FANTASTIC FEST 2011
By Don Simpson | September 27, 2011
Director: Nacho Vigalondo
Writer: Nacho Vigalondo
Starring: Michelle Jenner, Julián Villagrán, Carlos Areces, Raúl Cimas
Nacho Vigalondo’s Timecrimes was my favorite film of Fantastic Fest 2007, so I entered the Fantastic Fest 2011 screening of Vigalondo’s Extraterrestrial with astronomically high expectations. Shockingly, the two films are night and day: Timecrimes is complex and heady, yet maybe a wee bit overly ambitious; Extraterrestrial is incredibly simple and restrained. Extraterrestrial is nothing like I expected it to be, but that is not necessarily a bad thing…
Julio (Julián Villagrán) wakes up in an unfamiliar apartment after one hell of a bender. Enter an incredibly attractive young woman whose name is eerily similar to his own, Julia (Michelle Jenner). Julia and Julio surmise that they must have drank themselves into a blacked-out state of oblivion on Saturday night, and they have slept most of Sunday away.
They fumble through an incredibly awkward conversation. It is overtly obvious that Julia wants to get Julio out of her apartment pronto, but then they notice the eerily unusual stillness outside. No one is on the street below Julia’s apartment. Their cellphones are not working, neither is the Internet or television. Around this time they notice a colossal alien spacecraft looming over the horizon.
So… Maybe Julio should not leave? Then Julia’s nosy neighbor, Ángel (Carlos Areces), stops by. He seems to be the only other person in the building. Why did he not evacuate with everyone else? Then, when Carlos (Raúl Cimas) arrives, the sexual tension comes to a head and things get really complicated. The men — all with romantic hopes of winning Julia’s heart — use the mysterious spaceship as a means to shut each other out of Julia’s apartment. They spread the fear of an alien invasion, specifically that one or more of them might actually be an alien in disguise. The lies and manipulations snowball to the point of ridiculously comical proportions.
With Extraterrestrial, Vigalondo utilizes what could very well be a lost Twilight Zone episode to cleverly examine human relationships and the extreme lengths that men will go to in order to “win” a woman. Extraterrestrial also works as a well-crafted metaphor for the way that the fear of the “other” is often used to manipulate people’s emotional responses to situations.