[Screen It]


(2020) (Ryan Masson, Highdee Kuan) (Not Rated)

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Sci-Fi: A computer engineer must contend with the fallout once he reveals that he was abducted by extraterrestrials.

Isaac Cypress (RYAN MASSON) works as a computer engineer for NASA's JPL division. One day while out hiking in the wilderness just outside of Los Angeles, he spots an alien spacecraft and then an extraterrestrial behind before losing consciousness. Three days later he wakes up in a different location but realizes he got footage of the alien as well as being lifted into the air.

When he posts that online, it gets him attention, but most of that quickly turns negative. He then seeks out both more information on such abductions as well as those who've likewise been taken and ends up meeting Sara (HIGHDEE KUAN). She mentions to him a man named Carl Miesner (DON SCRIBNER) who was similarly abducted back in the late 1970s, briefly returned, but hasn't been seen since.

Isaac's public sharing of his encounter eventually draws the interest of agents from an international government agency led by Agent Graves (SHAW JONES). They end up abducting Isaac and Sara who manage to escape the facility, only to learn they're now in Costa Rica. Seeking out the help of the only local guy with an Internet connection, hacker Zed (CHRISTIAN PRENTICE), Isaac hopes to use him to find Carl who might have an answer about what's really happening.

OUR TAKE: 3 out of 10

One of the first things I did back in college in the mid-1980s when I was named head of the tiny student TV production facility was to make some spoof-style TV commercials. While it was my first attempt at doing so -- in a day and age when home video cameras were a new novelty -- I figured it couldn't be that hard.

After all, I had seen my share of them, was fully versed (albeit not practiced) in the concepts of TV and film production, and needed just thirty completed seconds of material. Piece of cake, right? Boy, did I learn that making something even that short is much, much harder than it looks.

And from that, I surmised that making anything longer -- especially a feature-length film with multiple locations, more than one cast member and so on -- was likely exponentially more difficult than my little experiment. All of which means I understand and try to cut some slack for those making their feature film debuts.

That said, as a critic who should view everything from a common perspective for all that passes before my eyes, I must still be brutally honest. And in that regard and in that vein, the sci-fi flick "Proximity" feels just like my botched TV commercial spoof attempt -- not ready for prime time.

The film is visual effects artist Eric Demeusy's first foray as the writer and director of a feature-length flick and, well, it shows. While set in the present day -- after a brief opening prologue that takes place in 1979 -- the offering contains physical objects (video cameras, both of the handheld and surveillance variety) and filmmaking styles (that scream the 1970s or early '80s or thereabouts) that creates an odd and often jarring visual and tonal dichotomy.

The story revolves around a Jet Propulsions Lab computer engineer by the name of Isaac (Ryan Masson) who is told by some sort of therapist that part of his therapy (for an unknown issue) should be making a video diary. So, instead of grabbing a modern-day smartphone, he somehow gets his hands on an ancient (and large) JVC camera and lugs that out into the wilds of Los Angeles (meaning up in the hills).

While doing that, he not only sees an old-fashioned spinning spaceship crash and get stuck in the hillside, but also your standard-issue anthropomorphic style extraterrestrial standing behind him. He manages to get that on tape before losing consciousness and waking up three days later in a different spot.

Like anyone nowadays would do, he posts that footage online and gains attention and notoriety from a TV reporter and various anonymous online trolls. Not happy with those results -- and oddly not using any of his JPL connections or hardware -- he seeks out others who've had similar abduction experiences and meets Sara (Highdee Kuan).

It's not before long that both are abducted by Agent Graves (Shaw Jones trying to do his best Agent "You Saw Me in the 'Matrix'" Smith) who we know is a serious government agent by the fact that he often walks with purpose in the formation of a three-person triangle. But then the film really goes sideways with the introduction of bad sci-fi style androids with heavily synthesized voices in bad sci-fi style "high tech" rooms, from which our hero and his new friend must escape.

That leads to help from a computer hacker stranger (Christian Prentice) who manages to get them a flight on a tiny plane that somehow flies from Costa Rica to British Columbia to find a man (Don Scribner) who was there in the prologue scene and might have answers to everything that's occurring. And to no one's surprise, the bad agents are closing in. But you probably won't care, mainly because Demeusy and Masson don't give us any reason to root for, worry about, or have a passing interest in the protagonist, even with unexplained telekinetic and dimension-shifting powers that seem out of place here.

Alas, this won't remind you of "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" -- that is, beyond just how good Spielberg's film was and continues to be and how this one isn't even in the same filmmaking universe. I'm guessing all of the hokey elements are intended as some sort of homage to cheesy sci-fi flicks from decades ago. Whatever the case, they're bad -- as in truly nails down the chalkboard grating -- and pose the question of why the entire thing simply wasn't set back in that era, thus making some of the material and writing/direction decisions slightly more understandable and tolerable.

Yes, it's hard making a full-length movie, especially the first time around, and I give the filmmaker credit for the attempt. But this is a forgettable offering that's simply not worth your time or effort. "Proximity" rates as a 3 out of 10.

Reviewed May 11, 2020 / Posted May 15, 2020

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