Alien Species (1996)
This is a bit of a change for me. I have normally shied away from "modern" bad movies (post 1980) for some reason that I really can't explain other than "I like the older ones better". In a continuing effort to broaden my horizons, however, I have decided to review a relatively new bad sci-fi movie this time. Lets see how it works.
Alien Species, released direct-to-video in 1996, is fairly representative of a hundred other low-budget, poorly-scripted and atrociously-acted rip-offs of 1979's Alien. It typically has a few ageing washed-up stars, some college class-level special effects and some K-Mart-quality rubber monster masks. A group of pretty (though vacuous and bland as an oatmeal muffin) young people make up most of the cast, who are here just to get munched on by the aliens when the shooting starts. Don't expect anything exciting or groundbreaking here, folks.
And now on to our show...
We open in what is certainly supposed to be the college dorm room of an ultra geeky computer whiz-kid. You know this guy, you've seen him lurking in the corridors of the Computer Lab, eyes glassy from twelve hours of advanced programming, hands stained orange with Cheetos Paws and shirt spotted with Mountain Dew and chocolate Yoohoo. You made fun of him, laughed at him, maybe even beat him up as the girls giggled and pointed. And he cried, and slinked off to sooth his pain in a binge of Mentos and Sour Cream Baked Lays, taking his rage out by playing Warcraft for three straight days until he felt human again. And you still didn't love him, notice him, respect him at all. Bastard. And where is that kid now? Is he flipping burgers with you down at the In-and-Out on Fremont Avenue? Is he living in a unibomber shack in the woods of Montana? Is he still in his parents' basement? No, he's living in his 5,000 square foot bungalow in San Jose, pulling down six figures writing code for that latest video game (you know, the one you had to steal money from your mom to buy...), wearing Prada suits, driving a Boxer, and flying to Tokyo for conferences every three weeks where he bags untold numbers of hot Japanese chicks who can look past his fat face (but not past his fat wallet...) before passing out in the bar at the Hilton every night. And where are you? Oh, yeah, that's right, you're sitting there in your underwear, surrounded by your Seven-of-Nine action figures and your comic book collection, reading this movie review on the internet when you should be out there trying to make something of your life. Pathetic.
Anyway, Geek Boy (whose name is actually Max Pointdexter...really) has a room full of hi-tech (for 1996) computers and monitors and widgets. He seems to be some sort of Astrophysics student, or maybe a budding Rocket Scientist, as he is engrossed in a project where he has apparently hacked into a NASA video feed link. The images are from the "Galileo II probe" somewhere out in space, and are being beamed back to somewhere on Earth, most likely JPL in Pasadena. Geek Boy is hacking this feed, filling up his monitors with screenshots of deep space (looks like some of the early Hubble images) while doing complex mathematical tinkering with the images because he's a member of a UFO research group and he's looking for evidence of little green men.
None of that matters, really, because there's something else in his room right now that defies all logic, an item that is universally NEVER found in the dorm room of a geeky computer nerd. A really hot girl. I'll let that sink in a minute... Yes, a Hot Girl is here with Geek Boy, apparently helping him with whatever he's doing with the computers. Only in a movie would this happen, as it would upset the Balance of Nature were it to occur in real life. Enjoy your fantasy while you can, Geek Boy.
Hmm...you know, the more you look at Hot Girl, the less attractive she becomes. Yep, now I can see that nasty upper lip thing, which makes her look like Gary Busey or John Elway in lipstick. The 1990s hair is distracting too, as are those brown Guess jeans and that white denim shirt tied in a knot in the front, she looks like a background extra on Saved By the Bell (oh, don't get all preachy on me, you know you watched it too...). But still, it's a Hot Girl. In Geek Boy's room. And he doesn't seem to even care. Hollywood!
Anyway, as they watch the monitors, they see a "black shadow" cross the screen, clearly something inordinately huge is passing between the probe's camera and the stars beyond, casting this shadow. They don't know what it could be, "This is not a technical malfunction" says Geek Boy, but with the lag time on the images, they're sure that "the government" is already aware of it. They plot the object's (there are actually two objects, though one is mostly obscured behind the other) course and speed with relative ease (after three seconds of rapid-typing-at-random on a keyboard), a graphic shows these mystery objects are headed for...Earth! What a surprise.
Nice, that graphic loaded quickly.
