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Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Review: Xenophobia

Director: Joe Castro, Thomas J. Churchill, and Steven J. Escobar
Screenplay: Joe Castro, Thomas J. Churchill, and Steven J. Escobar
Year: 2019

Synopsis: Six strangers meet in a support group for alien encounter victims. In this group, they share their frightening experiences in these encounters.

In independent horror cinema, there are plenty of movies that are made with a limited budget and this is not a limitation to achieve a well-done product on an aesthetical level and that tells an entertaining story. Others don’t have the same luck and the people involved in it try to do more than what they should and end up with an ineffective product. “Xenophobia” fall in the second group.

Xenophobia, a word that comes from the Greek and that mean fear of foreigners and that manifests as a rejection of foreigners, prejudice, and even on less subtle and more violent ways. Curious and intelligent use of the word for an alien’s science fiction movie that puts in perspective what can be expected from it. In “Xenophobia” a group of strangers gathers as part of a support group for alien encounters victims. The participants share their stories of contact with alien life forms and we see the terrific encounter each one lived.

Knowing that this movie was developed with a tight budget and after seeing some images, I was not sure if this would be a movie that will take itself seriously or that it will try to be campy. Since the first minutes of the movie, it is clear that this movie takes itself very seriously. The problem is that with the eagerness of wanting to do more than what the budget allows, it involuntarily crosses that line towards the absurd that makes it impossible to take it seriously and get into the plot.

This movie was written and directed by three directors, Joe Castro (“The Summer of Massacre”), Thomas J. Churchill (“Lazarus: Apocalypse”), and Steven J. Escobar (“Terror Toons 3”), and this shows in the final product. It seems like each created their parts separately and then put them together, cutting any link between them. Each story has a particular style and tone, which puts it more in the horror anthologies area rather than being a coherent film. When the final twist is presented, that is supposed to tie all stories together, not even the most faithful of horror fans would have been engaged with the plot and even less take it seriously for it to be effective.

If you do manage to get into the plot, there are a few other problems to take you out of it. The first one comes in the acting, which is clearly from inexperienced actors that end up overacting almost every scene. On the other hand, there are the special effects, that the digital as well as the practical look bad. A combination of aliens that they didn’t know how to make them not look like rubbery puppets and old-fashioned digital effects along with some weak acting is more than enough to destroy any good idea that was trying to be developed.

The idea behind “Xenophobia” is an interesting one, but the ambition to try and do too much with a low budget greatly limits what ends up being this movie. Every story has the potential to be intriguing, but they were not well crafted or brought to the screen. Maybe my best recommendation for those interested in seeing it is to not take it to seriously from the get-go and this may improve your experience. 

Xenophobia will be released on August 6, 2019, on video-on-demand and DVD.

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