Fantastic Fest Review: Extraterrestrial


[For the next few weeks Flixist will be covering Fantastic Fest 2011. We’ll be bringing you news, reviews, interviews and other pieces of awesome so make sure to come back and check out all the festival has to offer here.]

There is a 50-percent chance that the following sentence will disappoint you: Extraterrestrial is a comedy. More over, it is nothing like Timecrimes.

Even though Nacho Vigalondo’s follow-up to his debut is smaller in scale and tonally different, it is just as original, witty, and full of surprises as Timecrimes. Where that film had you on the edge of your seat in suspense, you’ll be lounging backward, laughing while watching Extraterrestrial. It’s one of the most absurd, creative depictions of an alien invasion put to screen. Instead of a pompous sci-fi follow-up, Nacho has given us an understated comedy. I think he deserves a prize for it.

Extraterrestrial (Extraterrestre)
Director: Nacho Vigalondo
Release Date: TBA
Country: Spain


Only mere minutes into Extraterrestrial, we are introduced to its basic premise: An alien invasion has spurred the inhabitants of Cantabria, Spain to move away in fear of the alien mothership hovering above their homes. Except that’s not really what this film is about. It’s really about a bizarre love triangle.

Julio and Julia wake up, hungover and all sexed-out, the morning after the invasion. It doesn’t take long for them to notice the giant alien ship hovering outside their window. The internet is out, stores are closed, and all the neighbors have moved out. Well, except one. Meet Angel: next-door neighbor, peach lover and Julia’s stalker. After Julio and Julia have a night to figure out the basics of their situation, Julia’s boyfriend comes home to complicate the situation.

From this point forward, things gets a bit messy as each party tries to hide secrets from the other. Julio is the worst offender, going as far as to steal Angel’s car and claim he is an alien, in an effort to keep his dirty affair with Julia from reaching Angel. Right until the final minutes of the film, Julio weaves a hilarious and hilariously twisted series of lies that not only saves his secrets from getting out but also helps explain the context of the surrounding events. To say anymore would spoil the funny. I’ll just say its been a while since I’ve seen a film that so cleverly plays with the concept of a twist ending.

Being that Extraterrestrial is a romantic-comedy at its core, it helps that the film has a cast with great chemistry. You can’t help but cheer for Julio (Julian Villagran) and Julia (Michelle Jenner) to turn their awkward one-night-stand into a bonafide relationship.


Meanwhile, Julia’s boyfriend Carlos (Raul Cimas) becomes increasingly paranoid about the alien invaders, and the troll next door (Angel) becomes increasingly obnoxious. Yet, all of their actions remain believable even when Nacho flirts with slapstick comedy. For example, once sceen finds Angel firing tennis balls stating, “Julio is f*cking Julia”, into the apartment, while shouting into a megaphone. Its framed so well that you totally buy it which adds to the humor.

Timecrimes might have established Nacho as a less calculated M. Night Shyamalan, but Extraterrestrial proves that he won’t be pigeonholed so easily. The only thing these two films have in common is Nacho’s ability to create a unique atmosphere with a limited cast, locations and resources.

The world of Extraterrestrial is one without the anarchy, explosions and military firefights we’ve come to expect from alien invasion films. In their place is the stupid drama of stupid people who aren’t sure how to deal with the current situation. Instead of heroic actions and staggeringly genius escape plans, they grow paranoid out of boredom and have sex because … well, why not!

I suppose the alien invasion comes after the idiots have their fun, but how many more times do we need to see that scenario play out? I applaud Nacho for giving us something else. Something stranger, something better.