Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Wicksboro Incident (2003)

Two documentary filmers (Dan Brinkle, Kyle Nudo) are making a documentary about the rather preposterous sounding theories of Lloyd (Bobby Harwell). The old man claims that he was working on a secret government project hidden away in the small Texan town of Wicksboro. As he only realized later, the device they were building would have allowed the easy identification of the alien visitors/invaders who have secretly been visiting Earth for decades. At first, the aliens seem to have been peaceful enough, willing to share knowledge with the US government for a mere promise of secrecy, but after a while the relationship with the strangers deteriorated and a secret war broke out, with large parts of government and business infiltrated and controlled by the aliens, and both sides of the war willing to do anything to keep their secrets hidden from the public.

One day, while Lloyd was working in his project's underground laboratory, some sort of attack took place, leaving the whole of Wicksboro empty, its population (and Lloyd's colleagues) gone as if they had never been there at all.

The scientist went into hiding, collecting evidence of the sudden disappearance or death of anyone related to Wicksboro in any way, until he was the only one left to tell the tale.

After decades, he finally dares to talk about the things he knows, and goes on a road trip with the documentarists. The two don't really believe the strange old coot with the drinking problem and the electrical gadget with which he claims to be able to tell alien from human, and they aren't getting any less skeptic when they realize that Wicksboro doesn't exist on any public record, or when they drive to the place where the town should be according to Lloyd's tales but only find desert there.

Still, the old man convinces them to search for his underground lab (with the help of a divining rod, no less). And yes, it does in fact exist. It just wasn't the best idea to look for the lab in the first place. Now, the shadowy conspiracy has reason enough to hunt the unprepared men through Texas.

The Wicksboro Incident is another one of the belated children of Blair Witch Project, and while it isn't as effective as its conceptual model, it is still a nice movie with a handful of tense scenes among the mere competent ones. Mixing the found footage sub-genre with alien conspiracy myths seems so obvious that I'm rather surprised that it took so long until someone used the idea.

I had some problems with the night time scenes of the movie being too dark even for something filmed without artificial lights on digital(?) video (no infrared here), but the squinting at blurred images is part of the peculiar charms of films like this. For me, these technical flaws which aren't really flaws in the rulebook director Richard Lowry follows here have always heightened my love for films like Wicksboro Incident, making the events in them more unreal and somewhat eerie by their supposed hyper-realism; which is an effect you can only achieve in cinema, I believe.

I was positively surprised by the acting. It's usually (the mighty BW excepted) the weakest point in affairs like this, but Bobby Harwell is so perfect in his role that it is very easy to ignore the less spirited yet decent performances his colleagues give.

Now would of course be the time for the usual "oh, but why don't they stop filming" tirade. Alas, I know why the characters don't stop filming. A few people might be surprised to hear that, but: there wouldn't be much of a film if they did!

I honestly think if you are able to suspend your disbelief regarding the existence of vampires, zombies, ghosts and aliens, you shouldn't have too much trouble to extend the same courtesy in the direction of people with videocameras who record what they see, but oh well.

Here's the thing about The Wicksboro Incident. It's an archetypal, very low-budget POV horror film that's a fine way to spend seventy minutes of your life on - if you are able to accept the Law of POV horror ("Thou shalt film!") and have a certain affinity for alien conspiracy theories. I am happily guilty of both charges.

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