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Film / Alien Abduction: Incident in Lake County

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Alien Abduction: Incident in Lake County is a made for Found Footage TV horror movie which aired on UPN in 1998. It is a remake of a lower-budget predecessor known as UFO Abduction (which had been circulated in ufologist circles, sans opening and closing credits, as "the McPherson Tape"), filmed a decade before by the same director. This is sometimes the source of confusion as to which version people have seen.

The story focuses on Tommy, the 16-year-old son of the McPherson family, filming his family's Thanksgiving Day dinner on home video. When Tommy and his brothers set out to investigate a power outage, they come across a UFO and spot aliens using a laser to dissect a cow. After the aliens notice them and open fire, the McPherson family spends a harrowing night fending off an extraterrestrial home invasion.

Like The War of the Worlds before it, Alien Abduction: Incident in Lake County incited controversy, as the found footage style it was presented in caused many people to believe it depicted an actual alien abduction. The premise is similar to that of The Blair Witch Project, which it predated by a year, and the film is quite sinister and surprisingly frightening. Parallels can also be drawn to the famous Hopkinsville Goblin incident.

Alien Abduction: Incident in Lake County contains examples of:

  • Adaptational Attractiveness: Dean Alioto comments on this re: the transition from his original film to the made for TV remake. The former cast local, unknown stage actors for their improv ability, while the latter cast working professionals - who were more conventionally good looking.
  • Agent Scully: One of the Talking Heads - a filmmaker who dismisses the tape as a hoax.
  • The Alcoholic: Mom. She's at the stage where she's hiding vodka bottles from her sons.
  • Alien Abduction: It's in the title. The McPhersons plus Renee and Matthew all get abducted… and the McPhersons maybe were abducted once prior to the events of the film.
  • Aliens Are Bastards: Played with. They instigated the conflict and often appear to be deliberately screwing around with the McPhersons at several points. But one of the brothers rationalises that the Aliens invaded the house to assess a threat as they may have thought Tommy's camera was some sort of weapon - certainly the behaviour of the first 'intruder' seems to hint at this. It's only after Kurt guns down said intruder that things become more threatening and violent.
  • Aliens Steal Cattle: The boys first see the aliens dissecting what is presumably a cow since it can't really be seen and the boys have to explain what's going on.
  • Apocalyptic Log: Used and mildly deconstructed. Its strongly implied - and explicitly stated by some of the characters - that the aliens thought Tommy's camcorder was some type of weapon which leads to them investigating the family and everything that comes after. Its the logging of the apocalyptic log that's triggering the apocalypse.
  • Artistic Licence: At one point in the film, Tommy's battery is running low and a message 'Low Batt' flashes on the screen. Anyone who's ever used a video camera could tell you that such a message wouldn't appear on the recorded video.
  • As You Know: Linda informs Kurt, Tommy, Rosie and grandma - and by extension, the audience - that the McPherson father is dead. Beyond that though, this is averted, and the general lack of exposition is highlighted by the Talking Heads as proof of the footage's authenticity.
  • Based on a Great Big Lie: The film's supposed authenticity is undermined by credits at the end for the actors who played "Alien #1, Alien #2", etc.. This is largely because the film wasn't meant to be advertised as "authentic" and the director openly acknowledged it as a work of fiction from the start; it was the network which pushed the "it really happened" angle.
  • Black Dude Dies First: The mixed race Renee is the first to get hit by the aliens' laser. She's the only character whose death is confirmed. Downplayed, however, as she's far from the first person to disappear, and the first people to do that are two of the white guys.
  • Black Comedy: What little humor appears after the siege begins is firmly of this sort, like Tommy having to sheepishly return to his room to change his pants because he — quite understandably — pissed his pants when attacked by the aliens.
  • Blasting It Out of Their Hands: After Kurt, Brian, and Matthew disappear, the family finds their guns on the ground melted and ruined, suggesting the aliens either shot them out of the men's hands, or destroyed them after killing or disarming them.
  • Blonde, Brunette, Redhead: Linda (blonde), Mel and Renee (brunettes), Mom and Rosie (redheads). If one includes the boys then Kurt is the blond, Brian is the brunette and Tommy is a sandy blond filling in as the redhead.
  • Bring My Brown Pants: Tommy pees his pants during an early encounter with the aliens.
  • …But He Sounds Handsome: A meta example, Played for Laughs. The special effects guy who praises the footage as very realistic and impressive is played by the director.
  • But Not Too Black: Kurt is annoyed at Mel bringing home a black boyfriend. But he doesn't show any ill-will towards his brother's girlfriend—who is black, but much lighter skinned. Could add another layer to his prejudices.
  • Casting Gag: One of the interviewees is a special effects director who says "It's unnerving because if it’s a hoax, I should have been the one that directed it." - he's played by Dean Alioto, director of this and the original 1989 video.
  • Closed Circle: The house quickly becomes this as the aliens' siege begins, with the family car having its battery melted to prevent them from driving away and any attempts to flee on foot ending badly.
