Matthew and his girlfriend Rachel take a romantic camping trip to an area of desolate woods. As the night gets darker, it takes a strange turn as Rachel completely disappears. With no explainable answer only than alien abduction and barely any clues, Matthew desperately searches on for her, whilst being followed by an accusing Sheriff. Years pass and Matthew is now resident in a mental institution where they constantly press him for rational memories, but all he remembers are extraterrestrial happenings.
This psychological sci-fi horror drags us along with Matthew’s journey as he battles his own mind between reality and fiction, not knowing whether his girlfriend Rachel was genuinely abducted by another species or if the doctor’s version about her having a terminal illness is the heartbreaking truth. It’s clear that Matthew is having some disturbingly lucid flashbacks from ongoing traumatic events, but with him being committed to Briarview Mental Institution the distinction between what actually happened and what he thinks happened becomes quite disorientated and a little hard to follow.
Watching Matthew’s broken and beaten demeanor tirelessly hunt for Rachel pulled me into the belief that not only was he ravaged by her abrupt departure but his ramblings about bizarre events only explained by dominant aliens were accurate. Michael Finn’s performance of Matthew is most likely one of the reasons that makes this film able to keep a grip on the audience, as the plot certainly lags at various points. Finn displays an appropriate amount of the emotions exhibited whilst going through grief, although it isn’t quite grief as there’s a niggling chance Rachel could still be alive. However, once we’re past the first half where he details the pursuit, everything becomes fairly perplexing – even to Matthew himself.
As we proceed past the frantic search, we learn that much to Mathew’s delight and horror, his soul mate has returned to him, but it isn’t quite the fairytale ending everyone was hoping for. As the flashbacks intensify it becomes increasingly difficult to follow the plot as the audience is never really given any clue to whether or not we’re viewing events that occurred or just skewed memories that are laced with PTSD hallucinations. Eventually the plot does slowly unravel into what was quite a predictable yet grossly satisfying comeuppance that doesn’t fully dispel Matthew being seriously fucked up but confirms the existence of body mutating beings.
Dependent on how you prefer your storytelling narrative structure, you’re either going to think the flashbacks are ingenious or just damn confusing to try to piece together. It definitely helps in adding that viewing atmosphere of feeling like you’re going mad alongside Matthew, but sometimes it’s too much and all you want it just a scene that makes sense. For me, it functioned well in certain places but as the onslaught of them becomes more and more erratic, the whole thing is a struggle to follow, leaving me a little lost with it all. I’ve seen worse and I’ve seen better, but there’s no way it could be classified as anything other than a cult film. Alien Strain contains consistently clever and thrilling segments, but the presentation of this flounders leaving a trail of disappointment. You’ll either loathe or adore this film, but it’s definitely worth finding out.
Words: Zoë Rose Smith (@ZoeRoseSmitz)