Monday, October 24, 2011

The Wicksboro Incident (2003)

Chances are good you've never heard of The Wicksboro Incident. I hadn't heard of it until The Found Footage Afficionado gave me the heads up. It is a mockumentary in the classic found footage style, centered on an interview of an old man who was involved in government research that he believes was tied to the truth about extraterrestrials living disguised among us, and the following investigation of a small Texas town that was wiped off the map, leaving only one survivor. If you dig found footage movies, and/or have an interest in the government conspiracy/alien phenomenon theme, then I recommend this movie. It's simple and effective, and doesn't try too hard to go over the top like big budget Hollywood movies do.

Now let's discuss a few spoilers.

Apart from the style and basic theme, I didn't know exactly what to expect from this film as I sat down to watch it (and I think that uncertainty is part of what makes these found footage films so exciting - you don't know what's going to happen, and it may not be what you expect from watching thousands of Hollywood plots). So going into it, I was already ready to suspend my disbelief, thinking this would be a movie about aliens. But the more old Lloyd talked, the more my belief waned, and when it got to the point where he was waving his "alien detector" around, I thought, "this guy is clearly a nut". But then it became apparent that the documentary makers felt the same way. So it's like, oh, alright, we're not really supposed to believe him. But then where does it go from there?

Of course, it turns out Lloyd was right. And the whole experience from the moment they find the fallout shelter and begin to be hunted by government agents is wildly exciting. Yet I wonder, if in the end they wanted us to believe Lloyd, then why did they make him sound so ridiculously crazy from the start? Do they want us to believe all his crazy ideas are true? Or do they want us to lend more credibility to the crazies out there, so as not to be so quick to dismiss all their crazy theories just because some of them are easily disproved? I feel like it must have something to do with the whole theme, that Lloyd discusses, of inundating the public with crackpot theories in order to reduce the credibility of those few wild theories that are true. But, ultimately, seeing as we're supposed to believe Lloyd in the end, the film would have been a bit more believable if his ideas were - while still crazy - less ridiculous, from the start.

Nevertheless, the fact remains that not a single alien appears in this movie (unless you count the ones identified by Lloyd's alien detector, who are allegedly only disguised as humans). And yet, it's still a good alien movie, and also pretty scary towards the end. That chase through the abandoned building at the end was very harrowing. When the cameraman was running through the dark, I was half-expecting something very scary to come up out of the darkness. I was actually afraid that it would happen, because I knew how much that would freak me out. But I was spared. And when he used his lighter to light the way, everything about that made it feel like I was playing a video game in first person perspective. I thought that was pretty cool. It was much more effective than in the film version of Doom, even without trying to be.

But as I said, in the end there wasn't a single alien. Yet, the underground laboratory was there, and the government was keen on protecting something - so keen as to be willing to kill for it. I think a plausible alternative hypothesis is that Lloyd was in fact working on something very secret to the government. Not necessarily extraterrestrial-related - maybe a weapon or something. His beliefs may even have been influenced subtly by the government to discredit him in case he ever decided to leak information about the project, so that noone would believe him. The documentary makers made the mistake of humoring him for their project, and got too close to the truth, even if that truth wasn't extraterrestrial in nature.


  1. This was one of the first beneath-the-radar ff films I sat down to watch. So now that I've seen a bunch, I'd expect maybe to not be so impressed by Wicksboro anymore. On the contrary, however, I'm more impressed than ever. It seems to accomplish things that most sub-budget ff films fall flat on their face in.

    I still wish an alien or something would have popped up at the end, in those scenes you were describing. There's this one clip, I think it's an extra scene on the DVD, where he's in the building and he passes over this thing on the table. And I don't know what the FUCK it is but it looks like the most grotesque thing, some mutant slab. And he just BARELY passes over it in the camera. And then he goes around the whole room, slowly inching his way back to the grotesque thing. And then the very moment when he's about to get back to the thing, and my heart is pounding "holy shit, we're gonna see it!" That's when the scene cuts. And you don't get to see it. It's such an awesome scene, toying with your emotions. That's Wicksboro to me.

    In the commentary they discuss making Lloyd sound crazy intentionally. To me that's part of the magic of found footage. Him being less believable makes it MORE real to me, because like you said it leaves it up in the air as to what the truth really is, and as a skeptic I'm programmed to analyze like that. Cut and dry isn't very realistic IMHO.... real life always has multiple perspectives on an issue.

  2. I watched the "original ending", and I really liked the scene where the camera-guy squeezed into that one room with the locked door that was a dead end, and then he started doubling back, after hearing a noise that I thought meant something was following him. So he got to the corner, and I was half-expecting something to be right around that corner, and then the lights cut out and its completely black, and that just scared the shit out of me.

    The funny thing is, I think the scene you and I are describing might actually be the same scene. Amazing how your mind works to fill in the details in these scenes. Yeah, this was definitely a very effective found footage style film.