  • Cluster Bleep-Bomb: Pretty much anytime something scary happens, various members of the family quite understandably tend to start swearing like sailors.
  • Creepy Child: Kurt's daughter, Rosie, who is disturbingly calm during the ordeal and later actively assists the aliens by doing things like disarming Kurt's gun or implicitly helping unblock the barricade at the end. The film never explains what's up with her.
  • Demonic Possession: One of the commentators suggests that Rosie's bizarre behavior is because the aliens are psychically manipulating her.
  • Developing Doomed Characters: Subverted since it's only about ten minutes before something happens and then we see the characters develop along the incident.
  • Disappeared Dad: The McPherson father has died some time ago. A literal example halfway through the film with Kurt.
  • Dissonant Serenity: Rosie, Kurt's very young daughter, is disturbingly calm and serene throughout the entire night, and that's before she starts apparently assisting the aliens against her family.
  • Driven to Madness: The aliens seem to engage in psychological warfare against the family, doing a lot of freaky things that serve little apparent purpose beyond terrorizing them, presumably to make assailing the house easier and break morale by driving them into panic-induced madness. It takes awhile, but it works, especially all of the men except Tommy are taken.
  • Dwindling Party: There are nine people at the house at the start. They disappear or die off until there are only a few left by the end… and those who're are left quickly join the others.
  • Foregone Conclusion: It's said at the start that the family disappeared and the video was all that was left.
  • Foreshadowing: The aliens' appearances are typically foreshadowed by pixellation in the video, audio distortion or an eerie red glow.
  • Found Footage Films: One of the first and a major Trope Codifier for them. Also a bit of an Unbuilt Trope; this film includes some rather interesting distinctions meant to add into the immersion, such as a documentary Framing Device involving Talking Heads of various experts and people linked to the case examining the footage, a "missing persons" segment at the end, and more in that vein.
  • From Bad to Worse: The behaviour of the creatures seems to suggest at first they are just analysing a threat - one of the brothers thinks that they thought Tommy's camera was maybe a weapon. He could be right - a single creature infiltrates the house, and corners Tommy in his room, putting him in some sort of trance, and it seems to pick up and look at Tommy's camera before it leaves the room. It's more than likely that the family would have been left unmolested - but then Kurt barricades said being in a bedroom, and shotguns it. Then things get really sinister.
  • The Greys: The aliens featured in the film fit the description to the letter — lithe, humanoid, pale skinned with black, soulless, almond-shaped eyes.
  • Horror Doesn't Settle for Simple Tuesday: Aliens attack on Thanksgiving.
  • Immune to Bullets: Shockingly averted for a movie of this type. Kurt guns down one of the aliens with his shotgun and apparently kills it. Later on, the body is gone, but it's highly unclear if this is because the alien was Not Quite Dead or because its compatriots retrieved the corpse.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Kurt initially seems like a bit of a racist dickhead with his reaction to Mel and Matthew's relationship, but as the night goes on and everything goes to hell, any possible prejudices disappear entirely and he places absolute trust in Matthew to help keep the family safe.
  • Jitter Cam: Particularly when the boys are running from the aliens.
  • Killed Off for Real: Renee is the only character whose death is confirmed - as she dies towards the end and has her body covered by Mel. Everyone else is just missing - though Renee's body is unaccounted for as well.
  • Kissing Under the Influence: The aliens screw with Matthew and Linda to make them start kissing, each thinking the other is their spouse.
  • Lady Drunk: The mother. It's a common source of fun for fans to point out that she's never seen without a glass of wine in her hands. The only time she actually puts it down is to sweep up some glass.
  • The Law of Conservation of Detail: Lampshaded by one of the Talking Heads, who notes the footage's tendency to ignore this trope as evidence that it's for real, arguing a scripted film wouldn't typically have such a Random Events Plot.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: One of the commentators is a special effects artist who praises the realistic effects in the footage and effectively declares "if it's a hoax, I'm jealous because I wish I had made it". Said commentator is played by Dean Alioto.
  • The Lost Lenore: The McPherson father for his wife. Late in the film she starts wondering if it's his ghost causing trouble in the house.
  • Manly Tears: Tommy breaks down crying while recording his final message on the camera.
  • Meaningful Name: The family were given MacPherson as a surname because it had 'fear' in it.
  • Men Are the Expendable Gender: The two alpha male figures are abducted early on, quickly followed by Matthew leaving the rest of the family in fear.
  • Narrative Filigree: There's an entire ten to fifteen minutes of the film just being a normal video log of a family's perfectly mundane Thanksgiving dinner before even the first hint of alien activity, and even after everything starts going to hell, the movie progresses in roughly real time with no distinction between "important" and "unimportant" events. This even gets lampshaded by the commentators, who point it out as evidence of the footage's authenticity, arguing that a scripted film wouldn't typically bother including seemingly pointless sequences like Tommy spying on Renee or the aimless conversations around the dinner table.
