Andy Fowler’s UFO thriller, Aliens: Zone of Silence centers on a young woman’s search through the Mexican desert to find out what happened to her missing brother, Hal (Peter Gesswein) and his friend, Alex (Jed Maheu). The two men were filming their Alien Hunters YouTube show when they disappeared in La Zona del Silencio; a remote area where the U.S. military conducted missile experiments in 1970. After one of the missiles crashed in the desert, strange occurrences like plant mutations, blocked radio transmissions and extraterrestrial activity have been reported. Similar to the Bermuda Triangle, most of the events are unexplained. Throughout her trek, Morgan has a video communications tether to Goose (Vince Tula), who monitors her actions from his home for a documentary.
The plot is smart and adept at addressing obvious questions viewers may have like ‘Why the hell is Morgan out there alone?’ The lack of a serious police investigation is also presented sensibly.
The actors’ portrayals are believable with Gesswein and Maheu coming across as amateur alien hunters performing an over-the top shtick for the camera. Sarah Hester delivers a very strong, emotional performance as a caring sibling on a desperate mission to find her brother.
The film avoids two major pitfalls in found-footage movies. First, it provides an explanation for the rolling camera. Characters have the presence of mind to turn it off on occasion and they are typically addressing the camera when it is on. Stationary cameras are also used in a number of scenes that minimize the all-too-common shaky angles that have been known to make viewers physically sick. This technique blends well with the hand held footage.
Director Andy Fowler’s visual effects background is evident. The expansive, open setting of the dessert scenery is beautiful and there are some impressive effects that will not be spoiled, here.
Aliens: Zone of Silence is not for everyone. The pacing is realistic but very slow. Some of the intensity late in the film is ruined by constant signal interruptions in the video feed. This is not surprising based on the history of La Zona del Silencio, so it should build mystery and suspense but instead results in a frustrating viewing experience.
Fowler’s directorial debut has some good moments but it takes a while to get there. It is a slow-burn, intelligent story that will satisfy most fans of the alien/UFO genre but may disappoint those looking for more of a thrill ride.