FANTASTIC FEST 2011: EXTRATERRESTRIAL Review

Nacho Vigalondo burst on to the feature film scene with his debut Timecrimes, a dark and complicated take on time travel. Fans were eager to find out what he would be up to next so when he started working on his follow up titled Extraterrestrial people were intrigued and most thought that this would be some alien/sci-fi flick. So when the film premiered at TIFF this year the first word that got out was that of some disappointment, that this was nothing like Timecrimes and was in fact a rather small scale romantic comedy with only a small hint of sci-fi. That of course is true, Extraterrestrial is nothing like Timecrimes in any shape or form, but what it is like are the short films Nacho produced and directed before his feature debut which were all predominately comedies with interesting twists. So if you knew his work aside from Timecrimes this shouldn't have come as a surprise or as a let down. 

Julio wakes up one morning after a night of clubbing in a strange apartment not knowing where he is or how he got there. The person living in the apartment is Julia, who also isn't sure what happened the previous night and would rather not have to deal with this situation. After a few awkward moments Julio is about to leave but something catches his attention outside, the fact that not a single person is up and about seems weird but also the giant space ship hovering over the city. All communications are cut off except for radio which tells that the population of the city has fled while they were passed out. 

Julia's creepy, semi stalker neighbor Angel (The Last Circus' Carlos Areces) hasn't left either of course and is not too keen on Julio being there, fearing that the unknowing love of his life has slept with him. Things get even more complicated when Julia's boyfriend shows up and Angel tries to get even and tell on Julio. Things escalate in to Julio and Julia trying to keep their night of suspected passion away from her boyfriend while an air of paranoia regarding the aliens and how they might have infiltrated the human population grows more and more until things get out of hand.

Like most of Nacho's short subjects this takes place almost entirely at a single location, Julia's apartment. There are few instances that we follow somebody outside but Nacho and his cinematographer manage to make the film not feel too claustrophobic or as a filmed stage play. The humor comes from the situation and is carried well by the actors with Carlos Areces as Angel especially sad and pathetic but enjoyable. 

Extraterrestrial is surprisingly simple in its execution, compared to some of Nacho's earlier shorts that can create incredibly complicated narratives with simple methods. All his short films are extremely well thought out and usually because of some twist to the normality that we are so used to. Here the film is all about character so all the thought goes in to them and their actions. So while Extraterrestrial probably isn't what many people wanted to see from him after Timecrimes it is a logical follow up to his past works and if you are a fan of that you won't be disappointed in this.


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