Film takes out-of-this-world approach to Brown Mountain Lights

Western North Carolina’s Brown Mountain Lights, a phenomenon believed to date to antiquity, get a starring role in a movie debuting Tuesday in Morganton.

“Alien Abduction” is directed by Matty Beckerman, who shot the film in 2011 in Avery, Watauga and Burke counties and Bryson City. Beckerman used to spend summers in the North Carolina mountains with relatives, and would occasionally go hunting at night for the lights that periodically appear as luminescent orbs on Brown Mountain.

There are many theories about what the lights are – ranging from the spirits of Cherokee warriors to a form of ball lightning – but Beckerman goes for the alien angle.

“Alien Abduction” opens as a mini-documentary about the history of the lights, then turns into a “found footage” story like 1999’s “Blair Witch Project.” In Beckerman’s film, the camera is the property of an 11-year-old boy with autism who relates to the world by shooting video.

On a camping vacation to the North Carolina mountains, the lights appear one night to his family. Then the car’s GPS leads them deep into woods where they find a tunnel full of empty cars and a scene of carnage. Some creature draws the father deeper into the tunnel, and you know the rest – Aliens!

“My grandparents in Boone had always told me about the Brown Mountain Lights,” says Beckerman, who grew up in New Jersey. He came up with the idea a decade ago tramping the backwoods while helping his uncle survey a development to be built near Banner Elk.

Beckerman, once a skeptic, has interviewed people about the lights and believes there’s something to them.

“I think this is bigger than Roswell, bigger than Area 51 because it’s something an average person can go up and see themselves,” Beckerman says.

Should we read anything into the fact it debuts on April Fools’ Day?

“Why not? The universe pointed us there,” Beckerman says.