[SPOILER ALERT] Altergeist [SPOILER ALERT]
It’s day 27 of the Horror Movie Marathon! This one fills a niche of horror that’s been sadly neglected in our reviews so far: aliens! It doesn’t exactly do it well, but one can’t be picky…
Altergeist is rated R and is available on Hulu. At the time of our viewing, it has the following online ratings:
Rotten Tomatoes N/A% critics, 25% audience
We’re wrapping up an extremely lazy day and my eyes are driving me crazy. We both take notes throughout the movie. Afterward, we conduct a simultaneous interview/discussion via Google Docs.
Mikey: Another horror movie about a pregnant woman! I was going to say that’s all we watch, but I dug through our list and we’ve avoided them pretty carefully, which is hard to do since there are millions. This was our third this month, I think.
Solee: This movie makes up for our efforts to skirt this issue, though. There were LOTS of pregnant ladies in this one.
Mikey: As in Holidays, so I think we probably have about 31 pregnant women even if we didn’t have them in all 31 movies!
Solee: Yep. That’s not a trope I find necessary or even all that palatable. Although, given the somewhat creepy nature of growing another organism inside oneself (sorry, all you pregnant ladies!), and the great plot opportunities for one thing – alien, ghost, etc – sneaking into another thing – sweet little baby, hormonal lady, etc – I can see why it’s used so often.
Mikey: Like Russian nesting dolls!
Solee: That makes me think of ghost inside alien inside baby inside mother. The horror-birth equivalent of a turducken.
Mikey: Not nearly enough turduckens in horror movies. My final word on pregnancy-related horror movies is that I understand how it gives you some new plots that require it (like this movie – all about the pregnancy), but it bugs me when they just throw it in there to make the woman more vulnerable and/or raise the stakes (killing her is a twofer!).
Solee: Even in this movie, where it’s integral to the plot, I don’t love it because I think it’s pretty lazy, unoriginal writing. Rape and incest are too often used as a convenient launch pad for completely unrelated plots. I could go on a huge soap-box rant, but I’ll leave it at… lazy writing.
Mikey: Yes, same idea: look how traumatized this woman is now, we can go anywhere with this.
Mikey: But there’s more to this movie! There’s arguing couples, and arguing couples, and couples arguing simultaneously while we cut between them to enjoy all the arguments at max intensity!
Solee: Which was clearly upsetting the spirits. Spirits are very sensitive to things like that. They really prefer when couples calmly talk things out.
Mikey: They’re like relationship counselors in that way. So, spirits… were those ghosts, or were they some kind of artifact of alien technology? Was this Ghosts Vs. Aliens, or alien tech that left behind ‘energy remnants’ or something?
Solee: I completely missed any alien tech aspect. It felt like an alien invasion story where the victims of the aliens stuck around as ghosts. To help future victims? I’m not so sure about that part.
Mikey: That just bugs me, in a way akin to Beacon 77 – they’re asking you to accept too many premises. Like why are these deaths so very ghosty, if you’re not going to use the aliens as an explanation? I mean, these ghosts were seriously ghosty! Not just vague whispers.
Solee: There were also some pretty strong time-travel undertones. There was a girl ghost who was seen on video near the middle of the movie, who I suspect was actually footage of one of the people watching that video much later in the movie, after she died and was doing her ghostly thing.
Mikey: Yeah, I had no idea who she was. Speaking of time, that’s what I would’ve been into: if the ghosts (which looked kind of technological, like snippets of floating video footage, you know? That helped push me towards an alien idea and not being sure they were normal ghosts) had not been interactive, but rather had been people unstuck in time, repeating loops over and over, due to the aliens. Heck, if the aliens were so into fear, they could’ve used that to study them in their most frightened moments over and over.
Solee: Once again, the ghost/alien/badguy was reaching into their victims’ pasts to use their memories and experiences against them. That’s been a fairly common theme this month.
Mikey: Did they? Seemed like they just (very lackadaisically) were using human wombs to make alien babies, and everything else was kind of a mess because they weren’t very good at their jobs.
Solee: It was weak, but it was there… The one guy was afraid of guns because his cousin shot himself. He ended up shooting himself.
Mikey: Oh wait, actually that’s one of my notes as well! I remember it now! Everybody dying in ironic/meaningful ways. Right, because the aliens sorta possessed all the males, and used them to either kill the females or themselves, in the most ironic way they could think of. They bred out fear, not irony.
Solee: I actually made a note that I HOPED the aliens were possessing the men, because otherwise every male in this movie was domineering, abusive and/or misogynistic in some way. It would be sad to think that’s all the writer could write.
Mikey: Yeah, I think it was control though. Like especially the guy with his brother and the gun, it’s obvious. Oh, and Ashen (some name!) killing everyone in the car. Very directed.
Solee: That’s the conclusion I came to as well.
