As they increase in popularity, found-footage films become more and more polished. Movies like Devil’s Due and Into the Storm, purportedly shot on consumer-grade cameras by non-filmmakers, have a studio sparkle, photographed and presented in such a manner that contradicts the genre’s mock-doc ambitions. Hangar 10, a sci-fi chiller about evil extraterrestrials, bucks this trend by getting back to the Blair Witch basics of inelegant camerawork, crude image quality, and the sense that those wielding the cameras are indeed the amateurs they’re alleged to be. In fact, Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sánchez’s 1999 trendsetter is Hangar 10’s most obvious forbearer, so much that most of its key sequences and story elements are essentially the same.
The film follows three amateur anthropologists—Gus (Robert Curtis), Sally (Abbie Salt), and Jake (Danny Shayler)—as they search for Saxon gold in the Rendlesham Forest, the site of reported UFO sightings in 1980 at nearby RAF Woodbridge, then occupied by the United States Air Force. The government restricts the area, so they have to sneak in after dark, and an odd encounter with a floating ball of light throws them off their path. Soon, they’re wondering aimlessly through the woods, bickering about their shared past—Gus is dating Sally, but Sally and Jake used to have a thing, so it’s complicated—and experiencing even more strange activity whenever the sun goes down.
Director Daniel Simpson stirs up quite a few scares using only available resources. Eerie, clearly inhuman sounds are heard in the distance, vague figures may or may not be lurking in the dark, and the dense woodland’s sheer vastness is often overpowering. And like The Blair Witch Project, the film’s simplistic imagery and lack of production value affords the narrative an air of plausibility, or, at the very least, the sense that what’s happening on screen exists in a tangible world and not a movie studio. That said, the film does occasionally include some computer-generated imagery, but Simpson ensures the overall image quality, which constantly resembles a YouTube video in mid-buffer, remains suitably low-grade, and it’s this commitment to making things look as cheap as possible that gives Hangar 10 its due cred.
But, beat for beat, Simpson and co-screenwriter Adam Preston’s script is virtually identical to that of The Blair Witch Project, from the way the group drifts in circles, tensions mounting and exacerbated by the unseen horror that haunts them, to the way they’re forced them out of their tent and into the dead of night. And the similarities don’t end there, as one character goes inevitably missing and the ensuing search leads the others right to the aliens’ trap. Some wobbly shooting and an ambiguous ending later, it’s easy to see how Simpson’s desire to return the found-footage genre to its roots resulted in cheap imitation.