(15) Running time: 91 minutes
Director: Nacho Vigalondo
Writer: Nacho Vigalondo
Cast: Julian Villagran, Michelle Jenner, Carlos Areces, Raul Cimas
Reviewed by: Matt Wavish
Spanish director Nacho Vigalondo blew me away with his genius time travel thriller, Time Crimes, in 2007. He also directed the segment A Is For Apocalypse for The ABCs of Death in 2012, and has a segment in horror anthologies The Profane Exhibit and VHS-Viral on the way, as well as the critically acclaimed cyber thriller Open Windows, starring Elijah Wood. A busy man then, but in-between Time Crimes and The ABCs of Death, Vigalondo wrote and directed a quirky sci-fi comedy come romance called Extraterrestrial, and it has taken until now to finally get a release here in the UK.
While the film promises an alien invasion as the cause for the story, the aliens themselves never make an appearance (all we see is a small shot of a spaceship), and the heart of the film is actually a very well written love quadruple between two lovers, a one night stand and an obsessed neighbour.
Julia (a super sexy Michelle Jenner) may have had a one night stand with Julio (Julian Villagran), but a heavy nights drinking means they both can’t remember. As Julio uncomfortably makes morning conversation with a less than enthusiastic Julia, he spots an alien spaceship outside, and with the phone, Internet and TV down, the reliable radio issues a broadcast warning of an alien invasion. People are asked to leave their homes, and it appears that all but Julio, Julia and her obsessive neighbour Angel (Carlos Areces) have done so. Angel pops round to check on Julia and grows suspicious of the strange man who is with her. Pretty soon Julia’s partner Carlos (Raul Cimas) comes home, and the cheating pair quickly devise a story to put him off the scent. Carlos welcomes Julio into his home, offers him shelter etc before they can find a way out of the city. Julio is an architect, and could come in handy, possibly? Angel has other plans, and attempts to warn Carlos what his wife has been up to over dinner, and so Julio makes up another story, and suddenly things begin to get out of hand.
Coming off a bit like Carnage, Roman Polanski’s superb adaptation of the stage play, Extraterrestrial is at times hilarious, and it is the characters who lead the film with some really funny scripts to deliver. If you don’t warm to the characters, then the film will be lost on you. However, if you don’t mind a strong talky comedy with a very small amount of action here and there, then Extraterrestrial just might make you laugh, hysterically in places.
Vigalondo writes comedy with ease, and the film brilliantly comes to a peak about forty or fifty minutes in when the stories take control, and Angel has some fun with tennis balls (watch the film!). The cast brilliantly portray quite dipsy characters who are happy to be a little dumb, all in the name of comedy. This film is a far cry from Time Crimes, but shows that Vigalondo can write, and direct really well whatever the genre.
There are genuine laugh out loud moments here, and the touching love story running through the films veins is quite heartwarming. The alien invasion simply serves as a back drop to the film, an excuse if you will, for the situation these four people are in. It adds to the comedy superbly without ever really needing to do much more than simply exist. You never feel the need to see the aliens because the film is plenty interesting as it is. The writing is brilliant, the facial expressions (a part of comedy that always tickles me if done right) and some of the slapstick moments (watching Julio and Carlos attempt to tie up Angel is hilarious) all work nicely, and the cast actually appear to be loving every second.
While not groundbreaking like Vigalondo’s previous work, this is a pleasant, quite charming sci-fi comedy with lots of dialogue driven laughter. It is the sort of comedy that is not exactly in your face, but gently gives you the giggles, and that is just fine with me.