A sci-fi horror film called Embryo announces its intentions through the sheer fact of its existence. As soon as you hear the title, you know you can expect some sort of generic alien-monster-child hybrid that was probably conceived as an allegory for something that will never become quite clear. And in fact, the 2020 film Embryo from Patricio Valladares delivers on all these points rather well. Taking place on and about Snowdevil Mountain in Chile, an area that boasts an unusually high volume of UFO sightings, the film chronicles the abduction of three different women at the hands of an alien race hell-bent on creating an alien-human cross-breed that will become the new master race. The result is a tale of sex, suspense, and gore that somehow manages to keep the audience from becoming truly invested in any of those elements.
Set in pre-pandemic 2020, the primary story revolves around Evelyn (Romina Perazzo) and her boyfriend Kevin (Domingo Guzmán), a man so irresistibly charming that he can get a woman to say yes when proposing to her in a tent in the middle of the night on top of Alien Abduction Mountain. When a strange sound wakes her in the middle of the night, Evelyn ventures out into the woods with nothing but a flashlight and her underwear to help her investigate. Before she gets too far, she is brutally attacked and raped by an unseen alien being. When Kevin discovers her the next morning, he finds her laying in a pool of mysterious green goo that you really hope isn’t what you think, but almost certainly is. Kevin then takes her to the hospital, where a doctor gives her a thorough examining with his own flashlight before she starts chomping on his neck like a vampire zombie. He then takes her to a gas station, where she rinses and repeats with a yokel in the bathroom. And finally takes her hitchhiking, where she makes out with and then disembowels a passing good Samaritan. Which, to be fair, does explain why Evelyn was so quick to say yes to Kevin’s marriage proposal. After all, when a man is willing to let you eat three different people before even thinking about calling the police…that’s love right there.
The other two stories are similar: in one, a small film crew sets out to shoot something that could just as easily be an art film as porn. After they’ve got the scene where the heroine walks through woods topless with a rather large torch, her co-star goes crazy and murders everyone before creepily watching the actress writhing bloodily in her underwear for a while. In another vignette, a woman finds herself pregnant after being attacked on her own night walk in the woods. Years later, she is visited again when the extra-terrestrial father returns to claim the child. After the opening scenes, it all becomes a bit formulaic, and while there is enough difference between the individual abductions to keep them from completely bleeding together, they still suffer from the way they are told. While the story of Evelyn and Kevin is set in modern times, the other two are presented through a series of found footage clips that bear less resemblance to The Blair Witch project than they do a YouTube search for the lowest rated home movies. The buildups are poorly filmed, overly long, and incredibly tedious, flaws that sometimes carry over into the alien encounters themselves.
Verdict: 2 out of 5 Stars
Between ultra-low budget visual effects and haphazard storytelling, Embryo never delivers on the promise of anthology storytelling, instead bringing its stories together in a mish mashed shaggy dog story that never seems to quite pay off, or even really be worth starting. Though the film is not completely without its charms – the acting is always at least passable and the brief glimpses of flailing alien tentacles create a suitable atmosphere of suspense that is reminiscent of the less eye-rolling moments of M. Night Shayamalan’s Signs – there isn’t anywhere near enough of interest here to hold your attention for the entirety of the runtime, despite the fact that it is barely over an hour. The better ideas might be worth revisiting if the film ever ends up being rebooted as a mindless Hollywood popcorn stuffer. In the meantime, this is a film that is best left alone on a deserted mountaintop for other species to do with as they see fit.