I have often pondered what it would take to unify our planet. Growing up on films and television series like the antiquated V and the fairly-dated Independence Day, I really think a malevolent extraterrestrial beast is what we need for us all to get along. That beast is exactly what writer-director Bruce Wemple’s First Contact provides. Ambitious in its scope, the narrative discusses the origins of our world and the end of civilization as we know it. This is pretty heady stuff for a low-budget indie film. Can the filmmaker pull it off?
The film starts with a series of viral videos and media coverage of UFOs. Immediately, the audience is immersed in a crisis that appears to be frightening the entire planet. The immediacy of news and social media chatter is vital to adding to the chaos and one of the most recognizable forms of modern hysteria to appear in film. After the opening credits, siblings Dan (James Liddell) and Casey (Anna Shields) try to retrace the steps of their father, scientist Dr. Ian Braddach (Paul Kandarian), who viewers met in the prologue. The man strangely and abruptly went missing in upstate New York.
“…siblings Dan and Casey try to retrace the steps of their father…”
Before long, a dark force appears, though the alien is only ever seen in quick flashes. I commend First Contact for this bit of ingenuity. Not making the creature visible creates atmosphere and inspires dread within the confines of the budget. However, we do get to see one transformation: a character turns into an evil entity, somewhat similar to a werewolf, and the effects work fairly well.
While not great, the acting is serviceable enough to carry the action. The writing is also a little unbalanced. The familial issues subplot is somewhat lethargically paced, and dramatic irony impedes Dan and Casey’s arc. However, the film provides several thrilling moments once first contact is made. The director’s larger-than-life ambitions prove great at disorientating the viewer with visceral visions of the havoc that the unnamed creature is wreaking on the world.
I like sci-fi and what Wemple is doing by revisiting old tropes and carrying on a tradition while treading his own path. First Contact is a great foray into the genre and often resonates as a form of nostalgia stemming from the fun B-movies of the 1950s. No James Camerons or Roland Roland Emmerichs needed here. The director does just fine with the tools that he has to work with. It is not exactly a classic, but it is pretty damned entertaining. Overall, this is a step above many other efforts in the genre.
"…pretty heady stuff for a low-budget indie film."