Evelyn (Romina Perazzo) and Kevin (Domingo Guzmán) are on a camping trip to the infamous Snowdevil Mountain, a notorious hotspot for extra-terrestrial activity and U.F.O. sightings. During the night Evelyn is lured from the tent by a mysterious sound and is attacked and impregnated by an alien entity.
Kevin rushes Evelyn to the local hospital, where they discover she has developed a taste for human flesh and the alien creature inside her is insatiably hungry.
Embryo (Embrión) is a science fiction horror movie from Chilean director Patricio Valladares (Nightworld) that ostensibly follows the story of Evelyn and Kevin, but takes regular detours along the way to fill us in on some backstory and similar alien abduction events. Unfortunately, the secondary stories lack cohesion, are often hard to follow and are hampered by shaky-cam footage that is at times impossible to decipher. It’s also hard to really get any sense of who these characters are.
According to an article at Screen Daily, production was stopped by COVID-19, but Valladares had the novel idea of interspersing home video footage to enhance the story. He used personal video of a mountain hiking trip and a visit to London as part of the flashback sequences. Although this is quite an ingenious approach in the face of unforeseen disaster, it doesn’t quite work.
There isn’t really any story rationale for the home-video footage. Although it is intended as backstory, these sequences have a more tangential feel to them, rather than anything integral to the plot. So, you can’t help but think the movie might have been better served if they had been able to wait to resume filming.
It’s a shame, because there are elements here that suggest Embryo might well have been rather good. Conceptually, we’re on solid ground, with an idea that’s not a million miles away from Species, as a ravenous extra-terrestrial chows down on earthlings.
There is also some really nice effects work that is enjoyably gross, without ever letting reality bother it too much. In one particularly choice scene, we find Evelyn licking the severed windpipe of a victim, as he sits on a toilet floor with his guts hanging out. If only Embryo had leaned into the gore a bit more; this might well be a different story.
It’s hard work to knock a low-budget horror movie and I’m not about to hold it to the same standard as a big studio picture, especially in the light of a global pandemic throwing a spanner in the works. Nevertheless, the lack of character development and structural problems mean it’s quite hard to make sense of. Sadly, Embryo never quite grabs us.
‘Embryo’ will be released on Digital and On Demand on April 6th.