The small farming town of Badger, New York has dropped dead. Yesterday, 3,000 people lived there. Today it’s a gray and ashen wasteland. Tomorrow, 49 of the dead will come back to life.
Risen, written and directed by Eddie Arya, is a low-budged alien invasion movie that sometimes looks better than low-budget and sometimes doesn’t. It’s an Australian/Canadian co-production, which should clue you to the array of accents in the movie despite the rural New York setting. Catch as catch can, as they say.
Risen is anchored by Lauren (Nicole Schalmo), a disgraced scientist with a background in alcoholism. The military calls her to investigate what they believe to be the source of the mass death—a crater in the middle of the field—because she’s “a believer.” At first glance, the crater appears to be nothing. Even the supposed meteorite burned up in the atmosphere. But Lauren finds something at the bottom: A small, blood-red seedling. She does not report her findings to her superiors. Not because she’s a bad scientist, but because she has a past.
One of the failings of Risen is that it teases out Lauren’s past so long that when it finally comes, I didn’t much care. Instead, the movie focuses on how the news and social media behave in light of world-ending events, and a large amount of the runtime is spent with our main characters watching footage of past meteorites, news broadcasts, YouTube videos, what have you.
The focus here is on the production value—which is pretty good considering the scope of the project—but not the script. Arya uses the slow equals significance equation, and so characters step cautiously, raise their arms sluggishly, and stare off into space frequently. I suspect the runtime could have been cleaved in half if the actors were allowed to move at a normal pace. If they could have run, Risen might have made for an exciting short.
Written, produced, and directed by Eddie Arya
Starring: Nicole Schalmo, Jack Campbell, Dominic Stone, Kenneth Trujillo
Vertical Entertainment, Not rated, Running time 110 minutes, Opens in select theaters and On Demand on Aug. 20, 2021