Geek Boy picks up the phone to call "the professor" (the head of this UFO group). Unfortunately, the man is out driving through "the Sierras Mountains" and his carphone has no signal. The most Geek Boy and Hot Girl can do now is stare in awe at the monitors and overact and try to get this over with before their shift at Circuit City starts on Tuesday.
Out now to outer space, where we see the two objects racing towards Earth. These, of course, are two monstrous spaceships, zooming in to launch an unprovoked invasion of our homeworld. The two "Motherships" as I will call them, are clearly "inspired" by Independence Day, though the frisbee-shaped monster mothership idea has admittedly been around a long time. The CGI is effective, though nowhere near as life-like as in a bigger budget movie. It's roughly equal to the video openings on late 1990s Playstation games or the first couple of seasons of Star Trek: The Next Generation.
Throughout this entire movie, the CGI design team way overuses the trick of...I don't know how to explain this exactly, when the sun reflects off a camera lens and you get that "reflecting orb" thing, know what I'm talking about? Well, in every single CGI shot of the spaceships they toss in this effect haloing around every light source. It really gets annoying by about the fourth time, and downright makes my eyes bleed by the thousandth time. This must have been the "latest thing" in CGI in 1996, that's the only explanation I can see for its gratuitous overuse here. Kind of like when that Gap commercial with the swing dancing fratboys first showed us that "stopping-and-rotating" camera trick, and within a week, every movie ever made was using it to be all hip and cool. Or after that (admittedly damn cool at the time) scene in the Matrix when Neo leans back and dodges the bullets, and every action movie since then has to have a scene where the same thing happens? It's called being unoriginal and lame, and I hate them all.
After pulling into orbit around the Earth, from each Mothership a number of smaller fighter-type UFOs detach themselves and spiral down towards the surface below. While the Motherships remain in very high orbit for now, these small attackers will carry out the first raids against the planet. The fighters are shaped vaguely like the single-seat attackers from Independence Day, but with less exterior detail.
In what is certainly the best part of the movie, we see one of these ships zoom over a field of cows. It stops in midair, seems to pause before turning around and coming to a hover over the frightened cows. A fuzzy blue "tractor beam" shoots out of the bottom of the UFO and either dematerializes the cow and kidnaps it, or completely atomizes it. This play on the common UFO-freak claim that aliens mutilate cattle actually made me laugh out loud, about the only time I did so this entire movie.
This movie has such a small budget that you really never get the full sense of the aliens attacking the planet. The best you get is some shots of the CGI fighters over a cityscape, but they don't do more than fly in formation. A few "television news reports" seen in the background suggest that the world is up in arms over this invasion, but we see very little of it on screen. We basically concentrate on the effects on a few isolated groups of characters, which is fine, no need to blow your budget trying to be grander in scope than the material deserves.
So out now to some country house where two teenage lovers are cozying up on the front porch. It's dark, she's looking good, there's some lip smackin' and the boy is jonesing for some booty. But the girl's daddy is in the house, and he don't much like the boy (though probably mostly because he's overly protective of his daughter). Just as the boy starts to make his move, daddy comes to the door with one of those touch-my-little-girl-and-I-will-bury-you looks on his face. Hey, buddy, been there before... Girl goes inside, boy wanders off forlornly, daddy burning holes through his back as he walks away.
Just then a UFO flies over the farm! The boy looks up in amazement as the ship tractor beams him up inside. Back inside the house, we see the girl in her bedroom getting ready for bed. We get our first gratuitous nekkid girl shot here, though we only see her from behind and she's wearing panties so the most we get is a glimpse of the side of her ample left breast. Hearing a noise outside the window, she peers outside and then screams bloody murder at the sight of the UFO.
Farmer's Daughter porn!
Hearing the screaming, daddy runs into the girl's room just in time to see her feet being pulled out of the window! Hmm...so, did the aliens abduct her? Because in all the other shots of this happening, the tractor beam de-atomizes the victim on the spot, there is no "pulling out a window". It looks cool, don't get me wrong, but it's a continuity issue.
Daddy then grabs his rifle and an old-time lantern (what? No flashlight?) and runs out into the front yard. The UFO is still hovering there, and seeing daddy with his gun, opens fire with a green laser gun mounted on the nose. The first shot zaps poor daddy dead, the second blows up his parked 1983 Chevy Citation (good riddance), the third explodes a big bar-b-que grill in the front yard (seriously, must have had a box of black powder in it...), and the fourth shot sets his house on fire (what would make it explode like that? Perhaps all those cans of gasoline stacked on the living room floor?). Well, that will teach you to pull a gun on an alien...
