The setting is a wooded area, with nothing out of the ordinary—that is, until something very out of the ordinary runs by. Even if we know nothing about the movie, we know it’s not human. Out of a van scramble three men looking to capture or kill the “something” we just saw. Here begins the slice of life, or should I say, “slice of death” story that is Altered.
If I were abducted by aliens and escaped, I wonder if I would seek revenge. I wonder what I would do if I caught the little green men who did it. Thankfully, I don’t have to think about it, but that’s what the four guys in Altered are doing. Fifteen years after being abducted by aliens, they finally have the chance to get even.
Yes, I know what you’re probably thinking—not another alien abduction movie! Well, you would be correct. This is not just another like all the others. This movie is different in more than a few ways. First, Altered reminds me of how much I like movies with a monster that’s really there, rather than one generated by a computer—one that’s only a complex cartoon, taking up no real estate in the real world. The monster (or alien) in Altered is really there in every gritty, grisly scene we see. If we were “there” in most movies, we’d see, hear, and smell nothing, just as we often do as a viewer. Yes, a real monster, really there, on the screen, is one of the important, “different” things about Altered. In the year 2012, with so much CGI everywhere but nowhere, this movie is a one super terrific retro treat, for sure. What’s better is that all the non-CGI special effects we see are excellent!
As for gore, there’s plenty here, and it’s all presented with the best of old-school effects. When one of the guys sticks his hand in an alien’s body and pulls out its guts (I won’t tell you why), we see the goods. We hear the sloshing and see the organs inside a real (albeit special effects) body. Yes, there’s no CGI here again! When another guy is eaten alive, slowly, from the inside out, for reasons I’ll leave a mystery, we see copious amounts of blood, gore, and oozing puss! Normally, we’d be asking for less of such things, but not here. Here, we ask for more, and we get it.
Speaking of more gore, there’s a scene involving an intestinal tug-of-war that goes too far, causing a flaw in the otherwise consistent story. When intestines are too large, too long, and too strong, it reminds me of another of my favorite movies—Re-Animator. However, Re-Animator is filled with dark humor from start to finish, so it works. Altered starts off as realistic as a movie about vengeful alien abductees can be; so here, it doesn’t work. Until this scene, I was carried away by the serious acting, and how it added realism to the fiction. When I see intestines longer than what can fit in a human body, it becomes distracting rather than humorous, in a movie otherwise attempting to be real. (Oh well, I guess you can’t have everything all the time!) After this small hiccup, the movie gets back on track, making a full recovery from a possible no go on the Space Jockey launch pad.
Again, as for acting, it was surprisingly well done by all. That’s another of the great things about Altered. Considering that these are not well known actors, it was all the more impressive. Often, in such lower budget movies, with unknowns, we don’t get such high quality performances. Well, we do here! I often even forgot I was watching a movie about little green men out to conquer the world. Especially great were the performances of Adam Kaufman (as Wyatt) and Catherine Mangan (Hope)—the boyfriend/girlfriend couple, also arguably the main characters. Top notch performances, for sure!
In a world with so many such movies, Altered also does an impressive job of being unpredictable most of the time. If there had been any snail moments in this one, I might have seen a few things coming. However, moving along as it did, I had little time to predict even the clichés.
I won’t go on to tell you more—whether the guys get their revenge, whether the aliens conquer the world, or if anyone lives to tell the tale. Let’s just say that the story goes out with a serious bang, and the payoff is worth the wait. In the end, you won’t be Altered, but you’ll be just as happy you’re not.