Review: Ejecta

The character study nestled inside all the bombast remains crafty for its commingling of artful storytelling and genre nonsensicality.

Photo: IFC Midnight

In Chad Archibald and Matt Wiele’s sci-fi horror actioner Ejecta, a man’s PTSD can be traced back to a 40-year-old violent encounter with the third kind. Equally inspired by Department of Defense-style torture tactics, Giorgio Tsoukalos’s television docu-series In Search of Aliens, and the Call of Duty video-game series, this genre mash-up utilizes a bifurcated story structure to show two distinct emotional sides to the mentally raddled William Cassidy (Julian Richings), forming a sort of dual narrative that mines legitimate empathy and believability from otherworldly and decidedly asinine circumstances.

One side of the story finds William displaying the spastic emotional behavior of a soldier fresh from combat, though some of that might have to do with his character being captured by a shadowy special-ops organization intent on learning his every secret. Held captive and interrogated by the nefarious Dr. Tobin (Lisa Houle), William sees his home searched by armed troops. The other side shows us an addlebrained yet relatively lucid loner, the subject of a documentary directed by alien chaser Joe Sullivan (Adam Seybold). After receiving a strange email, Joe visits William’s secluded home on the night of a solar flare, the event that accompanied the man’s alleged abduction, and a series of strange and horrific occurrences lead the aforementioned special ops to their door.

The nonlinear plotline proves tonally and stylistically cohesive thanks to some shrewd editing, gracefully shifting between the visceral emotion of the interrogation scenes and relatively congenial feel of the documentary scenes. Through their cutting, directors Chad Archibald and Matt Wiele ably illustrate the opposite ends of William’s mental state, and eventually the dual storylines slyly lock into a single tract that unifies the double narrative. Richings’s overly intense performance threatens to derail the whole thing, but he never outsizes the incredibly outsized material, which might be too much for those unfamiliar with or averse to screenwriter Tony Burgess’s unrepentantly pulpy sensibilities to handle. The Pontypool scribe certainly has farcical inclinations, but he also has a knack for intelligent character development, and watching these contradictory notions collide is yet another example of the film’s sturdy handling of incongruity. Ejecta’s outlandish melodrama and increasingly ludicrous plot twists often bring to mind a hokey SyFy Channel original, but the cogent character study nestled inside all the bombast remains crafty for its rare commingling of artful storytelling and genre nonsensicality.

 Cast: Julian Richings, Lisa Houle, Adam Seybold, Mark Gibson, Justin Darmanin, Ry Barrett, Ari Millen  Director: Chad Archibald, Matt Wiele  Screenwriter: Tony Burgess  Distributor: IFC Midnight  Running Time: 87 min  Rating: NR  Year: 2014  Buy: Video

Drew Hunt

Drew Hunt used to be an editorial assistant at the Chicago Reader. Now he's a strategy manager at Capitol Records.

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