Written and directed by Daniel Groom, when a teenage boy is found after disappearing overnight, his unexplained behaviour causes concern within the family, and a lack of medical answers leads to a revelation of alien abduction. Starring: Michael Anthony Coppola, Demitra Papadinis, Owen Myre, Ethan Boucher, Patience McStravick and Devin Henry.
Having a character mysteriously disappear then reappear acting oddly or cold is a staple of practically any genre of film, but it has a particular penchant for sci-fi. It works very well in this context, especially then having events be warped by crossing between alternate timelines is a satisfyingly curious choice. Although unfortunately the writing becomes increasingly transparent and weaker as the story moves forward. The pace is a little too slow, and it’s a shame that the more sinister feel which is brought through towards the end wasn’t used earlier, it had a lot to add to the atmosphere of the film. It does seem later on that it wanted to pull together something darker and it’s a good idea as it would benefit from that tone, but it simply appears too late in the day.
It also has an issue with its progression, it doesn’t push forward and being so focused on the outbursts of its protagonist, it can become somewhat repetitive. It doesn’t entirely help that the story is so heavily left on the shoulders of such a young actor. You can see the sincere effort which Owen Myre puts into his performance, it’s very physical but it misses out on the emotional notes, making it rather imbalanced. It doesn’t pull in a sympathetic edge, but that’s due partially to never really getting to know more about his character, outside of his current extra-terrestrial happenings. The characters in general aren’t a strong point in this story, there isn’t a lot to grasp onto, although the best of the bunch being Ethan Boucher’s Bradley, who comes across surprisingly sincere.
Visually, it has a fairly cold palette, it lends itself to the mysterious vein of its story and goes for a distant, observer style. The choice of framing or angles can feel slightly messy at times, it can’t quite manage to be consistently engaging, it would have been nice to see a bit of added warmth to the aesthetic in its emotional or everyday moments. The make-up and effects work also falls short, making Riley look like a zombie and the extra-terrestrial elements are far too conventional. It chooses a style that harks back to the popular design of twenty or so years ago, and considering how much of the story hinges upon that reveal, it’s disappointing. The ending as a whole misses out on striking an impactful note, it doesn’t quite feel like things have come full circle, instead that there was more to tell.
Alternate Ground hits upon a great sci-fi concept but doesn’t make the most of it. The direction lacks an energetic style and the palette is overly bland. The story works but it needed a few additional layers to round it out, to delve into the characters further and explore the origin of its crux, to provide a more satisfying ending. It’s holding good elements but the way that they’re put together doesn’t feel like the optimal combination.