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Fantastic Fest 2011 Review: Extraterrestrial

September 28, 2011

For those of you who have seen Nacho Vigalondo’s time-travel thriller Timecrimes, you may be surprised to learn that the director is actually known for his comedic efforts in film (at least in his native country, Spain). I was surprised. I did find humor in Timecrimes but I mostly remember it as a disturbing brain-twister. Given that his second feature film Extraterrestrial was showing here at Fantastic Fest, my expectations for the film were slightly off the mark.

While Extraterrestrial does contain Sci-Fi elements (alien invasion), it’s really more of a situational comedy about two relative strangers who become trapped in their apartment after a one-night stand. There is a palpable awkwardness when Julio wakes up in Julia’s apartment – perhaps because she clearly wants him to leave (but is too polite to be direct and ask) and he clearly wants to stay. While the two shuffle around this unique social conundrum, Julio notices that the phone lines and television have been cut off and looks out the window to discover a gigantic UFO hovering in the sky over the city, which has been evacuated. The two decide that it’s safest to hole up together in the apartment – though the presence of Julia’s neighbor (a stalker type who fancies her) and the return of her live-in boyfriend complicate matters. Lies are told to cover up for Julia’s dalliance and each one begets another (and another…and another).

It’s a creative and unique premise and the results are charming and quite funny at times. Having such a limited set (most of the film is shot in Julia’s apartment) and small cast puts a tremendous amount of weight on what and who is shown. I found that it went a little long for my own tastes, but the performances are great and I loved that the tension was spawned from emotional anxiety rather than from the aliens themselves – which never appear onscreen.


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