They’re among us. In fact, aliens have been abducting humans for decades, without us noticing much of anything. Except for one brave group of government agents who know that the truth is out there. But defeating the aliens is complicated and requires some pretty out-of-the-box thinking. I’m not talking about a core storyline from The X Files, however, but the new indie sci-fi horror film Project Ithaca. Told mostly as a locked room mystery, six strangers wake up in a weird, alien space, held tightly to their chairs by what appear to be tentacles. The more upset they get about their predicament, the more pulses of light shoot out of their seats and race up to the central core of the room.
It’s aliens. And they’re feeding on our fear.
The strangers in the ship don’t know each other and the more they talk, the more they gradually realize that there’s all sorts of weirdness surrounding their abductions and how long each of them has been in the ship. Except while most of them are just victims, there are two who are associated with the government project to defeat the aliens, Sera (Deragh Campbell) and John Brighton (James Gallanders).They might just have a plan and it might save the lives of everyone. Except the aliens keep upping the aggression to spark more fear and power their vessel, generally with catastrophic results.
The special effects are interesting and suitably creepy, with sufficient moments of blood-spattering gore to maintain the anxiety level for both the humans in peril and the viewer. The aliens also aren’t much for well-illuminated spaces (are any?) so much of the film takes place in a gloomy H.R. Giger-esque, Alien-inspired space. You’ll want to turn the lights down to enjoy this one, or see it in the theater for maximum impact.
The young woman with a mysterious back story, Sera is by far the most interesting character, though actor Deragh Campbell does very little to bring her to life, which is too bad. Instead, it falls on James Gallanders as John Brighton to fill the lead role. Which is needed, because the rest of the characters trapped on the ship are kind of a bunch of losers, in various cliché ways. Let’s just say that without Brighton, the rest of ’em would just come and go as veritable red shirts in the narrative.
Rhonda Woods (Konima Parkinson-Jones), one of the other humans trapped on the ship, keeps hallucinating an older wise woman known as the prison doctor (Ayesha Mansur Gonsalves), who seems to be channeling the thoughts of the malevolent aliens. Gonsalves is also so busy channeling Oracle (Gloria Foster) from The Matrix that I had to compare cast names of the two movies to confirm it wasn’t the same actor.
But let’s be candid. Project Ithaca is low budget sci-fi/horror, so while the production values are solid, the performances are all over the place, the story is somewhat incomprehensible and definitely lags at certain scenes, the most interesting character is left in a secondary role and the jump to the last scene is completely inexplicable. If you like to see up-and-coming actors and more experimental science fiction, you might well enjoy Project Ithaca. If your tastes run to big-budget tentpole movies from the major studios, however, skip this one as it’s going to leave you disappointed.