Saturday, August 2, 2008


ALTERED
(Review)

Brought to us by the Eduardo Sánchez half of the directing duo behind The Blair Witch Project, Altered kicks off with a night-time hunt conducted by three rednecks, who manage to bag their quarry, something that is definitely not a regular animal.
What happens from that point onward, as well as the pivotal event that set all of this in motion, informs the rest of Altered, a very effective, old school, low-budget science fiction/horror movie that, though marginally flawed, plays so much better than Project.
For one thing, we’re actually given real, significantly more substantial characters to consider, and that makes a world of difference.

Jamie Nash’s script (from a story by Nash and Sánchez) effectively paints a group of once-friends, all still tied together by their traumatic past. Think something along the lines of Sleepers, but with a genre bent, with some freakiness and gore thrown in for good measure.
Nash puts together a script that keeps the thrills at just the right pitch, while simultaneously giving us the impression that that singular moment in these men’s shared past has indeed affected the trajectory of their very lives, and is the sole reason that has brought them here, to this night which we see chronicled in Altered.
Additionally, the performances—by Without A Trace’s Adam Kaufman, October Road’s Brad William Henke, Project’s Mike C. Williams, Paul McCarthy-Boyington, and Catherine Mangan—are commendable, more honest and textured than your average genre movie, with the rapport of the principals palpable on the screen.
Sánchez also keeps the mystery intriguing and involving, as the narrative gradually unwinds, slowly letting us in on exactly what’s going on, as well as what went on, a decade and a half ago, that brought us to this very moment. He also gamely proves that he can do wonders with an actual script and not some gimmicky combo of shaky cam and clever marketing.


As much as I enjoyed Altered though, it’s still not all goodness and light.
There are moments when, in the stalwart aim of keeping the tension going, the film’s principal setting—a house—seems to be far larger than it should be, as individuals (and other things) seem to lose themselves for varying stretches of running time.
The narrative also has the annoying tendency of having things go from bad to worse because of dumb-a$$ decisions. Granted, they’re not the sort of decisions made out of stupidity, but rather those made based on emotion, but when they happen repeatedly, the distinct urge to yell at the on-screen idiots is difficult to keep a lid on.

Still, when all is said and done, Altered is a neat little genre trip that’s worth your time and attention, something to perhaps occupy your time while we all await Sánchez’s follow-up, Seventh Moon, starring Amy Smart, and again written by Jaime Nash. There’s also The Objective to look forward to, the new film from the Daniel Myrick half of Project.
Hopefully, both movies will be as good—or even better—than this one.

(Altered DVD cover art courtesy of amazon.com; image courtesy of blogcritics.org.)

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