Alien Valley (2012) is a found footage film directed by Ben Martinez and David Benjamin Franco and written by Kristopher Simms. The film follows a paranormal reality TV show film crew as they investigate cow mutilations in San Luis Valley, Colorado dating back to the 1960’s.
The film opens with an on-screen message, “The following film is a compilation of leaked footage, documentary analysis, and material provided by the ALC Network.”
Next, we’re presented with footage of the opening credit sequence to the paranormal reality TV show and are introduced to the film crew (a sizable ensemble cast) as they head out to their filming location to investigate the genesis of the cow mutilations. The remainder of Alien Valley consists of found footage of the film crew’s investigation, juxtaposed with periodic interviews of family/friends, colleagues, and law enforcement that analyze and scrutinize the footage. We come to learn that the film crew mysteriously goes missing, leaving behind their footage as the only evidence of their whereabouts. Will the footage reveal what happened to the film crew during that horrific night?
Plot and Acting
Surprisingly, Alien Valley mixes fact with fiction. A quick search on the Internet will reveal that there were actual cattle mutilations in San Luis Valley, Colorado that took place since the 1960s. This interesting fact could have been more effectively conveyed in the film as “real” to lend more credibility to the overall viewing experience.
Alien Valley is a slow burn, using most of the first hour to introduce the main characters and have them interact with one another. Nothing truly unexpected occurs in the film until the climactic ending – which delivers in a big way.
As interesting as the plot is, the film unfortunately suffers from slow pacing early on. The majority of found footage in Alien Valley is of the film crew as they setup their equipment and mingle with San Luis locals. While there’s nothing technically wrong with this approach, the story is not complex or captivating enough to carry this extended plot-setup that spans most of the film.
The two main leads, Nate Bakke as cinematographer Dave and NikkiCornejo as government liason Rose, deliver exceptional performances, have great chemistry, and are enjoyable to watch. Unfortunately, the acting of the supporting cast is not as strong as they lack the chemistry and compelling dialog to effectively carry the film. It’s this deficit that negatively impacts the overall pacing.
In comparison, the film Home Video (2016) follows an identical formula as Alien Valley. The first hour of Home Video (2016) is limited to character development mixed with interviews with no real plot furthering developments. Unlike Alien Valley, Home Video has exceptional acting, chemistry, and character development among the entire cast, which effectively carries the film from beginning to end.
As described earlier, the ensemble cast consisting of Madison Guthrie (as Andrea), John Campbell (as Rob), Meghan McMahon (as Claire), Jared Van Doorn (as Matt), Nathan Blackburn (as Eric) perform adequately, but don’t seem to gel in a group dynamic. The acting in the interview segments of the film come across as believable and fit within the context of the story and found footage.
Found Footage Cinematography
Alien Valley uses a combination of handheld video cameras and surveillance cameras, all equipped with night vision to capture the found footage segments of the film. The film crew’s two professional cinematographers, Dave and Matt, are expected to capture professional looking video, which justifies the smooth camerawork and clean audio during most of the film. The night vision cameras are appropriately grainy, which is to be expected especially when filming outdoors at great distances.
The film relies primarily on practical effects, which greatly benefits the final product. The creature practicals are convincing and are effectively (and intelligently) used to increase tension and further the plot rather than simplyprovide eye candy.
Found Footage Purity
The found footage purity is exceptional in Alien Valley. All found footage segments are shot with either a handheld video camera held by one of the characters or is captured by one of the many surveillance cameras used throughout the film. All music introduced in Alien Valley is limited to the documentary portion of the film or in what appears to be “stock footage” of the paranormal reality TV show’s opening credit sequence. The found footage purity, while exceptional, is not perfect as there are several scattered scenes where personal interactions among the characters are captured that normally wouldn’t be filmed, as well as happenstance “money shots” the video camera falls at just the right location and angle to capture all the action.
Overall, the filming reasons used in Alien Valley are very good. A paranormal reality TV show, by its very nature, is going to keep the cameras rolling to gather as much usable footage as possible. In this respect, viewers are unlikely to ask, “Why are the cameras still rolling?” Alien Valley is presented as a documentary consisting of edited found footage and interviews, which wholly justifies the interview portions of the film as well as the inclusion of news footage.