People of Earth and the Phenomenon of Alien Abduction

They have visited us before. They have taken our fathers and sons. They have taken our mother and daughters and brothers and sisters. They will keep probing anuses and minds until we put a stop to the alien abductions plaguing Earth.

2016 was a good year for television comedy. There seemed to be something for everyone. Man With a Plan brought Matt LeBlanc back to network television. Atlanta showed us the struggle is real and Full Frontal with Samantha Bee kept the Jon Stewart Daily Show spirit alive and well. However, People of Earth slipped under the comedy radar when we should have all been watching.

Wyatt Cenac in People of Earth

He may see deer in his dreams, but he may still be onto something.

Wyatt Cenac, better known for his reporting on The Daily Show, plays Ozzie Graham. Graham is a star New York Times reporter when he hits a deer in the small town of Beacon, NY (Beacon, as in a signal or a guide). As fate would have it, or something even more menacing (cue diabolical laughter), he meets a local support group. It’s a support group for alien abductees…pardon me, they prefer the term “experiencers.” His life is never the same.

Aliens in People of Earth

They’ve abducted before, they will do it again.

People of Earth isn’t highbrow as some of the “comedies” on HBO, it’s not “cutting edge” female duo comedy, and it’s not geek chic like some of the comedies on Cartoon Network. You never feel like there’s an inside joke and you’re on the outside. People of Earth is simply a quirky and cute comedy. 

It would be easy to have a series where the abductees are the object of easy jokes. Yes, there are a lot of jokes, but none of the jokes are meant to talk down or belittle. It’s some of the smarter comedy you’ll find in an ensemble cast. If you want cheap, easy jokes watch The Great Indoors.

The cast of People of Earth

The unforgettable cast of People of Earth.

Now’s the time to catch up on season one before season two starts July 24th.

Let’s not kid ourselves. Not all alien abductions are friendly, fun affairs. In 1975, Travis Walton, a logger, was abducted from a job site in Snowflake, AZ. By his accounts the trip was anything but a fun ride around the Milky Way.

FIRE IN SKY

Travis Walton heading to work before his alien abduction

It was a one way trip for one of them.

Fire in the Sky is one of the unique alien abduction movies in that it doesn’t concentrate exclusively on the abduction itself. Director Robert Lieberman doesn’t say or even hint at the possibility of the abduction was a hoax. There are some very creepy flashback scenes of Walton in a spacecraft being poked and prodded. He’s emotionally scarred by his experiences, but the majority of the movie concentrates on those Walton left behind.

James Garner’s Agent Frank Watters didn’t believe anything he was told by Mike Rogers ( Robert Patrick, T2 ) and his crew. His co-workers were grilled by the police, polygraph tests were taken, and searches of the area were conducted. There was no sign of Walton anywhere. The town was convinced they killed Walton. By all appearances Walton had vanished into thin air only to reappear five days later.

Aliens prying Walton's eyes open for experimentation

All eyes on him

Fire in the Sky will leave you convinced Walton was abducted, but there’s still a small shadow of a doubt that the whole thing was concocted by Walton and his crew. 

Walton being beamed up to the space ship

Beam me up, Scotty. There’s no intelligent life on this planet.

Blumhouse Productions has made a name for itself making quality movies with small budgets. The Paranormal Activity franchise that never seems to stop put the company on the map. More recent movies like Get Out and Split proved the company could hang with much bigger studios. Blumhouse has shown time and time again people like to be scared .and it’s willing to provide the means of their terror. What’s scarier than alien abduction? Not much, I tell you.

DARK SKIES

Keri Russell about to be abducted in Dark Skies

It’ll be Mission: Impossible to get her back from aliens.

Dark Skies, staring Keri Russell as Lacy Barrett, adds a twist to the haunted/possessed house genre. Lacy, her husband, Daniel, and their two children are subjected to a wide array of frights, bumps, and noises in their home.

The Barretts believe ghosts are responsible for their torment. Dark Skies has all the trappings of a ghost story. The movie is crafted well enough that you will believe it’s another haunted house movie until J.K. Simmons arrives on the scene.

