Monday, May 11, 2020

Proximity: Alien Abduction, but Different

Presumably, it would be expensive for extraterrestrial civilizations to attempt first contact or more ominously engage in abductions or even an invasion. Therefore, they need a darned good reason. Just messing with the listeners of Coast to Coast A.M. isn’t sufficient. It turns out there is a reason the Gray People have been popping-in on Earth and it makes for a heck of a third act revelation in director-screenwriter Eric Demeusy’s Proximity, which releases this Friday on VOD.

Isaac Cypress has a cool job with very little responsibility at NASA’s JPL facility, but he never really seriously considers the possibility of intelligent alien life, until he encounters it first-hand, losing three days in the process. As luck would have it, he happened to be filming a video diary during his abduction-encounter, so he has proof—sort of. Rather rashly, he posts his footage online, where it quickly goes viral. Much to his frustration, most of the subsequent media attention focuses on attempts to debunk him. However, it also allows him to connect with Sara, an attractive fellow abductee, who should be well out of his league. Of course, it also brings him to the attention of the UN’s evil Men-in-Black agency.

After escaping from the clutches of the UN’s MIB and their Tron-like motorcycle-driving androids, Cypress and Sara seek the help of Carl Miesner, a reclusive former abductee who has been monitoring alien transmissions and may have made contact. To get from Costa Rica (the site of the UN’s secret facility) to Miesner’s secret transmitter in British Columbia, they enlist the help of Zed, an off-the-grid hippy hacker.

In some ways, Proximity is obviously derivative of MIB, The X-Files, and maybe even WarGames a little. Plus, the score often sounds transparently “borrowed” from John Williams’ “Imperial Marches” from the Star Wars franchise. Yet, Demeusy has some huge surprises teed-up for viewers that you absolutely will not see coming. In fact, it is totally shocking where it goes, because it does not telegraph that inclination. It is actually really cool, but more narrow-minded audiences are likely to have a problem with it. It is also quite refreshing to see the villainous Men-in-Black are not Feds, but work for the United Nations (it also makes more sense, considering the lawlessness of UN “peace-keepers”).

Ryan Masson is appropriately twitchy and awkward as Cypress. Rather problematically, the character of Sara is largely superfluous to the overall narrative arc, but Highdee Kuan still develops some likable chemistry with Masson. Shaw Jones makes a rather bland villain as Agent Graves, their lead pursuer/tormentor. Fortunately, Don Scribner and Christian Prentice add a lot of color and energy as Miesner and Zed, respectively.

Proximity is a bit of an up-and-down film. The first third pretty realistically depicts what could result in our hyper-online world after posting an alien abduction video. The mid-section is mostly conventional MIB stuff, but during the final third, Demeusy claims territory all his own. Frankly, Proximity would probably be most enjoyed by audiences in Middle America and Sunbelt states who will be most suspicious of it—and least appreciated by regular sf conspiracy mongers, which is because it manages to find a take on familiar alien abduction/contact themes that is fresh and different. Recommended for science fiction fans with open minds, Proximity releases this Friday (5/15) on VOD platforms, including iTunes.