VOD Releases: Aliens: Zone of Silence (2017) - Reviewed

Ever since the “discovery” of the so-called McPherson Tape which surfaced in 1989, the found-footage film consisting of people capturing themselves on tape being abducted by aliens instantly became as popular as capturing ghosts or Bigfoot on a home video camera.  After the success of The Blair Witch Project and a recent surge in the found-footage genre film throughout Hollywood, science-fiction horror fans have been seeing more and more of these alien abduction home movies flooding the marketplace.  Recently glimpsed in V/H/S 2 before a slew of increasingly lower budgeted alien horror films such as Alien Abduction, The Phoenix Incident, Area 51, UFO: It Is Here and so on, evidently these kinds of extraterrestrial invasion found footage horror films aren’t going away anytime soon. 

With the Ridley Scott produced Phoenix Forgotten shedding the most money on the subgenre yet, the latest addition to these quickie sci-fi horror home movies comes in the form of the lower budgeted yet effects heavy Aliens: Zone of Silence.  No it has nothing to do with the multimillion dollar sci-fi horror film franchise despite using the glowing blue color font on the credits and one wonders whether a different title would have worked better.  This time with the directorial debut of the head of Netflix’s visual effects department, Andy Fowler, Aliens: Zone of Silence brings this VFX heavy though somewhat redundant genre exercise to the remote Mexican desert region known as the Zona del Silencio noted for the frequent close encounters with otherworldly kinds.  Much like Adam Wingard’s Blair Witch direct sequel, the premise centers around involve a sibling making a documentary chronicling their search for their missing brother/sister and wind up getting more than they bargained for.

The cast for this micro-budget quickie are fine but they mostly are sitting ducks waiting to get abducted by the CGI and prosthetic makeup departments.  Visually through the advent of night vision and the director’s own expertise with special effects work, Aliens: Zone of Silence for this alien abduction movie junkie shows moments of inspiration which unfortunately get drowned out amid a sea of clich├ęs.  From the abductees being jocks who ultimately deserve their fates to the aliens chirping like birds fresh off of Shyamalan’s Signs.  Not to mention every found footage movie now over-utilize obviously fake overlays of video signal distortion.  We’ll never know why purveyors of found footage movies think signal distortion isn’t distracting but I digress. 

Where it works involve the use of night vision, wide shots and a cadaver discovery on par with that still creepy moment where Travis Walton brushes with a cadaver in the modern alien abduction classic Fire in the Sky.  I also thought the strobe lighting effects for the ship were genuinely chilling largely for how silent they were.  Despite the alien chirping sounds that are old hat by this point, that we’re almost entirely kept in the dark as to what the extraterrestrials look thanks to much of the film taking place at night also work in the film’s favor.  Overall I enjoyed this one from a technical standpoint and for the minimal approach until the grand finale though of the recent found footage alien abduction flicks, Slumber Party Alien Abduction from the anthology horror film V/H/S 2 and the aptly named Alien Abduction remain the best examples of this subgenre.  


- Andrew Kotwicki