When a situation calls for a good old-fashioned finger-pointing, you can never go wrong with pointing that finger at aliens...
...We know simultaneously so much and so little about our extraterrestrial friends/foes; it’s easy to mold them into whatever kind of scapegoat we want. Someone disappears? Abduction. Someone is murdered? Human experimentation. Farmer leaves the sheep gate open and most-certainly-not-a-wolf sneaks in overnight? Sheep experimentation. Some may even go beyond one isolated incident and blame aliens for a multitude of things over a stretch of time. If you take this last point, set it in Chile, add in some poor attempts at found footage and more than a pinch of X-Files, at the end of it all you have Embryo.
Embryo, written and directed by Patricio Valladares with writer Barry Keating, starts with a mockumentary-type disclaimer; it’s going to cover three “mysterious” cases in Chile where people have vanished, and “this” is one of them. As it turns out, it’s actually all three, but more on that later. We’re introduced in non-found footage editing to Kevin (Domingo Guzmán) and Evelyn (Romina Perazzo), who are going on a camping trip to do some hiking in a locale very reminiscent of the earlier mockumentary intro. Once they get to their campsite, Evelyn dances awkwardly by herself and Kevin gets right the hell into it and proposes. Spoiler alert: she says yes. Awesome! …until Evelyn wakes up to a mysterious something-or-other that makes her leave the tent. After Kevin wakes to notice she’s gone, he runs screaming her name—like, a lot—through the woods, and finds her sans clothing and covered in a ton of weird, goopy stuff.
This is where we’re introduced, in less than elegant fashion, to the other two cases. Flickering camera, TV snow, and feedback lead us into a true found footage video from 12 years ago. Its time and location are spelled out in real time in the style of the X-Files. The video shows a group of guys shooting something involving a couple doing some super awkward gymnastic-type shit in the middle of a forest at night. Carrying on with this multi-narrative theme, and with “some weird shit” being a regular transition between scenes, we see Kevin and Evelyn in a rapidly deteriorating situation, complete with some mediocre special effects and face/throat/abdomen consumption. Additionally, the Spanish-to-English translation is rough in many places, for example the phrase, “Name sound like crackhead person. You’re dumbass creative.”
If some of this sounds a little shallow on plot development; it is. There’s so much going on, but none of it is particularly gripping, or builds any kind of tension. The story seems messy only 30 minutes in. I’m not sure if the film editors were using B-roll footage of some type, but there are a few exterior nature shots of this quite beautiful area in Chile that are suspiciously higher quality than the rest of the movie. It’s a noticeable disparity in film quality, and makes you wonder where that eye for scenery came from. When the plot and camerawork work together, it can feel like we might start to maybe go somewhere, but the path is never followed all the way.
Embryo is a confused juxtaposition of half-baked ideas that felt so thrown together into one movie that all of them struggled to effectively go anywhere. While this blending of plotlines didn’t quite work in its favor, I’d be curious to see the end result if the film had focused on just one of the storylines instead of trying to form an overly ambitious over-arching narrative out of all three.
Embryo comes to VOD from Uncork’d Entertainment April 6th.
By Zach Gorecki
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