A bit later, we're at another farmhouse (dialogue later suggests that it's in the same area as the last house and near the town with the Sheriff from later) at night as a husband and wife are awoken by their horses making a fuss. Thinking it might be a cougar, the man gets a rifle and goes down to the stables. He's surprised to catch a glimpse of a short person running into a darkened corner. Thinking it's some kid out causing trouble he yells for them to come out.
But it's not a kid, it's an alien! Well, really just a kid dressed in a Nordic Gray Alien costume, one only slightly-more elaborate than you can buy at Wal-Mart for Halloween. The alien zaps the man with a green CGI laser beam. The next edit cut is confusing, but it looks like either the UFO tractor beams his dead body or a horse.
Now we go to some small town out in the Sierra mountains of California named Clover. There is no Clover, California, but there is a Clovis, outside of Fresno. The ending credits tell us that this movie was filmed in Clovis and they just changed the name (even changed the name on the back of a firefighter's jacket later in the movie). We go to the sheriff's office to join a prisoner transfer, with two violent convicts being shipped by van to what I assume is a state prison somewhere distant. Two deputies will be making the run.
The town's Sheriff is here also, overseeing the transfer. He's gruff, angry, bastard of a man, constantly bitching and insulting and generally acting unpleasant. One of the deputies is his son in law, and their relationship is very rocky (it seems that he hired him as a favor to his sister and now regrets it). The Sheriff frequently insults and berates the man in front of other people, which is just bad form. The deputy needs the job, so he just stands there and takes it and then rants about it later.
The Sheriff is played by 60-year old Charles Napier, one of those character actors whose familiar and distinctive face everyone recognizes, but no one can put a name to. You probably saw him as the evil CIA agent in Rambo II and the lead singer of the country western band The Good Ole Boys that Jake and Elwood stole their gig in The Blues Brothers. He must have been really hard up for SAG credits to take this lameass role, fortunately he didn't work very hard here.
The two convicts are seemingly bad news, but you can quickly see that one of them is "different", more quiet and reserved. The Bad Convict is a real scumball loser (hence the early Steven Segal ponytail) and is constantly trying to pick a fight with everyone.
The Bad Convict!
The Good Convict is quieter and we get the feeling that he's really innocent and just waiting for a chance to be a hero. He also looks like Lorenzo Lamas circa Renegade, which must have caused him no end to trouble when he went back to waiting tables at the Applebee's down on LaPlaya Avenue after this movie wrapped.
The Good Convict!
Ok, got to talk about all the bad language in this film. I tend to review mostly 1950s and 60s movies, which very rarely will have any off-color language in them. While I'm not opposed to bad language in films, if done right, I have never understood the need for low-rent filmmakers to pad out dialogue with enough cuss words to make a drunken sailor blush. Does this make them feel all hip and cool like Tarintino? Do they think that all "real movies" have cussing, and if you don't toss in a "fuck" every ten seconds then they will not be considered a "serious filmmaker"? This movie would work 100% fine without all the cussing, despite the dismal quality of the script and the acting. Just my two cents.
So they're soon driving along in the rain when suddenly they come upon a car wreck, a late 1980s BMW 5-series sedan off the road against a tree and a woman with an umbrella flagging them down. Now, these two deputies have watched a lot of movies, apparently, as they immediately suspect a trap. They confront the Bad Convict, who seems the likely one to have set this up, but he denies any involvement. I might as well tell you that in the car is the Professor that Geek Boy was trying to call from the last scene.
Damsel in distress.
Eventually, one of the deputies gets out and talks to the girl with the umbrella and checks on the car. There's another girl in the car and an old man with a non-life threatening bump on his head (though it's described as a "deep cut on his forehead", a simple band-aid covers it up nicely). The girl says that they have been stranded out here for "over two hours", ever since they lost control in the rain and smashed into a tree. You see, this is where OnStar would have come in handy. Hit a tree, mess your car up, OnStar calls for help for you. Can't beat that.
So they get on the radio and call the Sheriff, who is very angry that they got themselves into yet another mess. Insults are exchanged between the Sheriff and the deputy and things seem to be getting nowhere.
