BITS 2014: Ejecta

Ejecta

The promo material for Ejecta intrigued me. It describes the film as “The story of one night on earth that changed everything we know about the universe”; a blurb from the directors goes on to call it “the story of two men who witness an unexplainable event in the atmosphere on the eve of a historic solar storm and must survive a terrifying life form that’s hunting them.” Add a lead performance from the eternally overlooked Julian Richings (recently seen on Orphan Black and in The Last Will and Testament of Rosalind Leigh) and a screenplay from Pontypool scribe Tony Burgess, and Ejecta definitely had my attention.

Sadly, that “unexplainable event” can be explained in one word. To quote the guy with the hair on the History Channel: “Aliens.” Ejecta is a bog-standard alien-abduction/action horror flick, kind of what an X-Files episode might have been like if it was made for HBO with a Game of Thrones budget. Richings plays a multiple abductee William Cassidy, living off the grid in the middle of nowhere, posting dire warnings to internet forums. One day, obsessed documentarian, Joe Sullivan (Adam Seybold), shows up on his doorstep, wanting to tell Cassidy’s story. That night, a solar storm knocks a UFO out of the sky. Cassidy and Sullivan investigate; later, Cassidy ends up in the hands of the ruthless Dr. Tobin (Lisa Houle), in her immaculate black uniform, who wants something to do with the aliens and is willing to torture and kill to get it.

…at least, I’m pretty sure that’s what happened. The story isn’t told in chronological order, which is fine, but it’s not particularly coherent, which isn’t. I was never quite clear on who Dr. Tobin was, who she was working for and what her real goal was–and eventually, I just stopped caring. It doesn’t help that she seems to believe that whoever speaks loudest speaks the best–I assume that I’m supposed to find her character authoritative and intimidating, but mostly it just reinforces how one-dimensional the character is. Dr. Tobin impossible to take seriously, which is a major impediment considering the film’s oh-so-serious tone.

Meanwhile, Ejecta is structured as a hybrid of found-footage and, um, I’d guess we have to call it non-found-footage, giving the filmmakers an additional set of tropes to absorb whole-hog and not try anything remotely fresh with. Although I do have to say Sullivan never puts anybody’s life in danger so he can get some precious footage, so there’s that, at least. All these flaws rob the film of what little power it does have, so by the time we get to the climax–which should, by all rights, be disturbing and memorable–it does little more than provoke a noncommittal “Oh.”

Still, I shall try to remain upbeat. Richings’s performance is powerful and fascinating; it’s the rest of the film that lets him down. The CGI isn’t all bad and the score is actually listenable, if occasionally a tad obtrusive. Oh, and the clip from that fake alien autopsy video is priceless.

Unfortunately none of this is enough to make Ejecta worth the price of admission. You’ve seen this movie before, and better (this year alone brought us Colin Minihan’s aptly titled Extraterrestrial), so there’s really not much compelling reason to bother.