Greetings from the Toronto International Film Festival. My trips to the city this time of year are starting to become an annual pilgrimage. This year, I started off the festival with the very bizarre and very fun ‘Extraterrestrial’. Spanish director Nacho Vigalondo previously had a cult hit a few years ago with the mind-bending ‘Timecrimes’. Suffice it to say that his take on the alien invasion genre is a bit unconventional. This is about as far from the likes of ‘Independence Day‘ as you can get.
The day after an ill-conceived one night stand, Julia and Julio wake up to discover that they slept through the evacuation of their entire city. A giant flying saucer (that they can only partially see through one of Julia’s windows) hovers overhead. According to the emergency broadcasts on the radio, hundreds more have appeared all around the globe. They don’t seem to be doing anything other than waiting. No one knows what they want, but everyone is panicked. Unsure of what to do next, Julio and Julia decide to wait it out in her apartment until someone instructs them otherwise. This is not good news for Julia, who really wanted to get Julio out the door before her boyfriend shows up.
Needless to say, the boyfriend (a dim-witted hothead named Carlos) does eventually come calling. As does a creepy neighbor named Angel who likes to spy on Julia. I don’t think I’m spoiling anything to say that there are no aliens in ‘Extraterrestrial’. The movie takes place mostly in the apartment. The sci-fi premise is just a backdrop for what turns out to be a really funny dark comedy as Julio and Julia jump through bigger and bigger hoops to prevent Carlos from finding out that they slept together, which in turn entails preventing the snooping Angel from telling him. Their seemingly-ingenious idea of casting suspicion that Angel may really be a bodysnatcher alien who can’t be trusted soon spirals wildly out of control and has consequences well beyond the confines of the apartment.
‘Extraterrestrial’ is very small in scope and has a negligible visual effects budget. There are no ‘Battle: Los Angeles‘-style war scenes here. However, the movie is very clever and very funny, with great characters and even a few heady ideas layered between the laughs.