Ejecta Dir. Chad Archibald, Matt Wiele

[IFC Midnight; 2014]

Styles: science fiction, horror,
Others: Septic Man

Cinema has been slow to take up the challenge posed by YouTube, Netflix, and Amazon Prime, a world of multiple juxtapositions in endless windows. When it has, it’s mostly resulted in the occasional good documentary, like Catfish, or some middling found footage horrors, none of which really capture the existential terror of watching make-up tutorials on YouTube, in your pants, with pizza grease dripping over your pale, naked chest.

That’s likely to remain the situation if Ejecta is anything to go by.

Ejecta is what happens when the creative imagination is limited by the confines of a laptop screen. The directors, one of whom is actually called Chad, have created an alien invasion thriller that cross-cuts from a half-good Marble Hornets rip-off to an all-bad Syfy Channel quickie. The story centers on a Richard Dunn-alike loner who has an alien hiding inside his brain. Sometimes it makes him kill humans. Most of the time it gives him a big deep shouty sweary voice and black contact lenses in his eyes. Turns out these beasties have been trying to take over the world for thousands of years by giving suspicious loners really bad headaches.

Such “revelations” are interspersed with footage of Richard hanging out with a film director (probably called Chad) who heard about his plight and thought it might make a reasonable calling card for Vice. Unfortunately, he didn’t reckon with the imminent solar eruption that sends another bunch of alien dudes straight for Richard’s backyard. If he had, he might have brought a camera light enough to carry during chase scenes through wooded areas.

The only thing that’s clever about this plot is how it functions as a perfect metaphor for the film itself. What we have here is pretty unremarkable, but occasionally something weirder shows itself. Moments like the opening scene, where Fictional Chad interviews Richard, build tension quite effectively by simple virtue of casting a creepy looking guy and having him talk and act… creepy. And then the tension crashes, as it does again and again, when the film shifts focus to one of the following: aliens/CGI torture devices/Canadians playing American black ops marines.

This failure to trust in the audience and allow the film to build slowly and subtly reflects a general laziness, a “that’s-way-cool” sort of mentality that allows things to happen simply because it might impress a coterie of drooling FrightFest attendees. So while it was smart to organize the story around a series of two-handers, what was less smart was forcing a bunch of z-grade character actors to spout fucks and shits like they were a cadre of Joe Pescis at a Tourette’s convention. Less smart still is the wiseacre monologue about the death of the universe that runs, for some reason, over the opening credits then not at all, and sounds a bit like your Facebook friend who posts worrying jpgs about the “democratic simulation.” Needless to say, this is not a mature work.

That matters because, although the film is visually accomplished, there is no personal vision behind it. In just about every way you get the impression that the directors were blind to the possibilities of cinema, preferring instead to revisit a bunch of cool things they’d caught on YouTube. What they’ve made is hopelessly of its moment, belonging on a tiny, tiny screen, flickering away madly under the gaze of some geek or other, to be forgotten along with so much other “AMAZING REAL LIFE ALIEN FOOTAGE.”

Cinema has always blended different art forms, from the novel to painting to the theater, into one seamless whole. It may well ensnare the internet, but on this evidence it’ll take stouter fellows than these directors to do that.

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