After calling the Sheriff back again, the deputies decide to take the risk and drive the three civilians to the nearest town. As they get in the van, the camera cuts back to the inside of the wrecked car, where the carphone is ringing (another quick cut back to the Geek Boy's room shows him on his phone lamenting why the professor won't pick up). Wait, so the carphone works? Then why didn't they call for help when they got stranded two hours ago? If they can get a call from far-away Geek Boy, why couldn't they call 911? Just because it's raining doesn't mean the Highway Patrol won't send a cruiser out your way. And how is that phone working at all, don't you have to have power to it for it to work? I don't have a carphone, so I don't know, does it run on battery, can it work without the car turned on?
Anyway, so the old man and the two hot girls get into the police van, thanking the two deputies profusely. Not surprisingly, the Bad Convict starts making lewd comments towards the girls. They stoically try to ignore the comments, but the deputies start to get really angry again.
They talk a bit, and the old man tells them all that he's Doctor Edgar Chambers, a paranormal researcher who was out investigating a reported UFO case in the area when they wrecked. One of the girls is his research assistant Carol and the other is his granddaughter Stacey (never learn why she's here other than as another pretty face).
Doctor Chambers and Stacey Chambers.
So, as the van drives along the road, a UFO comes flying overhead (unseen by the people below). The "jet wash" (maybe, or the magnetic force?) causes the van to careen out of control, ending up on its side in a ditch. Everyone is ok, but cold water from the rain-swollen creek begins to fill the van, prompting evacuation. As well, leaking gasoline begins to pose a threat. Everyone piles out of the upturned van, including the convicts. The Bad Convict tries to choke one of the deputies after he unlocks his cuffs to let him out. The deputy shows remarkable restraint in not shooting the man right then and there (he technically would be justified in doing so) and shoves him out of the van. Just as everyone gets out, the leaking gas catches fire and goes boom (though we wonder how, as the stream is flowing fast, does the flaming gas seem to stay in one place in the water).
Now they have a problem. It's cold out, it's dark, it's raining, and they've got no place to go. Why doesn't Doctor Chambers give his suit coat to his granddaughter Stacey? Bastard. One of the deputies knows of an old "Awassi Indian" rock shelter in a nearby cave that would provide at least temporary cover until morning. Not the ideal solution, but the best they have, so they all trudge through the rain towards the cave. They say it's seven miles to the nearest town, but with the cold rain and the lack of protective clothing, it would be suicide for anyone to make that trek.
Once they reach the cave entrance, they talk about building a fire to ward off hypothermia (smart...) but one of the deputies finds some "unstable dynamite sticks"! Now they can't build a fire for fear of going ka-boom. Since that was so obviously set up, I wonder if the lack of fire, or more likely, the dynamite, will play an important role in the rest of our movie?
We also learn a bit more about the two convicts, courtesy of our very angry deputy who tells the three "bleeding heart liberals" of their crimes when they protest how they are being treated. The Bad Convict killed a little girl in a sexual assault, and the Good Convict (supposedly) killed a man in a drunken barfight. Ok, Mister Director, we get it, liberalism is bad, vigilante justice is good.
Meanwhile, back with the small town Sheriff, the UFOs are now making some noise in his area. Well, just a little noise, really. We see a UFO glide up and laser beam a parked 1977 Plymouth Fury outside the Sheriff's office before flying off. The car explodes nicely, and a trail of burning gasoline ignites a 1982 Chevy Monte Carlo parked nearby, which also explodes (though with some odd, multi-stage pyrotechnics that seem like the stunt setup went wrong but they couldn't afford to reshoot it). The Sheriff and his men run out to see what the booms were, but don't see the UFO.
A bit later, a perky television newswoman shows up for a remote shoot. This woman badgers the Sheriff every chance she gets about the possible connection to the two burning cars and the recent wave of UFO sightings in the area (though she really, really over-dramatizes the burning cars, making us think that this small town is gripped in fear and chaos because two clunkers blew up for no reason). The Sheriff gruffly has no comment other than to scowl and stomp off. He neither bothers to investigate her claims, nor seems to give them a second thought. That's going to bite him in the ass later...
Back now to Geek Boy and Hot Girl, who are still in his dorm room staring blankly at computer monitors. I'm guessing a bit here, but I think they're in San Francisco (though it might be anywhere in the San-San corridor). Outside the large glass window, overlooking the city, they see one of the alien Motherships descending (yes, just like in Independence Day but with a budget of less than $250.00). As they watch in overacted awe, the Mothership disgorges a legion of fighters which immediately proceed to attack the city! Green laser bolts lash the urban area, huge rolling explosions paired with echoing booms pop up everywhere. This CGI-over-exterior-photo-matte-shot sequence is not too bad, really, for what they had to work with.
