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It's been about six years since the "love it or hate it" sensation that is The Blair Witch Project hit the scene, but we haven't seen a whole lot of directors Dan Myrick and Ed Sanchez since that time. Myrick's follow-up (The Strand) hit video shelves last year, and he has a pair of horror flicks (Solstice and Believers) in the works. Sanchez's second feature has taken equally long to get off the ground. It's a sci-fi / horror indie called Altered and it's kind of a mixed bag: Half chintzy and raw, half interesting and semi-creepy.
The flick opens with a decidedly different approach to the "alien abduction" idea: A pair of guys are seen high-tailing it out of the woods with lump buried inside a blanket. When they arrive at the house of an unhappy old friend, we learn what the blanket contains: an unconscious alien creature! One of the bastards who had the audacity to abduct these knuckleheads a long time back! And those alien freaks actually killed one of their friends, which means that while revenge is a secondary option, our poor humans are actually too scared to exterminate the creepy alien beastie; it might send out a distress call to its interstellar pals. And that would probably mean the end of our planet as a whole.
So we've got a fairly compelling set-up for a stuck-in-one-set genre indie, and for the most part Sanchez keeps the story moving along pretty slickly. The creature effects are passable enough, and the flick earns points for trying to deliver something semi-fresh to a fairly stale sub-genre ... but there's a lot here that simply doesn't work.
A few of the unknown actors simply aren't up to the task, while Jamie Nash's screenplay frequently degenerates into redundant arguments, vitriol, and hysterics. It seems like every ten minutes we have to have one of the characters freak out, obnoxiously, while sputtering a bunch of schoolyard-style profanity. (I've got nothing against raunchy language, but it seems that a lot of screenwriters use the Vulgar Rant as an over-employed crutch, plus some of the more caustic exchanges in Altered feel like bad improv.)
Still, points for trying to combine the Alien Run Amok and the Trapped in a Building scenarios into something beyond screaming co-eds and pointless gore-splatters. What Altered has to offer might not be the best indie genre flick you'll see this year, but it's got just enough assets to keep the genre fans interested. If only barely.
Audio/Video: Dolby Digital 5.1 English, with optional subtitles in English, Spanish and French. The movie is delivered in a fairly solid widescreen (1.85:1) anamorphic fashion.
Extras: Just a six-minute reel of deleted scenes.
All in all, for a low-budget indie that boasts such a familiar idea (pissed off alien stalks victims!), Altered isn't all that bad. Devoted genre fans should feel free to give it a rental, but don't expect to be blown away.