I don’t care what anyone says these days. I don’t care if they pull the, “I knew it was fake” or, “You never even saw anything, just some guy standing in the corner” – The Blair Witch Project was and still is a damned crafty piece of work. It ushered in an era of dreams for indie horror. Dreams of box office receipts that have yet to be – nor will they ever be – matched.
Eduardo Sánchez won’t be seeing those dreams again from the straight-to-DVD Altered, but his first cinematic deviation from the Blair Witch deserves any of the small time, 2-am-on-Cinemax attention it will inevitably get.
It opens mid story as a group of redneck friends stalk through the woods of central Florida, sporting 12 gages and a harpoon gun, in search of one of the aliens who abducted the group of friends when they were younger. Fueled by the lethal, backwoods combo of cheap beer and a 15 year old grudge, the mullet rockers manage to bag one of the elusive green guys and take ‘em to Wyatt’s house, the ex-leader of the gang and the one boy most effected by their experience. And it is in his garage that the men hope to serve up some good old fashioned revenge torture on the chained, sheet covered ugly.
Sánchez and Nash’s script is a tight, fully developed tale, covering all the ground it needs to without spelling everything out for the audience in typical, chronological order. The premise is great and the duo manage to work in an impressive amount of both original ideas or original executions of the familiar. When the ET regains consciousness and the shit starts to pitter patter against the fan, you know you’re in for an interesting ride, and that promise is a quality most indie horror never successfully pulls off or maintains.
However, the script isn’t flawless, the dialogue being the biggest offender. But the cast of relative unknowns (though almost all recognizable from bit parts on TV shows) bring enough personality to any slacking moments to inspire viewer forgiveness.
Mike Elizalde’s special effects are wild and one of the centerpieces of the flick. The progressive degeneration of one character’s flesh is just one of the many gore pushers on display. Reluctantly it can be said that the alien, once uncovered, isn’t all that scary. This is most likely due to the fact that, of any fantasy terror, aliens have it easiest when it comes to making my skin crawl. But only when they have subtle, round faces with human like features When they’re visually more like monsters, I tend to have little to no reaction to them. It isn’t entirely fair to blame the film for my own personal fears, but it can’t be denied that it softened the film’s effect on me to a noticeable degree.
That complaint aside, Altered is the best straight-to-DVD film of 2006. It is original, intimate and devilishly crafted. Anyone who likes smaller, closer horror that only takes place in a handful of settings will like it. A great success for Sánchez and proof that Blair Witch wasn’t the only quality material the man had inside him.