Simply, there’s too much Master, even as Roger Delgado never gets boring to watch and the stories themselves offer sufficient variety. His presence, turning up like clockwork, is inevitably repetitive. There were no particular revelatory reassessments resulting from this visit, then, except that, taken together – and as The Directing Route extra on the Blu-ray set highlights – it’s often much more visually inventive than what would follow. And that Michael Ferguson should probably have been on permanent attachment throughout this era.

Somewhere out there is a lady who I think will never be a nun.

The Sound of Music (1965) (SPOILERS) One of the most successful movies ever made – and the most successful musical – The Sound of Music has earned probably quite enough unfiltered adulation over the years to drown out the dissenting voices, those that denounce it as an inveterately saccharine, hollow confection warranting no truck. It’s certainly true that there are impossibly nice and wholesome elements here, from Julie Andrews’ career-dooming stereotype governess to the seven sonorous children more than willing to dress up in old curtains and join her gallivanting troupe. Whether the consequence is something insidious in its infectious spirit is debatable, but I’ll admit that it manages to ensnare me. I don’t think I’d seen the movie in its entirety since I was a kid, and maybe that formativeness is a key brainwashing facet of its appeal, but it retains its essential lustre just the same.

I’m just glad Will Smith isn’t alive to see this.

The Tomorrow War (2021) (SPOILERS). Not so much tomorrow as yesterday. There’s a strong sense of déjà vu watching The Tomorrow War , so doggedly derivative is it of every time-travel/alien war/apocalyptic sci-fi movie of the past forty years. Not helping it stand out from the pack are doughy lead Chris Pratt, damned to look forever on the beefy side no matter how ripped he is and lacking the chops or gravitas for straight roles, and debut live-action director Chris McKay, who manages to deliver the goods in a serviceably anonymous fashion.

Damn prairie dog burrow!

Tremors (1990) (SPOILERS) I suspect the reason the horror comedy – or the sci-fi comedy, come to that – doesn’t tend to be the slam-dunk goldmine many assume it must be, is because it takes a certain sensibility to do it right. Everyone isn’t a Joe Dante or Sam Raimi, or a John Landis, John Carpenter, Edgar Wright, Christopher Landon or even a Peter Jackson or Tim Burton, and the genre is littered with financial failures, some of them very good failures (and a good number of them from the names mentioned). Tremors was one, only proving a hit on video (hence six sequels at last count). It also failed to make Ron Underwood a directing legend.