Death of the city.
So Geek Boy and Hot Girl decide to flee to safety. Now, they don't go together, mind you, but Geek Boy goes off to find Doctor Chambers (why?) and Hot Girl says she's going home to rescue her cat (!). Ok, that wasn't what I thought was going to happen there, I really expected the conversation to go like this...
Geek Boy: "Well, looks like it's the end of the world." (turns to Hot Chick) "You know, I've never seen a girl nekkid before. Well, other than my mom."
Hot Chick (suddenly looking nervous): "Yes, the human race is at an end in all probability. But, still, a girl has standards."
If this were a Cinemax movie, that conversation would have gone much differently...
Later we see Hot Girl at her house out in the country (well, it's really a back-projected stock footage old dilapidated farmhouse that's about to be set on fire, with the actress and a car in the foreground in front of the obvious blue screen). She has saved her cat (a cute tabby named Roy) and as she hunkers down behind her Ford Escort wagon, a UFO zooms in and zaps her house! Boom, it's set afire and smoke rolls out. The invasion must really be comprehensive if they can take the effort to tag individual houses out in the country.
Hot Girl's shack burns.
This, by the way, is the last we will see of Hot Girl. One assumes that she had a bigger role in the original script, but was edited out in the final cut. As I note at the end, they had a sequel planned, so maybe she was to reappear in that thankfully stillborn film.
Back in the cave, one of the deputies (the twitchy one) wanders around a bit and comes across a bunch of aliens! Yes, through an amazing coincidence, the alien invaders have for some reason left their fabulous spaceships and have set up a base inside this dark damp cave. We never learn if this is a recent setup, or if this base has been here for years, perhaps some sort of advanced base for the invasion. I guess it doesn't matter, we needed to get our cast together with the nefarious aliens at some point.
Once the little Nordic Gray aliens realize that there are seven tasty morsels running around inside, they send out their Reptilian Alien hunter-killers. These are big, tall, nasty brutes with lots of sharp pointy teeth and claws, perhaps mindless muscle used by the weaker Nordic Grays to do their dirty work. Fortunately, they walk really slowly and only pose a danger if you let them get in close, which is what most of our dumbass human cast does.
Ah, yes, this is all looking familiar. What we have now it the time-honored horror movie rip-off where a group of characters is trapped in an isolated location while being hunted by bad guys, being picked off one by one until only the prettiest and bravest remain. So very tired of this.
And there really, seriously has to be a moratorium on movies filmed in caves. Caves are DARK and MUDDY and almost never have easy-to-navigate flat floors. And they NEVER are lit internally by artfully-placed kleig lights with muted colored lenses. I've yet to see a cave scene in a low budget movie that didn't look totally fake to the point of laughing out loud (or more to the point, ruining any sort of suspense and fear that the director was going for). Stay the hell out of caves, Mister Hollywood Director, this is why they make abandoned warehouses and cement plants and even big Victorian mansions up on spooky hills.
Anyway, back to our action. Their escape route out into the open is cut off when a few Reptilians are tractor-beamed down from a hovering UFO at the cave entrance, forcing them to run back deeper into the winding cave. One of the deputies shotguns a Reptilian dead, proving that they can be killed at least. When shot (we will eventually see several more downed by shotgun blasts) the Reptilians strangely "melt" with a green pulsating glow, leaving no evidence of their existence. Why this happens is not stated, but may have to do with only having two or three full-size Reptilian Alien costumes and not being able to afford to have many more lying around the battlefield.
Here they come!
Got to start whittling down our cast now. Not surprisingly, the Bad Convict is the first down, running off at the first chance he gets, right into the waiting claws of a Reptilian. No big loss there, and now the level of cussing and general ugliness has dropped dramatically. The greasy tight Tony Little ponytail doomed him, he should have kept his hair down and flowing like the other convict, then he might have survived until the third act.
The put-upon deputy (the one related to the Sheriff) bites it next, turning coward and running off when confronted with the very real possibility of ugly nasty rending death. That wasn't a surprise either, as in these types of movies the guy who acts all macho and studly in the beginning of the movie almost always ends up being a spineless weakling when the chips are down. He gets clobbered by a Reptilian, freeing him up to act in gay porn to pay the rent.
