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Altered   (released 1/17/2007)
By Neil Norman

          The dudes from Haxan Films are back again with another creepy flick. Altered, a feature film shot in Florida and directed by Eduardo Sanchez, is about a group of rednecks who, after being abducted (and altered) by aliens as young boys, decide to take their revenge by catching one of the critters.

          The film opens with a shot of the stars through the trees from the ground level POV of someone or something in the woods at night. We don't know what is doing the stargazing, but we will soon find out. You can turn off your heartlights at the door, though, because these are not your warm and fuzzy extraterrestrials.

          We meet the three good ole boys after they banzai into the woods, hootin' and hollerin' in a four wheel drive. Decked out with shotguns, crossbows, and a retrievable harpoon rig with a rewinding winch and cable (kudos to whoever in the Art Department thought up that one!), these boys mean business. Duke, played by Brad William Henke, is the mullet wearing leader of the posse. Trucker-chic Otis, played by Michael C. Williams of the original Blair Witch fame, and rat-faced, harpoon wielding, fresh out of prison Cody (Paul McCarthy-Boyington) make up the rest of the group. The boys chase the fast critter around the woods until they catch it, and Duke catches a situation of his own.

          Pumped with adrenaline, and scared shitless that other specimens might show up, the gang decide to go visit Wyatt, played by Adam Kaufman, who lives in what looks like a combination of a war bunker and an old shack out in the sticks. Wyatt knows more about the aliens than anyone, because he was one of the four (out of five) who returned from the abduction years ago, and because he is special... They chain the canvas-covered alien, who is bleeding out stuff that makes it look like he should be in a Gatorade commercial, to a work bench in the garage. The midnight dealings are detected by the Nosy Girlfriend (Catherine Mangan) who freaks.

          Chaos, Redneck bravado, amateur exploratory surgery, bloody mayhem and some quote-worthy lines ensue, including a memorable cameo by recognizable character actor James Gammon. He plays a Sheriff who, after seeing some the most otherworldly shit in his life, desperately wants another beer.

          Altered is a good popcorn horror flick. The kind of movie you might've gone and seen at the drive-in in years past (am I really that old?) The gore and SFX are good and not overdone (although there are a few grisly scenes to make you squint). The main flaw (as some viewers suggested) of The Blair Witch Project, "Not seeing the Witch," is fixed here. The alien creature is highly visible, gnarly looking, and technically well-done. There is tension built throughout the movie and you don’t really know what the characters are going to do, which makes you want to keep watching. The film, like The Blair Witch Project before it, depicts the effects of fear on the Human mind. The motif of "this is a true story" is still there, but in a less literal sense.

          I applaud the filmmakers for going out and making an original film. In this era of flashy, big budget, corporate horror-genre remakes, it is refreshing to see artists filming creative, low budget original stories (like the ones that inspired said remakes). While the Suits and a portion of the movie-going public might be quick to cry foul of a film like Altered, it will still have a good audience among REAL (that is, genre) fans. And that's who we really make films for isn't it? The people who love watching movies, not the people who love watching movies make money.

          Some people might not have the intestinal fortitude (pun intended) for this film, but I sure did. Please support this film by purchasing a DVD copy!

Neil Norman is a freelance writer and a graduate of the University of Central Florida. Neil also works on independent film productions.

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