Growing up in the nineties, UFOs and alien abduction were on many tongues. Obviously in pop culture since the sixties, the decade of my youth was filled with stories of little gray men and nocturnal visitations. "Communion" was recent enough to be easily found in libraries, "Fire in the Sky" hit theaters in '93, and pseudo-science "documentaries" filled cable. For many years, I considered alien abductions to be definitive proof of extraterrestrials. As a teen, I spent many nights worrying about seeing grays in my bedroom. Until I read about sleep paralysis and found it explained the majority of encounters. Anyway, it's a good thing I didn't see "Alien Abduction: Incident in Lake County" when it first aired on television. There would have been many more sleepless nights if I had.
A found footage film just predating "The Blair Witch Project," if not "Cannibal Holocaust," "Alien Abduction" depicts the McPherson family's Thanksgiving dinner, all filmed by youngest son Tommy. At first, the tensions of Thanksgiving are normal, such as mother's alcoholism, the liberal sister bringing her black boyfriend to dinner, and her racist brother reacting to it. When the power goes out, the three brothers discover a cadre of aliens mutilating some cattle. The family spends the rest of the night terrorized by the beings, Tommy catching it all on tape.
There's a reason found footage has taken a foothold in the culture. It's not just because the movies are cheap to make and speak to millennial paranoia about privacy. The best moments of "Alien Abduction" create an eerie tension. The lack of any music has the audience listening carefully for sounds off-screen. Similarly, the hand-held camera-work has the viewer watching the corners of the frame, on the look-out for half-seen aliens. The best moment in the film involves Tommy retreating to his bedroom and putting the camera down. When he picks the camera up, an alien appears in the room. Without an obnoxious score signifying the scare, the jump is allowed to breath, stretching to disturbing lengths. Another notable moment involves the men retreating outside, noticing the upstairs bedroom window is open.
Both of those awesome bits take place in the first hour. Smartly, the movie doesn't mess around, getting to the action quickly. However, the premise proves too thin to sustain a 93 minute story. The middle section involves the family dodging a red light, caring for a sick family member, experiencing burning rashes and, weirdly, deciding to continue dinner. The aliens are apparently petty pranksters, psychically manipulating their victims. The mother sees her dead husband, the black boyfriend and oldest brother's wife make out, and the little girl plays an unheard piano concerto. The movie lays down the cards concerning the little girl early. She's either possessed by aliens or being psychically controlled by them. Most annoyingly, the story is occasionally interrupted by talking head interviews. Some of the interviewees are connected to the story, like the Lake County sheriff. Others, like a Hollywood special effects technician or British rock star, have little to do with what's happening. Either way, the segments unnecessarily distract. Despite the style choices and dragging middle, "Alien Abduction" picks up at the end. The final image, the family sitting around the table, the aliens slowly coming to abduct them, is rather creepy.
The movie has a bizarre legacy. It was aired on UPN, presented as true, and heavily edited to conform to docudrama standards. Despite having end credits, many were convinced it was true. "Alien Abduction" is actually a bigger budgeted remake of the same director's first feature and probably based on the HopskinvilleKelley incident. Weirdly, a tape of that rare, original film circulated at UFO conventions, convincing many it was true. Despite the director out right saying it's fiction, some people still believe the original McPherson tape is legit. You can't convert those who truly want to believe. Anyway, "Alien Abduction: Incident at Lake County" won't blow your socks off. The acting is sometimes sketchy and the writing occasionally rough. The premise is still fantastic and the creepy, effective moments justify the whole project.
Review by Bonehead-XL from the Internet Movie Database.