Mikey: Which all brings to mind the part I least understood, also my favorite part: when the guy went into the room they weren’t allowed into, and had the scariest part of the movie (the only scary part of the movie), where he found all the dolls and eventually got “killed” by a ghost. Then later, he’s back and we never have a single moment explaining it, or him looking at the camera with an evil grin, or anything. He’s just normal. Possibly possessed by aliens, though how that fits in, I don’t even know. And even if so, no evil grin.
Solee: I did note that he had a voice in his head telling him to kill… but I was very confused as to whose voice it was.
Mikey: He apparently pushed the girl off the bridge, but then made a very convincing argument that he didn’t. I believed him!
Solee: Apparently he was possessed by an alien with a shaky grasp on reality. Can we talk about the alien storyline and the “lesson” it presents for a second? If I understood correctly, it goes something like this:
- Aliens breed fear out of themselves.
- Lack of fear, somehow being representative of all impassioned emotion in their culture, leads to lack of sex.
- Stealing human babies is how they choose to reproduce.
Is that pretty much how it goes?
Mikey: No, I have some corrections from my understanding: Apparently if you remove fear, you lose all emotions automatically. They said it, so fine, that’s how it works. But they don’t steal babies – she wasn’t pregnant at all. She came to this place, got abducted and injected with an alien fetus. Now she’s back and they want to harvest. They just use human wombs for their alien babies.
Solee: Ooooohhhh. Right. I remember the scene with her floating in an empty room having a tadpole inserted into her bellybutton.
Mikey: Those scenes remind me that this movie was surprisingly polished and high budget for otherwise being very SyFy Original Movie.
Solee: Indeed. There were some interesting things done with cuts and flashbacks and such, too. Although I don’t think they were as clear as the director/writer intended.
Mikey: Back to the alien babies for one more remark: Okay, so they didn’t have the desire to breed anymore. Couldn’t they just do it out of duty? I mean, come on. You don’t have to cross the universe – if you have the technology to insert tadpoles in bellybuttons, you don’t even need any desire! And they probably grow better in alien bellies anyway.
Solee: OR. Do some de-evolving and breed fear back into themselves. Find that one alien who’s still a little twitchy during thunderstorms and start him having some babies! It would take time… but, c’mon, aliens, it’s about the ethics of the situation!
Mikey: They bred out morality! But you know, these aliens must have been really scared of fear to not think to undo that change. So they had nothing to fear but fear itself!
Solee: Bet you never thought you’d be quoting FDR in a horror movie review.
Mikey: It has all been foreordained in the Bible Code.
Solee: Also foreordained: the obligatory up-the-nose-of-a-hysterical-female shot in found footage films.
Mikey: Hey, I don’t remember that happening! Also, we should let our viewers know, this isn’t a found footage movie, which is weird since it’s entirely about a camera crew filming stuff. It’s just most of the time, it’s not their footage we see.
Solee: There are found footage elements. Dax-cam! Mike-cam! Jason-cam!
Mikey: Yuppers. The very beginning of the movie was crazy to me – it was a guy running around filming himself on his iPhone, but instead of showing us that footage, they were filming him doing it. I liked the Mike-Cam.
Solee: I thought we’d be using the phrase “Thirteen times!” regularly in our review. Sadly, that didn’t happen.
Mikey: Oh no, I forgot about that at least thirteen times! I remember saying it in the next movie we watched at least (Spoiler: we watched our next movie before writing this review).
Solee: Even the characters in Altergeist failed to stick to “thirteen times”. I counted 28 stabs to take out Maya. It was… gruesome.
Mikey: Yep, 13 would’ve been much more proper.
Solee: I also noted that while most of the women (and some of the men) spent a lot of time crying onscreen, the make-up designer apparently has never cried or seen crying people in real life. “Crying” was shown, every single time, by making a big perfect triangle of wet under the eyes. I found it quite strange.
Mikey: Anime tears! In the end, I was confused by this movie. Of what was happening, I couldn’t tell what was being caused by ghosts, what by aliens, and what was just really bad decision making. Or even if the ghosts were good (some clearly were, but were others murderers?). It was a mess.
Solee: Agreed. It falls into the category of movies that leaves me questioning all the wrong things but fails to give me anything of real substance to mull over. I was more irritated than challenged by the plot twists.
Mikey: That all adds up to a rating of 2 from me, I think. Not really worth watching.
Solee: That’s exactly what I was going to give it! There are some stronger elements… the sets and mechanics weren’t bad… but overall, it just wasn’t worth the time. 2 out of 5.
Mikey: Right, they clearly spent a bunch of money on this bad story. So, are you prepared to face the unlimited terror of the House of 1000 Corpses!?!?
Solee: I am SO ready. Bring it on, Rob Zombie!
*If you have comments to leave specifically for Mikey, you can see this same interview/discussion posted here, on his website.