25th Aug2014

Frightfest 2014: ‘Extraterrestrial’ Review

by Ian Loring

Stars: Julián Villagrán, Michelle Jenner, Carlos Areces, Raúl Cimas, Miguel Noguera | Written and Directed by Nacho Vigalondo


Nacho Vigalondo made quite the splash with 2007’s Timecrimes, a dark and rather uncompromising time-travel thriller which impressed many. To British eyes it would seem like all had gone quiet on the Nacho front but this was not the case. His next film Extraterrestial was playing Italy when my wife and I were on honeymoon, but we celebrated our third anniversary last week. A delayed release is something we see fairly often but in the case of Extraterrestial it is bizarre as this is a charming but admittedly small-scale film though one which would work with a wider audience than a pure genre one as is the case with the FrightFest audience.

Much of this is down to the simple fact that the film barely dabbles in the sci-fi nature of its opening. A couple who look to have had a one-night stand wake up to find the streets deserted and the sight of an alien spaceship hovering outside, and this leads on to a film which focuses more on the relationship between this couple, and a few other characters, than it does on anything remotely “genre”. This is somewhat a surprise given just how twisty Timecrimes was and if you were attracted to the film based on the premise, there’s a chance this could colour your view of proceedings. What does unfold though is certainly satisfying enough.

Much of this is down to the offbeat edge Vigalondo gives the film. ”Quirky” is a word many approach with justified apprehension but here we find an exception. The interactions between the characters is key here with comedic misunderstandings and unexpected developments which occur between people who don’t know each other all that well combine with broader comedy to present a feeling like the end of the world is occurring but people will still be people, as terrible and as brilliant as they can be. In the interim since this film was initially released in mainland Europe this type of film has become a weird sub-genre of its own, Seeking A Friend For The End of the World, This Is The End etc, but both its continental setting and the sheer fun goofiness of some moments mark it out from the crowd.

Aiding this is the central cast of characters. While central couple Julian Villagran and Michelle Jenner start off cold and distant to each other they warm up through the film and as that happens, so does your affection for them. Jenner is slightly saddled with a character who isn’t much more than a trophy for the various characters around her but she has presence of personality for sure. The film primarily revolves around Villagran however and he does well with a character who changes and becomes someone a lot more caring and quietly heroic by the end of proceedings. Carlos Arecas and Raul Cimas offer rather more comic relief as two men also fighting for the single female’s attention, though from very different angles, and on the whole, the cast are very watchable, a boon for a film which doesn’t offer much else for the viewer to engage with.

With an ending that sticks the landing and characters you are happy to spend time in their odd little world with, Extraterrestial is a good example of why being delayed doesn’t always mean being rubbish. A slight but fun film which is worth your time.

***½  3.5/5


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