  • Never Found the Body: Renee is listed as missing at the end along with the rest of the family, despite apparently dying on camera. The body is unaccounted for.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: The most common interpretation is that, as it turns out, shooting one of the aliens only made the situation worse.
  • No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: Matthew bravely goes out to try and assist the disappeared Kurt and Brian, or failing that, do what they intended to do and get the car ready so the family can escape. Tragically, all he succeeds in doing is getting himself taken next, leaving the remainder of the family mostly undefended.
  • No Name Given: The McPherson mother, who is only credited as "Mom" and only addressed by her children and granddaughter. Though at one point Linda does say "Rosaline, let's sit down" so that's probably her name.
  • Noodle Incident: Its very heavily implied towards the end that the McPhersons have been abducted by aliens before, as they discover they all have triangle-shaped implant marks on the backs of their necks, not to mention Rosie's increasingly weird behavior as the night goes on where she seems to start actively following commands from the aliens.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: The aliens are rarely seen, and we're never given a clear look at them, because everytime they're shown, or near, the camera starts pixellating and distorting. The film prefers to have long, tense moments of silence and subtle implications over constant, in-your-face horror.
  • Only Sane Man: Of the family, Matthew composes himself the best in the face of the crisis, which is what leads to Kurt entrusting him with keeping everyone safe while he and Brian try to fix the car.
  • The Ophelia: The mother certainly veers close to it towards the end, not helped by all the wine she's been downing nonstop.
  • Papa Wolf: Kurt towards his family.
  • The Peeping Tom: Tommy appropriately enough spies on Brian and Renee with his camera, and pretends he's erased it from the video.
  • Poor Communication Kills: The whole incident is implied to be kicked off and escalated by both the aliens mistaking Tommy's camera for a weapon and Kurt mistakenly assuming the first alien that entered the house was there to hurt them rather than just scope things out.
  • Power Outage Plot: The plot is kicked off by the McPherson house suffering a sudden outage in the middle of their festivities, which Kurt, Brian, and Tommy go out to investigate, leading to the first encounter with the aliens. The cause of the outage is never revealed, but is implied to have been accidentally caused by the aliens; the men find the fusebox practically melted. The power stays out the entire night.
  • Protect This House: What the family tries to do as much as escape. It doesn't go especially well.
  • Psychic Powers: The aliens possess a variety of them, which they utilize in psychologically tormenting the family throughout the siege on the house.
  • Random Events Plot: Lampshaded by one of the Talking Heads and used to vouch for the tape being real - that's there's no real plot other than "getting the hell out of the house".
  • Ray Gun: The primary weapons of the aliens, though far from their only ones.
  • Recut: The TV version is only 45 minutes long, cutting out a ton of significant content compared to the home video release. "Creepy" music was added, scenes were re-arranged, some scenes at the beginning were trimmed, and there are additional Talking Heads. Thankfully they only show the original version in the UK.
  • Rule of Scary: It's never explained why the aliens cause the appliances in the house to go haywire, other than thoroughly terrifying the protagonists. This may, in fact, be the entire point, as a form of psychological warfare.
  • Sanity Slippage: The longer the night drags on and the worse things get, the more the family's conversations devolve into terrified, confused, and unhinged arguments.
  • Screaming Woman: Linda towards the end suffers Sanity Slippage and starts freaking out.
  • Thanksgiving Day Story: The entire film takes place on a Thanksgiving dinner.
  • The Three Faces of Eve: Linda - prone to freaking out and Sanity Slippage - is the Child. Mel - who assumes charge after Matthew leaves - is the Wife. Renee - who shows her breasts on camera - is the Seductress.
  • Time Stands Still: One of the aliens seems to freeze Tommy in place while he looks at the camera.
  • A Tragedy of Impulsiveness: Kurt's impulsive decision to trap and gun down the first alien to enter the house is implied to be what turns the incident from a simple misunderstanding into a night of deliberate violence.
  • Troubling Unchildlike Behaviour: Rosie at one point rather easily takes the shells out of her father's shotgun. In general, she's disturbingly and bizarrely calm throughout the whole ordeal, and towards the end, is apparently directly assisting the aliens.
  • The Unreveal: Given the nature of the film, a lot is purposefully left unanswered by the end about the nature of the aliens, what happened to the family, and the implications that they were abducted before.
  • Where da White Women At?: Black Matthew is dating white Mel. Which her brother Kurt is not very happy about.
  • Very Loosely Based on a True Story: While the film is entirely fictional and meant as such, it does take a lot of influence and inspiration from real ufology and supposed alien encounters, most notably the famed Hopkinsville Goblin Case, in which a family claimed to have their farmhouse laid siege to by aggressive aliens.
  • Youngest Child Wins: Tommy the youngest sibling is the protagonist and lasts longer than his brothers.