Ok, lets quickly recap. We're now down to the Good Convict (who they unchained after it was clear they needed his help), the other deputy (who is really turning out to be a level-headed upstanding kinda guy), Doctor Chambers (who just won't quit whining, like anyone else is happy about their predicament), Carol (who also keeps complaining, like anyone is listening) and Stacey (who just squeals a lot and looks smokin' cute in those shorts). Well, movie fans, who's going to die next? Who are the two clearly expendable characters left? Not the girls (too hot), not the Good Convict (his hair is too perfect). That leaves the last deputy and Doctor Chambers. I hope they have their life insurance beneficiaries updated.
And we were right. The deputy now goes down in a blaze of glory, holding off the waves of shambling Reptilians with his shotgun while the rest of them crawl through a narrow hole to supposed safety. The deputy's shotgun is a standard police-issue five-shot 12-gauge Remington Express, but was apparently modified by the same arms company that made the A-Team's weapons, giving it unlimited ammunition capacity.
He fires seven shells without reloading (killing one and injuring two Reptilians) before being wounded. The Good Convict then picks up the gun and fires four more shells (killing one and possibly two more Reptilians). The mortally wounded deputy tells the Good Convict, "You're on the honor system now, boy, don't forget to turn yourself in." before expiring at the clawed hands of an alien.
The rest of them escape through the narrow opening. Once through the hole, however, Doctor Chambers is quickly mangled by a Reptilian after Stacey is hauled off kicking and screaming by another (why didn't they just kill her? Is there something in the alien creedo that says hot girls are for lovin'?). Carol fake-cries unconvincingly over the old man's demise, but they have to move on.
Down now to just Carol and the Good Convict. They have just one shotgun and some shells he took out of the dying deputy's pocket, they are lost in the cave and surrounded by bad aliens, not a good situation. Carol melts down into a blubbering pile of emotional jello, screaming like a banshee, forcing the Good Convict to slap her back into her senses. Oh, crap, the music just got swoony, are these two going to fall in love? I hope the hell not, but it looks unavoidable now. Crap. Crap. Crap. Where is that remote? Damn.
So they work their way through the suspiciously well-lit cave for a bit, before coming upon the place where the aliens are "harvesting humans in hanging pods", turning them into zombie slave laborers or something. Yes, it looks as lame as it sounds, with these internally-glowing pods hanging from the ceiling of the set with lots of moody lighting and dry ice fog rolling around to make it look extra spooky. The terrible overuse of colored filter lenses and too much Jan Hammer synthesizer music ruins all the crew's hard work on this soundstage, which would have benefited from some more muted lighting and maybe a more ominous score. The see Stacey (who was hauled off a few scenes before) over in a corner. She's not yet in a pod, but is lying nearly comatose and covered in icky goo. Hmm...all this really looks like the X-Files movie now...
Stacey, covered in goo.
So, they blast their way into the room, killing one Reptilian guard (by a combination of kicks and shotgun blasts) and forcing the half dozen Nordic Grays to run for cover. They rush in an grab Stacey's near-lifeless body and make a run for it. They are stopped by a "force field", unfortunately, and for a while things look bad as "zombie humans" begin to emerge from the pods and lurch towards them with death in their eyes. They start to get frantic, and more than a little pissed, and are desperate to escape.
The Good Convict eventually gets his hands on one of the Nordic Grays who strays too close (so, the alien was inside the force field? Why? This is confusing.) and takes this wrist watch-looking "device" off its arm. Frantically hitting buttons at random, he uses it to turn off the force field. The Good Convict then throws Stacey over his shoulder (seriously copping a feel of the girl's butt as he does so) and they run from the slowly moving zombies.
Hey, watch the hands, buddy!
Running now for dear life, they finally see light coming from the cave entrance (the same one they came in the night before). Just before they reach the opening, a Reptilian hoves into view, aiming to cut off their escape path. Good Convict channels Linda Hamilton from Terminator for a second, cocking his shotgun one-handed and tossing off a one-liner ("Time for an attitude adjustment!") as he shoots and kills the Reptilian (not a lot of recoil on that prop gun, eh?).
It's now fully light outside and as we see them run out into the open it occurs to me that this is the very first shot in the entire movie that is filmed in daytime. In the harsh natural light of the sun, Carol and Stacey suddenly don't look nearly as pretty as they did in the half-shadowy darkness of the cave.
