Altered (2006)

These days many people just do not enjoy “The Blair Witch,” and that’s a shame. I still love the movie, and I still think it’s a frightening simplistic horror film about curiosity killing the cat. But in a day and age where gore is on the menu, it’s not hard to fathom why it’d be disliked. “Altered” is an admirable if flawed follow-up from the “Blair Witch” boys that is much different in every sense. Gore and guts are present, as well as a fairly simplistic alien carnage story. Ah, the joys of being a horror fanatic. “Altered” is a good old fashioned horror film, and one that relies on the conventions of typical claustrophobic horror fare to get us through.

Three young men are on the hunt for a vicious alien, and finally capture it leading it to the home of their friend, Wyatt. Angered and intent on revenge for the death of their friend by its hands years ago. The problem with this bout of vengeance is that the alien is smarter than it looks, and it wants their blood. “Altered” thankfully doesn’t feed us horrible special effects, and bring us down to eye level with a hell of a creature that is based around a stuntman in a costume. Fanged, screeching, and green, the centerpiece of the horror flick will leave many enthused to see it wreak havoc. With assorted powers, it waits to let the survivors turn on one another and strikes, most of which is done with its ability to control others through its eyes. There are some utterly excellent sequences that Sánchez handles with pure finesse.

Some scenes are absolutely spooky as the alien hides in the shadows, dashes from corners unexpectedly, and also take great lust in torturing its tormentors. Adam Kaufman’s performance is the center of the film and for good reason. His turn as this angry victim of the aliens who holds a mysterious key to their attacks is really entertaining, especially the climax where we finally see what he’s capable of. Sánchez entertains and he does so with a script that’s stripped to the skin basic, and the formula surprisingly works. I wanted to see where this was going next, and the last scene worked, in spite of its rehashed presence. “Altered” raises a good argument in spite of its recycled formula, and I enjoyed it.

What brings “Altered” down considerably is that there isn’t a sympathetic character in the whole bunch. Not even Kaufman manages to muster up enough personality for his character to keep us on his side. Sánchez never raises enough of an argument to keep us on these people’s sides, and instead only helps us build feelings of apathy towards their plight and feel generally unaffected by their deaths. And “Altered” is never a complete win because of that. Aside from obnoxious characters as its caveat, “Altered” is a doozey of a killer alien flick, and one that I rather enjoyed, even if it’s not a masterpiece. Good old fashioned special effects mixed with wicked gore, and a compelling story make “Altered” a great follow-up from the “Blair Witch” creators.