The Horror Honeys: THE BLAIR ALIEN PROJECT

THE BLAIR ALIEN PROJECT

A Sci-Fi Honey New Release Review by Katie

Ejecta (2015)

Found footage: for many horror fans, it’s a term that makes us shudder. Arguably the most contentious style of horror film today, nearly everyone complains about how the trend is overused or not properly executed, and with good reason. As an audience, we are already submitting to the premise of a film with willful suspension of disbelief, and the found footage style only adds technical confusion to this equation: improbable camera angles, inconsistent points of view, and who exactly “found” and edited the footage we are witnessing. The latest horror film to exploit the found footage style is Ejecta, a low-budget alien abduction tale from by the guys that brought you last year’s sewage-mucked Septic Man. By creating their own genre mashup of found footage and faux-documentary as well as straightforward narrative cinema, directors Chad Archibald and Matt Wiele attempt to inject something refreshing into this increasingly hackneyed form of cinematic storytelling. 

The film centers on an amateur documentarian and extraterrestrial conspiracy theorist, Joe Sullivan (Adam Seybold), who has tracked down a reclusive blogger and self-proclaimed alien abduction victim, William Cassidy (Julian Richings). Joe is eager to interview William about his close encounter, and the two meet just hours before Earth will experience an “ejecta”: a major astrological event that is expected to be so cataclysmic, major power grids are predicting mass blackouts and all forms of public transportation, including flights, have been suspended. The actual event is not as thrilling as it sounds, but it does cause a strange object to crash-land just yards from where Joe and William are sitting… and of course, camera in hand, the two set out to discover what wonders (and horrors) it will bring.

More horrors than wonders.

Oftentimes the found footage storytelling device serves no purpose other than being an inexpensive workaround for films operating on a miniscule budget, and this film is no exception. From the get-go the film utilizes not one, not two, but three different methods of storytelling: along with found footage, the film is established as a faux-documentary of sorts, with Joe’s character sitting down with William in a question-and-answer format. Interspersed throughout is “present-day” footage, shot in the format of traditional linear cinema, where William is being imprisoned and interrogated by the usual shadowy governmental-type outfit. The interrogation is led by Dr. Tobin (Lisa Houle), a Woman in Black who is under orders to find out what William knows about the ejecta visitors. Dr. Tobin fills in the blanks by playing found footage from her soldier’s body cameras (rendered through a painfully green-hued night-vision filter) as well as Joe’s documentary, and the film attempts to seamlessly weave all three points of view into one cohesive narrative thread. While it’s a solid effort at trying to approach the style in a different way, the end result is a disjointed product of too many ideas; even with so little at their disposal, the filmmakers at the helm somehow do too much.

They also throw in torture, because who doesn't love that?
Of the three narrative techniques utilized in the film, only one of the formats truly worked for me, and that is all the scenes in which William is simply being questioned for the faux-documentary. Some of the most powerful images in the film are ones that are never explicitly shown, but are conveyed through the terrified first-person account by the impressive Julian Richings during his one-on-one interviews. It is in these scenes that the script, penned by Pontypool writer Tony Burgess, is at its strongest: one moment, where Richings describes waking up floating in dark water with no land in sight, sent a legitimate shiver up my spine. Richings is a gifted character actor, often making memorable appearances in the horror genre (Wrong Turn, Urban Legend, Cube), and can convey palpable fear with just a frightened look or the faltered recollection of a waking nightmare. His performance alone ratchets the film up a few notches in quality, almost making up for when it backslides into the “shaky camera in the woods” monotony many of us have come to loathe. 

Do not attempt to adjust your screen. It will always look this crappy.
Despite oversaturation in the genre since The Blair Witch Project revived the style in the late 90s, found footage and mockumentary-style horror remains massively popular: just ask anyone who saw Paranormal Activity 5, Devil’s Due, The Sacrament, Alien Abduction, The Taking of Deborah Logan, Willow Creek or V/H/S: Viral last year alone. When done properly, the style actually benefits the story of the film; when done improperly, the form can quickly become tedious and even nauseating. Unfortunately, despite some good ideas and a terrific lead performance by Richings, Ejecta ultimately falls in the latter category.

Sci-Fi Honey Rating: Two-and-a-half shaky cameras out of five

Ejecta is available on iTunes, Google Play, YouTube VOD, Amazon Instant Video, and Cable VOD