"Eek. Hmm...I'm just going to go out for a pack of smokes. I'll be right back."
The Good Convict is also a lot shorter than I though he was before, and now looks a lot like the Red Ranger Jack from Power Rangers SPD (screw you, I know you watch it too, don't act like you don't...If you are actually taking time to read this review, then there is a 95% chance that your life consists mostly of lusting over the Pink Ranger, abusing yourself, and weeping bitterly afterwards. In fact, just because you pissed me off, I'm going to call the Good Convict "Jack" from here on.).
As the Reptilians shamble after them, JACK says "Time to beam up, kids!" and shoots the pile of unstable dynamite sticks (remember those?) and the explosion blocks off the cave entrance. Wow, what a shot! He must have been twenty yards away, with a shotgun! He must rock at Doom...
Hmmm...ok, this is strange. In the very next scene, they look up and see a UFO flying over them, though it seems to be in some trouble. The craft wobbles and jinks like it's suffering some sort of mechanical malfunction, before crashing to the ground nearby in a tremendous explosion. What? No explanation is ever given as to why this UFO crashed here, and it seems like something was cut out of the final edit, but they left this CGI sequence in because it looked cool (it does). Maybe it was originally some rip-off of the virus-makes-them-crash plotline from Independence Day? Jack says, "Why do I get the feeling we're not in Kansas anymore?" This character's sudden propensity for lame one-liners is a disturbing trend, one we will have to watch.
Off through the woods they run, Stacey now able to limp a bit and getting suspiciously healthier by the minute. For having rained strongly all night long, the ground is oddly dry. Suddenly, they're nearly run down by a mid 1980s Chevy Blazer! It's Geek Boy from the dorm room! What the holy fuck! He claims that he was out looking for Doctor Chambers and "just happened to run across them". BTW, the California plates on the truck are one of the only pieces of firm evidence of what state this movie takes place in.
The girls and him exchange hugs and stories and lament the passing of Doctor Chambers. This Chambers dude must have really been something special, eh? Too bad all we got to see is the annoying/whining/posturing/pouting side, which made his gristly death somewhat satisfying to me. So they all pile in the Blazer and take off, Jack taking the wheel from Geek Boy, because, you know, he's the stud hero and all and he doesn't wear big plastic-framed glasses like Geek Boy, so of course he must be a better driver.
In the truck they all talk about what's been happening since last night (seriously obvious stationary-vehicle-in-front-of-a-bluescreen here, very distracting). Geek Boy has the most information, as he's been on the outside all this while, and tells them that a "full force invasion" has been launched by the aliens ("It's all gone crazy!" he moans). They discuss the zombie human hive thing (never sufficiently explained to my satisfaction) and why no one believed Doctor Chambers and his group's warnings before the invasion (duh, because the Tinfoil Hat Brigade is a reactionary bunch of fruits and nuts, who do little more than clog up internet chat rooms and rob grant money from legitimate researchers). It seems that many people in the UFO community suspected the invasion was coming, but no one in the Evil Government or the Right Wing Media would believe them. Friggin' politicians, they're to blame for everything... Jack shakes his head and gives us yet another one-liner, "I suddenly feel like I'm in a bad episode of the X-Files..." Ha! That one was kinda funny, I gotta admit.
In the Blazer.
So they eventually drive through a trashed town (well, really just past some old abandoned farm buildings with fire pots placed in various places to make it appear that the whole town is ruined) and see some of the horrors of the "invasion", which apparently extends to every single community in America. Hey, this is Clover, the town with the jerk Sheriff! What a coincidence! Jack wipes his brow as he manages to avoid being seen by a deputy out directing traffic.
Passing through the town (we still don't know where they're heading to), they continue on through the open country. Suddenly, off to the left they see a UFO flying parallel to them (you know, every time a UFO is on screen, they have this bad techno music cue that is really getting annoying).
They flee to an abandoned warehouse (yes! That's more like it.) where they pile out of the truck and run inside. The UFO is flying around outside, having seen them enter the building. It seems that the aliens are hunting them because they still have that wrist controller that Jack swiped back in the cave (remember?). Instead of just obliterating the warehouse where they're hiding, the UFO seems content to fly around in lazy circles and take weak pot-shots at them as they peek out windows. Are they trying to retake the controller intact? If so, then why not send in a legion of Reptilian soldiers to overwhelm them? Maybe this one UFO is just holding them here until reinforcements can arrive?
