Dating back to as early as 1913, Brown Mountain, North Carolina, has been the location for sightings of unexplained ghost lights in the skiesa phenomenon that has come to be known as "The Brown Mountain Lights." This is prime real estate for a sci-fi/horror tale exploring the subject, one that might peer seriously into the real-life mystery while using it as the jumping-off point for something really, really scary. "Alien Abduction" isn't that film by a long shot. Instead, debuting director Matt Beckerman and screenwriter Robert Alvin Lewis have chosen to mount a found-footage knock-off of "The Blair Witch Project
" that grows more shameless by the minute. Yes, there is even a tearful, snotty-nosed confession in front of a camcorder. In the right hands, this material in this exact style could have caused maximum goosebumpage; for an example, look no further than Jason Eisener's "Alien Abduction Slumber Party" segment in 2013's "V/H/S/2
." When done wrong, the glaringly false seams start to show, and there is no getting its intended authenticity back.
Positioned as leaked footage from the U.S. Air Force detailing the abduction of an entire family, a video camera wielded by 11-year-old autistic boy Riley Morris (Riley Polanski) sees all as he and his familymom Katie (Katie Sigismund), dad Peter (Peter Holden), and teenage siblings Jillian (Jillian Clare) and Corey (Corey Eid)head into the mountains of North Carolina for a weekend camping trip. On the first night, three elusive lights are seen in the sky floating in a pattern before suddenly zipping off. On the second day, with their fuel dwindling, the Morris' grow desperate as they lose their way on the remote winding roads. Coming upon a series of abandoned automobiles blocking their path at the edge of a tunnel, Riley and his family are about to become the horrified latest victims of some visiting extraterrestrials.
"Alien Abduction" has one chilling shot that director Matt Beckerman keeps subtle, choosing to not tip his hat to the horrifying unearthly vision lurking, unseen by Riley, in the background. The rest of the film is irksome on multiple levels. Riley is described as autistic multiple timesat one point, he even says, "I'm autistic"but if so, he is the highest-functioning child diagnosed with autism in the history of the medical profession. He carries on regular conversations with no social difficulties, is proactive and communicative, and acts exactly like any other child. Beyond this semi-offensive contrivance, the first-person documentary conceit is compromised by subpar acting that doesn't feel natural or emotional enough to match the characters' life-or-death plight, dishonest editing that belies its leaked-footage auspice, and moments of musical stingers and instrumental scoring that should have been entirely excised from the finished effort. As the family members watch helplessly as their loved ones are sucked up in beams of light, "Alien Abduction" desperately misses out on conjuring the sheer terror of such a situation. It misses out on a lot more than that, too, including virtually any semblance of an original idea.