J .K.Simmons breaks the alien news to the Barretts

He knows a thing or two because he’s seen a thing or two.

Dark Skies, as the name implies, turns its attention away from the supernatural plane and points its camera towards the heavens. Aliens have been responsible for everything that has happened to the Barretts. It also seems the aliens are after one of the children. To tell you more would be to spoil any ending you have to see.

COMMUNION

Way before Christopher Walken needed more cowbell he went on an interplanetary ride from hell. Walken plays Whitley Strieber, a fiction author. It takes Strieber a while to realize that not only he, but his son too, were abducted by aliens. It’s a fight for Strieber to come to the realization that what he has learned is indeed the truth.

An alien pokes head from behind a door.

This E.T. doesn’t want to phone home,

Communion is a smart blend of horror and science-fiction. It may not rank in Walken’s top 10 movies, but for fans of the alien abduction genre it should be the first movie you go to.

Christopher Walken reads a magazine

Doctors’ offices never have new magazines.

There are as many  “found footage” alien abduction movies as there are “found footage” horror movies. Like the horror movies the alien abduction found footage movies range from okay to a complete waste of time.

Posing at the Area 51 sign

The footage was found, but the frights were still missing.

The Phoenix Tapes, The Phoenix Lights, Area 51, Alien AbductionForgotten Phoenix, The Sighting, and Hangar 10 are just a handful of the dozens of found footage movies available to stream, buy, or rent. The same problems plague these movies as the horror movies. Cameras are constantly shaking, you rarely see the person behind the camera, someone is yelling for the camera to be turned off, and there are more shots of chests and nostrils than there are establishing shots. 

THE FOURTH KIND, a pseudo-found footage documentary, doesn’t suffer from the same problems as other found footage movies. It has a good cast-Elias Koteas, Will Patton, Milla Jovovich. There’s also a decent story within the movie. The problem is all the footage that we’re supposed to believe is real overshadows the performances and story.  If you find it difficult to believe in alien abductions you may find it even more difficult to buy Mila Jovovich as a psychologist.

Milla Jovovich writing notes on a pad

Alien psychologist?

There’s one alien abduction found footage film that stands above the rest- Extraordinary: The Stan Romanek StoryIt’s advertised as a “documentary” and the footage as “real.”  

At first, the set up seems believable. It’s a straight forward interview style documentary. And then all sorts of weird things are introduced. There’s audio recording of a woman calling Romanek “Starchild” and telling him to be careful. Even more cryptic are the messages telling him someone or something is following him. There’s even “experts” on UFOs and alien abductions who testify what Romanek experienced is real. Then things get weirder

An alien peers through a window.

Alien? Or a short guy in a mask?

The  “lights” appearing in security camera footage outside of Romanek’ s house are described as “mysterious.” On multiple occasions Romanek took pictures that revealed his alien hybrid “daughter” hiding in the background. Romanek also has video he claims is of an actual alien. Romanek even goes so far to claim aliens stalked him at a UFO conference.  

It’s a slick piece of work, but most of it can be disproved quite easily and in some cases already has been debunked. The lights outside his house can easily be explained simply as someone bouncing a flashlight our of range of the camera. The “daughter” appears in photos has obviously been  photoshopped into the background. The alien in the video that gives Romanek practically screams “rubber mask.” The stalking aliens? Make up and grainy photography.

Alien? Or exotic looking woman with some makeup?

As a “found footage” movie it is actually one of the better ones you’ll see, but don’t call it a documentary. It’s now streaming on Netflix.

For the horror alien abduction fan there’s Under the Skin. The abductees may never return, but it’s Scarlett Johansson doing the killing so they have that going for them.

Are alien abductions real? Are people really being beamed out of their homes, from tents and cabins, and the side of the road? Personally, I don’t think so. Why would a race of beings who have mastered interstellar travel be interested in what is up our poopers? It still makes for some good tv and movies.

(No. We did not forget the greatest alien abduction movie of all time. Close Encounters of the Third Kind celebrates its 40th anniversary this year.  A big screen re-release has already been planned for later this year)

A spaceship hovers over Devil's Tower

Close Encounters of the Third Kind.. A Spielberg masterpiece.

 

 

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