Our cast is not going down without a fight. Jack most improbably hits the UFO twice with shotgun shells! (No freakin' way, not even Quiggley could hit a moving target that far away with a shotgun.) The UFO is revealed to have a force field, however, which is virtually impenetratable, which explains why they have been able to roll the world's militaries with zero difficulty so far. This just reeks of Independence Day now.
Actually, one of the better CGI shots.
But, ah ha, remember the stolen alien wrist controller thingie? Well Geek Boy figures he can somehow break the code on it and use it to disable the UFO's force field! So he whips out this cool 1996 Toshiba laptop computer (wow, that must be worth a fortune on eBay these days!) and starts banging away randomly at the keyboard like a madman. Someone explain to me again how he's able to "download" the controller's specifications to his hard drive without the use of any cables or connectors, by just lying the thing in the fold of the laptop? I'm way too tired to worry about that right now, I need to finish this up so I can watch Lost. I gotta figure out what that hatch is all about...
Anyway, in another ridiculous plot development, Geek Boy has also brought along a surface-to-air missile! Why the hell Geek Boy has this weapon in his truck, and where he got it from, is never really explained, but it did provide me with one of the best laughs I had all day. It reminded me of Malibu's Most Wanted, there at the end when Hadji pulls that RPG-7 out of the trunk of his Mercedes, writing it off as a present from his "overseas relatives".
Jack grabs it and runs to the highest point in the warehouse, waiting there for Geek Boy to get the UFO's shields down. We never learn for sure, but Jack must certainly have some military training as he's able to operate the SAM with an incredibly high level of proficiency (the SAM looks like a Stinger but is clearly a prop weapon, though a well-made one). This is not a nitpick, but they could have at least given us a throw-away line about him being in the Army or in Desert Storm or something.
The tension is thick as thieves now, the UFO is hovering and blasting away, Carol continues to scream, Stacey just stands there and looks damn pretty, Geek Boy is doing the impossible, and Jack is really looking like a young Antonio Banderas circa Desperado. Eventually, Geek Boy sends a signal (or something, never explained how he does this) and the UFO's shields drop. Jack pulls the trigger and nails the UFO dead center (nice shot), exploding it in a big poof of smoke and flame.
So, the aliens are rather taken aback by the puny man-animals' new-found ability to penetrate their shields (though we wonder how the entire invasion force knew of this one incident so quickly). The aliens decide to pull back and regroup for now, leaving the planet totally. But they'll be back, and next time they will be more prepared. I learned everything in this entire paragraph from lame dialogue between the four of them after Jack smoked the UFO. It really is a stretch for them to make such broad generalizations and declarations, considering that they are just four people out in the countryside, but the movie is about to end so I guess they had to wrap it up in a hurry.
Our four heroes run out to have a quick celebration. They realize, however, that it's short-lived and the aliens will be back soon for sure. They have to get their data on the alien controller to the authorities so the world can be prepared when they return. So off they go for the nearest military base as the movie fades to an end.
The last scene is a card reading "Coming soon... Alien Species 2: The Invasion." Ah, so that would explain the ambiguous ending, they were setting us up for a sequel! Thankfully for us, there was no Alien Species 2 made. Well, there was a late-night softcore porn cable TV movie from 2000 called Alien Species 2: The Sex Files, but that had no connection to our movie. I had to watch it, though, just to be sure...
Pipe dream, sadly, I was looking forward to seeing the two chicks cleaned up.
As the final credits roll we learn that Fox Creek Farms provided the horses for the stable scene (named Manny, Devon, and Morris) and that Roy the cat was actually named Bubba (why change the name?). Oh, and any resemblance to any real alien invasion is strictly coincidental and not indented to violate any existing copyrights.
The end. Now go rent March of the Penguins.
Bonus! Some handy statistics for you:
0: Number of cigarettes smoked by our cast (Amazing!).
21: Number of F-bombs dropped by our cast (Shocking!).
24: Number of times the Lord's name is taken in vain (Blasphemous!).
29: Number of shells fired by the lone shotgun during the running gun battle in the cave (Impossible!).
1: Number of times we see someone reload that shotgun with its five-shot magazine (Retarded!).
1: Number of old-school VW Bugs seen (I always look for them!).
1/2: Number of naughty girly nipples seen (What a let down!).
Written in November 2005 by Nathan Decker and edited by Pam Burda.
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that's between you and the vengeful wrath of your personal god...