In 1999 a couple of blokes by the name of Daniel Myrick, and Eduardo Sanchez grabbed three untrained actors, a video camera, a permanently out of focus 16mm movie camera and created the ultra-low budget horror film The Blair Witch Project.
You may have heard of it. It did reasonably well at the time.
Of course the problem for film-makers who create such ridiculously successful films with their first swing of the bat is that there’s really only one way to go from there, and that’s down. So, what have Daniel and Eduardo been up to since Blair Witch? Well, Daniel established the production company Raw Feed whose debut production was the direct-to-video stinker Rest Stop. Eduardo Sanchez fares a little better as the director and co-writer of his first film since Blair Witch, Altered.
Altered starts with three rednecks poking around the woods at night looking for some sort of, possibly extra-terrestrial, creature. Much to their surprise they actually capture their prey and subsequently seem quite uncertain about what to do with it. After wrapping, taping, and chaining the clearly dangerous creature they decide to take it to Wyatt (Adam Kaufman), a young man who clearly has a history with it, or its of its kind.
The thing I really like about Altered was the fact that I was never really sure where it was headed or what was going to happen next. It’s comparatively unpredictable in a genre renowned for being formulaic. Sanchez resists giving us too much exposition up front which keeps you guessing about the nature of the beast and its history with the protagonists.
The pacing is a bit uneven, and it does tend to spend too much time lingering on the repetitive squabbles the protagonists have with one another about what to do with the creature. But once it gets past these flat spots Altered is a very solid genre pic.
I suspect Sanchez had little time, money, or both to shoot the film because it pretty much takes place all at one location, with a number of contrivances clearly designed to confine the action to one spot. Having said that, this actually tends to work in the film’s favour, giving it a tense claustrophobic feel.
Altered is not high art but at a time when so many modern horror movies are sub-standard regurgitations of other horror movies, it stands out as a refreshingly original example of the genre.