Filmmaker Christian Matke building sets for “Alien Absolution.” Photos courtesy of Crawling Chaos Pictures/Christian Matzke

I met Maine filmmaker Christian Matzke when we both worked at Videoport, the late Portland video store that was home to movie-mad weirdos. He was the one who created two floor-to ceiling collages of horror images that wrapped a pair of support columns in our basement film oasis in a ghoulish embrace. Now Matzke, along with his life and producing partner Sarah Tarling Matzke, has created a cinematic horror of his own. “Alien Absolution” is a 10-minute sci-fi horror film set in the “Alien” franchise’s world of face-huggers, xenomorphs, and unsuspecting, flawed human victims.


“We didn’t do crowdfunding, and we’ve put the film up on YouTube for free,” said Maine native and Bath resident Matzke of the legality of releasing a wholly unauthorized short film installment in a beloved and heavily copyrighted horror franchise. “We’re not putting it in festivals and not making money off of it. We’re planning on doing a screening sometime, but for free.” That should satisfy Disney, the franchise’s current owners, who have already announced both the big screen feature “Alien: Romulus” from director Fede Álvarez and a small screen prequel TV series from “Fargo’s” Noah Hawley.

“Alien Absolution” is more of a film noir anyway, according to the director.


“Alien Absolution” takes place on an isolated space mining colony where an unassuming space marshal (Will Stewart) intercepts a mysterious transmission and makes a fateful choice concerning a certain shipping container. Told largely in flashback to a no-nonsense, heavily armed woman (Kenya Hall) after things have gone seriously awry, the film is as much about the characters as the monsters.


Kenya Hall in “Alien Absolution.”

“We were trying to make a film set in the ‘Alien’ universe that hasn’t been seen specifically before,” said Matzke, who wrote and directed. “The alien isn’t the focal point. It’s almost like a film noir about a guy making really bad choices and finding he can’t get out of the consequences.”


Matzke doesn’t mind if you call it that.

Fan films are everywhere on the internet, with aficionados of particular movies and TV shows cobbling together their own unauthorized offshoots of their favorite entertainment. “Alien Absolution,” which grew out of Matzke’s undeniable love of the “Alien” franchise (he contributes to the “Alien”-centric podcast “Perfect Organism” and regularly attends “Alien” conventions) is like those, but better. Matzke, who’s made short films similarly set in the H.P. Lovecraft universe (“Nyarlathotep,” “Dunwich,” “Experiment 17”) is, to put it politely, obsessive in his recreations. Like those pillars, Matzke spends inordinate time and resources to get everything just right.

William Stewart in “Alien Absolution.”

Will Stewart’s marshal drinks out of a coffee cup identical to Ripley’s. Uniform patches and console controls are meticulously hand-crafted. Lore from all the films, video games and other media associated with the “Alien” universe is plundered, sifted and applied in every corner and frame of “Alien Absolution.” Matzke also didn’t let ambition cloud what was actually possible on a Maine-made, no-budget short. “Originally, there were space marines and tons of action, but I had to recognize that no matter how faithfully we could replicate the guns and the gear, people would compare us to (‘Aliens’ director) James Cameron, and then we were toast. We had to pull back and see what we could actually do.”



Matzke knows the virtues of restraint.

“Look at our hard work!” is an understandable impulse for filmmakers, but a deadening one for viewers, especially when it’s evident that more work went into the sets, costumes and special effects than the story or characters. For Matzke, the look of the film was an essential, but never primary, focus. Naturally, he’s effusive in praising his partner’s impeccable special effects work (Stewart spends much of the film in a disgustingly uncomfortable state) and was delighted to incorporate fellow “Alien” fan Dennis Styles’ exceptional xenomorph costume in a pivotal scene. There’s even a cameo from late “Aliens” actor Trevor Steedman (that film’s ill-fated Private Wierzbowski.)

But Matzke displays what I’d call admirable artistic restraint throughout. We see the attention to detail, appreciate the love and care that went into it, and are gripped by “Alien Absolution” almost in spite of all that. “People have joked that, if I do a commentary track, we’d need to slow it down so we could cover all the weird little minutia in the background,” chuckled Matzke. “Every logo, every item, they’re all there on the off chance somebody watching will have them ping off their memory of the movies.”


“Alien Absolution” understands what’s truly scary about the films.

For Matzke, the real horror of this decades-long movie universe is how unprepared we are to confront the unknowable horrors lurking in the darkness of space. “I’ve spent 20-something years honing in on the character part of it,” explained Matzke. “It’s about the pieces falling into place: there’s a MacGuffin, a femme fatale of sorts, a crime boss, a thug. Essentially, the marshal is presented with Pandora’s box. Anything could be in it – in this case, it’s an alien that pops out.”

Check out “Alien Absolution” for free on YouTube. For more proof of Christian Matzke’s dedication to detail, also check out his Patreon page, where he’s recreating H.P. Lovecraft’s infamously mythical tome “The Necronomicon” in heavily researched, lovingly hand-crafted detail for similarly obsessed fans.

Dennis Perkins is a freelance writer who lives in Auburn with his wife and cat.

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