Found Footage 101: ‘Alien Abduction: Incident in Lake County’ (USA, 1998)

❉ We continue our look back at the found footage films that lead up to ‘The Blair Witch Project’, with ‘Alien Abduction’.

Plot Teaser

“In the fall on 1997, a sixteen year old boy set out to document his family’s Thanksgiving dinner.  What he purportedly captured on his video camera was more than just a family get together.

 “The following footage, if real, could be the most important evidence ever, supporting the possibility that we are not alone in the universe.” – Opening text.

You’ll Like This If You Like…

‘U.F.O. Abduction’, ‘Signs’ or seeing people terrorised by aliens in general.

Spoiler-Free Review

A bigger-budgeted TV movie remake of ‘U.F.O. Abduction’, this takes everything that was good about the earlier film and removes everything that wasn’t.  Very tense in places, and building to a scary climax, this is worth tracking down.

SPOILERS BELOW!

alien-abduction-incident-in-lake-county

Location

Rural America.

Enemy

Guess.

Why Are You Still Filming?

Poor cameraman Tommy.  Only five minutes in and his family are telling him to turn the camera off.  They ask him again only a few minutes later on, but when he films the aliens and their ship he decides to keep filming, which is hardly surprising.  Despite being repeatedly asked by his family to “put that damn camera down” he keeps on, until his possessed niece tells him it’s time to put the camera down.  As he does, the aliens come in and turn it off for him.

Review and Analysis

As remakes go, this gets it right.  The story is essentially that of the original, but every single thing about that which didn’t work (primarily some very odd decisions made by the characters) has gone.  The result is a far more satisfying film that raises genuine tension in the viewer and provides a nail-biting last act.

The aliens in the original were more sympathetic than the protagonists (all they were doing was wandering around a field).  This time around they’re not.  We first encounter them mutilating cattle which makes the brothers’ decision to flee far more understandable.  That the aliens are equipped with lasers which they use to shoot at the brothers (burning one’s hand) makes them even more of an enemy, so when they advance on the house they’re a more credible threat.  This time around everyone in the house behaves sensibly and their use of the guns seems far more justified (although, interestingly, most of the characters here question the wisdom of shooting at the aliens – they’re far more prepared to give them the benefit of the doubt), and it’s not until an alien they’ve trapped in a bedroom tries to break out that they shoot at it.  They’re disgusted by their own actions, and cover the corpse.  By now the sixteen year-old cameraman has wet himself in terror and the characters behave almost exactly as one would expect them to.  They’re terrified, and understandably so.

It’s the youngest actors who really make the film.  Young cameraman Tommy is particularly well played by Kristian Ayre, and the scene in which he films a monologue to camera, breaking down in the process (in a scene which is highly reminiscent of ‘The Blair Witch Project’, although the scene in that film was entirely improvised) is surprisingly moving.  The other member of the cast who really impresses is Katlyn Ducharme as young Rosie.  She manages to balance playing a normal girl in psychic contact with the aliens with that of a really creepy kid who, despite telling the other characters not to worry, keeps pronouncing doom-laden horror (“Don’t worry, Mommy; you’ll be with Daddy soon.”).  It’s a very skillful addition to the original which manages to scare more than the aliens themselves.

We actually see less of the aliens in this one than the original, which works in their favour (pleasingly we see slightly more of their spaceship, which looks particularly good), and their hostility is more menacing here.

All in all, this is a highlight of the genre.  It has directly influenced most of the films that follow, but on its own terms it stands as a highly entertaining and scary movie.

Availability

Made for TV, this originally aired with talking heads being interviewed around the ad breaks.  More of the director’s original footage was reinstated for later showings, but both versions circulate on the internet.

Despite being shown on television around the world, this has never been released on any format.


❉  ‘Alien Abduction: The McPherson Tape’ (sic) is available on demand on Sky Cinema. 

❉ Next week on Found Footage 101… ‘The Last Broadcast’

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