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Altered (2006) – film review

January 15, 2015

ALTERED

Payback time.

altered 2006

Directed by Eduardo Sánchez. Screenplay by Jamie Nash, story by Jamie Nash & Eduardo Sánchez. Starring: Adam Kaufan, Catherine Mangan, Brad William Henke, Michael C. Williams, Paul McCarthy-Boyington and James Gammon. Year of release: 2006. Running time: 88 minutes.

Four friends who were abducted and experimented upon by aliens when they were teenagers are reunited for one night following the capture of one of their tormentors.

Altered is director Eduardo Sánchez’s long-awaited follow-up to his feature debut   The Blair Witch Project – the over-hyped indie darling which took the box office       by storm in 1999 (and subsequently kickstarted the enslaught of ‘found footage’ horror fare which has plagued multiplexes ever since). Thankfully eschewing the increasingly stale found footage format for traditional filmmaking techniques with Altered, Sánchez has fashioned an effectively creepy little sci-fi shocker which turns the alien abduction trope on its head by reversing the roles normally associated with the genre; with a lone alien now the abducted at the hands of a group of humans seeking payback.

Adam Kaufman plays Wyatt – one of the four friends; living as a virtual recluse in     a stronghold in the woods; fearing the eventual return of the visitors who abducted him. When his three buddies: Duke, Cody and Otis arrive unannounced with a live alien they have captured (the creature is chained and wrapped in a tarp with a welder’s mask covering its face) – with the intent of torturing it, Wyatt tries to sway them from doing so; as he fears that harming the creature will trigger an all-out attack by the aliens – thus decimating the entire human race. Tensions escalate between the captors; as their differing opinions on what to do with the creature erupt into threats of violence amongst themselves.

While the film’s premise of grown men seeking retribution for childhood torment recalls the second half of Stephen King’s It, and the single location setting (taking place over a single night) recalls Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead, the tension and interplay between the various characters mostly brings to mind John Carpenter’s The Thing. Here Sánchez displays a natural flare for staging well-directed ensemble scenes     with actors, which wasn’t necessarily evident in his feature debut. And with a scant running time of just 88 minutes, the film never outwears its welcome; as it opens     mid-stride and never lets up in its pacing.

And while the film becomes viscerally gruesome at times (with one character succumbing to a flesh-eating virus contracted from the creature; while another is disembowelled) – the careful building of suspense and the escalation of tension       are the things which work best here. Some performances are admittedly better     than others, however, the characters overall are interesting and well-drawn, with expositional dialogue (revealing the characters’ backstories) kept fairly natural and non-intrusive. And the unsettling and atonal score by Tony Cora and Exiquio Talavera also does much to heighten the tension. While nothing we haven’t seen before;       the practical creature and makeup effects by Spectral Motion are low-key       yet well-realized.

All in all Eduardo Sánchez’s sophomore feature is an enjoyably tense indie shocker which offers a fresh approach to a well-worn sub-genre and I very much look forward to seeing more of his work.

3 stars out of 5

Star ratings: 1 – poor / 2 – below average / 3 – good / 4 – excellent / 5 – unmissable

Greg Moss is a film school graduate with a background in directing music videos     and is currently seeking representation as a screenwriter. He likes creative people, feeding the cat and watching genre movies. Greg can also be heard on the Blu-ray commentary track for the 1980 sci-fi thriller Saturn 3, out now from Scream Factory.

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