I love a good alien movie. The hopes of encountering an undiscovered species that will most likely result to the destruction of mankind in a speculator explosive way. Or a genius alien invasion like Neill Blomkamp’s District 9 which explores the human psyche and race relations.
Then there’s Brian Ackley’s low-budget sci-fi thriller Alienate which manages to destroy whatever fun, mysterious, or psychologically enticing possibility imaginable by pulling a switch-and-bait on its audience. What starts off as a promising movie about an impending invasion and the fear of the unknown becomes a painstakingly draining tale about the downfalls of marriage.
Alienate introduces us to Nate (George Katt) and Paige (Jen Burry) a miserable married couple who is determined to make us suffer with their hatred for one another. During one of their many explosive arguments, they make the decision that it’s best they spend time apart. However, there’s just one small issue, there’s an alien spaceship hovering in the distance. When airplanes start mysteriously falling out of the sky and cell towers fail across the nation, Nate (just like the audience) is trapped.
To hate Alienate is just not that simple. At its core, it’s about human emotion and what happens when we are forced to face life’s darkest fears. Like Roman Polanski’s Carnage, the entire film takes place in the close quarters of a house; forcing the couple to deal with deep-rooted problems they’ve ignored for years. Sparring back-and-forth with each other, they both shoulder the blame but deal with it drastically different. However you can’t help but to feel disgusted by both parties.
Equally self-centered, volatile and hypocritical, it’s hard to like, let alone, root for anyone. While their outbursts seem unjustified and unpredictable, their tension has been brewing for years — hanging over them like the aliens hovering in the nearby skies. However, their banter soon becomes tiresome as you find yourself longing for the aliens to whisk them both away so this movie can reach its ending.
Communication is ultimately the downfall of this movie; communication between the characters and communication with the audience (where’s my invasion, damn it?). While Nate is trapped in the house, there’s never any sense of fear or loss. Unlike Chris Gorak’s Right At Your Door, the movie lacks a real threat. Despite the threat of an invasion, the script focuses so much on the couple that you keep forgetting why Nate doesn’t just leave the house. Because of that, you’re forced to suffer through Nate’s suffocating presence.
Katt and Bury do the best they can with their roles. However their admirable stamina cannot save this 80-minute scream-fest. Painfully repetitious, this movie feels like one long therapy session with a married couple who should have never met each other.