Thursday, March 19, 2020

Alien Species (1996)

There was a very obvious ET rip off called Mac and Me.  The movie was bold enough to promise a sequel.  However, the movie performed so poorly that the sequel was quietly taken behind the barn and shot.  Alien Species tried to pull the same thing.  We were told there’s going to be a sequel to this movie.  Since it was released 24 years ago, I can only assume that the sequel is in a shallow, unmarked grave somewhere.

Now, you might be thinking that this is harsh.  If this is the case, then you obviously haven’t seen this movie.  It’s movies like this that give direct-to-video movies a bad name.  This is what people talk about when they talk about worse-than-b movies.

So, where do I begin?  Let’s start at the beginning.  Max Poindexter and Holly Capers are sitting in a room looking at a feed that they jacked from NASA.  They’re watching the feed from the Galileo II probe.  Not the Voyager II probe.  The Galileo II probe.  There was a Galileo probe that went to Jupiter, but there was only one.  From this, I can infer that NASA couldn’t block use of its name, but didn’t want the name of any active project being used.

Anyway, while watching the feed, they notice this shadowy black blur slowly move across the screen.  They say it’s going really fast and that, with the delay and all, whatever it is has probably already arrived.  Just then, a mother ship enters Earth orbit and releases lots of little fighter ships to destroy Earth.  They try to contact the professor who’s running their little project to no avail.

Meanwhile, a prison bus is leaving to transport two convicts to another facility.  One of the deputies is kind of a jerk towards the prisoners and one of the prisoners is kind of a jerk back.  Why? Because people on both sides of law enforcement tend to be jerks.

They don’t get far before coming upon some stranded motorists.  Lo and behold, it’s the professor, his assistant and his granddaughter.  Against their better judgment, the deputies give the three people a ride.  Never mind the two prisoners in the back.  What’s the worst that could happen?

Funny you should ask.  The bus is overturned by an alien fighter ship, leaving the seven people to seek refuge in a cave.  They can’t light a fire because of some dynamite laying around.  They can’t leave because aliens have found them.  So what do they do?  They go deeper into the cave.

I thought that maybe one of the deputies knew the cave system and had an alternate way out.  No such luck.  They get trapped and then find a secret alien base.  Both of the deputies bite the dust, as does the jerk prisoner.  The nicer prisoner escapes with the two women only to run into Poindexter.  (Yes, that’s really his name.)

Poindexter had left earlier in the movie to find the professor.  Holly went home to rescue her cat.  (Kudos to the movie for showing Holly and her cat driving off to safety.)  It’s just dumb luck that Poindexter happened to find the granddaughter and the assistant.

So, Poindexter does some sciency stuff and Mr. Prisoner does some macho shoot-em-up stuff.  Eventually, Poindexter is able to get the frequency of some alien thingamabobber by placing it on his laptop and randomly punching the keys on his laptop.  Really.  (In fact, it actually says Alien Thingamabobber 3000 on the side.)

So, Mr. Prisoner saves the day by blowing up one of the fighter ships, causing all the other fighter ships to go back to the mother ship.  Everyone is ready to cheer until Mr. Prisoner points out that they’re likely regrouping.  Cut to the text informing us that there will be an Alien Species II:  The Crappening coming to a VHS tape near you.  Except we all know that’s not happening.

I mean, that was a really bold statement.  The video looks like it was actually shot on VHS at the lowest quality setting.  I assume that cows were being abducted, but they also could have been deresing.  I’m not sure.

The acting is mostly flat.  There were a few zingers, but none of them had any zing.  It’s a shame because they could have been good.  With a little effort, the movie could have been exciting.

We get to see a lot of cars and buildings blown up, but the attack seems to be random.  A ship will destroy two cars and move on.  Or the aliens will abduct a guy and his girlfriend, kill the girlfriend’s father and destroy the house.  It makes no sense.

It’s not even clear why the aliens are invading.  I suppose we would have found out in Part II.  But is it for resources?  Did we do something to offend them?  Do they not like the quality of our direct-to-video movies?  (That last one I could understand, but it hardly seems worth the effort.)

They also don’t seem to focus on major targets.  You’d think they’d hit government buildings or take out the power supply.  Ok.  So they did take out communications.  The aliens didn’t do that effectively, though.  Poindexter was able to place a phone call after this happened.  So, we don’t even have a decent alien enemy.

There are a few actors who have been in other movies, like Charles Napier and Hoke Howell.  However, many of the actors have one credit on IMDb.  I feel sorry because I imagine one of them might have been pinning their hopes on this to launch a career.  (It did seem to happen in one case; not all of the acting was horrible.)  However, this is a really crappy movie.  It’s also possible that some of the actors did it as a favor to get the movie made.

I actually got to thinking, though.  Is there a list of people who want to be actors so badly that they’ll be in anything?  There seems to be no shortage of people to act in stuff.  The same goes for the CGI.  The graphics would seem to be done by someone with minimal training.

I wonder if there’s a section of Craigslist for that.  (Actually, that might not be far off.  Craigslist Joe found its cameraman that way.)  It’s mostly that the production values are so low.  Some of the actors don’t seem to be trying, but some are.

It’s also a shame that many of the shots are in the dark.  It makes it difficult to see the people.  What few shots we get of the aliens are in the shadows or in a dark room.  I don’t know if this is to heighten the effect or if the costumes were made on a budget.

It’s hard to say that any one component made the movie horrible.  It’s more that it’s a low-quality pile on.  There are so many contributing factors that it does look like some guy got some friends together to make a movie.  It would be better to say that I’m surprised that some career actors had anything to do with this.  This is definitely a study in what not to do with a movie.

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