ALTERED

Directed by Eduardo Sanchez
Written by Jamie Nash
Music by Tony Cora and ExiquioTalavera
Cinematography by Steve Yedlin

2006/88 mins/Color/Dolby Digital 5.1
1.85:1/English/USA/NTSC Region 1

Review from the Universal DVD

From the shadows of THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT phenomenon, director Eduardo Sanchez has developed an interesting take on the alien invasion scenario that has more substance and atmosphere than most entries of this sort.

The movie begins with a collection of good old boys capturing what appears to be an alien on the run in the woods. The boys bring the imprisoned creature to the home of their friend Wyatt who has a working knowledge of the monsters. It seems that Wyatt, along with his friends, had been abducted by the same creatures previously, and during their abduction they had endured unspeakable torture and seen the deaths of two friends. Since then, each of the victims dealt with the trauma of their abduction differently, and the presence of the captured alien reawakens the paranoia, anger, and fear in all of them.

What makes ALTERED stand above the other alien movies is Sanchez and writer Jamie Nash’s focus on the character’s responses to the horror in front of them rather than using the creature as the centerpiece. In fact, many of the movie’s most interesting and compelling moments take place when the alien is not on screen. Each character has a developed story arc that works to add a sense of realism to the otherwise absurd situation, and Sanchez makes the wise decision to skip the obligatory exposition, and let the viewer learn for themselves through the dialogue and the character’s actions, what is happening with each person involved.

ALTERED features some uneven acting with the best performance turned in by Adam Kaufman as the informed Wyatt, and a great over-the-top scene chewing take on the paranoid redneck Cody by Paul McCarthy-Boyington. On the other end of the acting spectrum, the supporting roles are mostly wooden, and at times, wildly off the mark. Misty Rosas as Wyatt’s dumbstruck girlfriend seems especially lost in trying to nail down her character’s transition from disbelief to rage.

The movie’s scenario lends itself to comparisons with NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, THE THING, and SIGNS meaning its locale is isolated, clausterphobic, and under siege. It is also very dark. Cinematographer Steve Yedlin keeps the action obscured in the dark, which at times is effective, but can also be somewhat frustrating. This is especially true for the pièce de résis·tance gut-pulling scene which could have been even more visceral and shocking had it been better lit. The movie is certainly not without gore with some great body fluid moments that keep the action nice and messy.

Of course some of the resistance to light may have been a reaction to the somewhat silly alien design. To be honest, the alien is completely underwhelming, but luckily for the viewer, its appearance is not really central to the film’s story and tension. Still, it seems that with a compelling story like ALTERED has, a better alien design would have been helpful.

What Sanchez has done with ALTERED is craft a compelling, taut, and in the end, fun take on the alien invasion mythos. The movie is not without its problems, but its focus on story, character, and tension overcomes its faults, and makes it an interesting and entertaining direct-to-video find.

ALTERED lands on DVD from Universal with a sharp 1:85:1 image, and an effectively startling Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack. The DVD has no noticeable image problems and the picture is generally sharp. The special features include a very short collection of deleted scenes that are highlighted by a humorous alien tow scene that would have been completely out of place in the movie.

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Review by Jamie Smith. All Right Reserved. 2007. ©