Sunday, February 21, 2016

ALIEN SPECIES (1996)

Rated: NR (not rated - probably because nobody wanted to sit through it long enough to care. "Just....just take it away, please!")
Running time: 92 min

Alien Species is a bad film. The plot is bad. The editing is bad. The score is bad. The special effects are bad. The sound is bad. The acting is bad. Everything about this production is amateurish to the point where I thought I was watching a college film project. Maybe I was, but then again how the hell did they rope the late great character actor Charles Napier into this? Did they blackmail him? Did they kidnap his granddaughter and force him to be part of the production or else? Let's get into some of the details of the plot and then discuss what we should do with this thing.

We start off with two scientists watching the galaxy on their 1995 computer monitors. The scientists are the aptly named Max Poindexter (Aaron Jettleson) and Holly Capers (Barbara Fierentino). Like several others in this film, Fierentino's only film role has been this very one, while Jettleson has gone on to appear in several short films. There is no irony, only truth, in your character's name being Poindexter and having him be a computer nerd. A lot of thought went into that during the screenwriting process. Anyway, Max and Holly discover that alien ships are orbiting Earth and need to tell their boss, Professor Chambers, played by yet another charcter actor veteran in Hoke Howell. The thing is Prof. Chambers, his assistant Carol (Jodi Seronick) and his granddaughter Stacy (Ashley Semrick) are involved in a car accident. When we get to the scene where their car is seen gently touching a tree, we are told by one character that the car is totaled. The car looks fine. It's just parked next to that tree, that's all. They are found by two deputies driving a prisoner transport vehicle. The deputies are Larsen (Robert Thompson) and the big stupid jerk Banks (Kurt Paul). Banks happens to be the brother-in-law of Sheriff Culver, who is played by the aforementioned Charles Napier. Napier's role in this film is to act irritated with his brother-in-law and act put out by the local media. He does this with his usual professionalism, and it makes me wonder why he wasn't put to better use. The two prisoners being carter around by these bumbling deputies are the slimy Doyle (David Homb) and the guy who ends being the hero of the film, Towers (Marc Robinson). The deputies help the accident victims out and bring them aboard their vehicle which is then run off the road by an alien spacecraft. Once everyone is pulled to safety, the vehicle, of course, explodes for no apparent reason. They decide to hole up in a cave until morning. It's a good thing they picked this particular cave because that's where the aliens are staying also. It's funny how the aliens have their pick of any location on the face of the Earth, and they choose a cave in Podunk USA.

Meanwhile, an alien invasion has begun and spaceships begin blowing up everything in sight in one of those scenes that need to be seen to be believed. We get a photographed backdrop of the big city and it's skyscrapers with cheaply created computer generated spacecraft firing laser beams into the backdrop and things exploding but the backdrop remains completely unaware that it's being attacked by just standing there defiantly. Our intrepid spelunkers, meanwhile, have discovered the alien hideout. We get monstrous aliens suddenly chasing them through the caves while our heroes desperately try to find a way out. Unfortunately, we lose a few and one of them gets kidnapped. Convict Towers, meanwhile, has decided to step up and play the hero and we get a scene where he explains that he's not really a criminal but a guy who was backed into a corner and defended himself. Then we find out that he's also really smart because he quickly figures out that a bracelet worn by a dead alien controls a lot of things. He grabs it, pressed some buttons and finds a way out of their predicament. Later on, the survivors meet up with Max,and they all drive to an abandoned warehouse for the finale. I think I will build a warehouse, leave it vacant and rent it out to heroes and villains alike for their big showdowns. Seems like a good investment. It's there we also discover that Max is able to figure out how to download data from the bracelet and drop the alien's shields protecting their spacecraft. He does this all in about two minutes. This is what it looks like:

The human race could use more industrious members such as these.

Luckily for us all, Max just found a bazooka on the side of the road "just in case". The bazooka also plays a part in the finale, in case you weren't aware of how such things worked.

Director Peter Maris has other films to his credit that looked much more professional than this one. At one point, the heroes are driving away in their Chevy Blazer and we get a green screen background floating by the windows, looking like something out of a daytime television soap opera. How low was the budget for this film anyway? The screenplay by Nancy Newbauer felt like it was hastily written....and then re-written to help explain how the aliens could just go ahead and attack with no response from the military or government. Things were tacked on along the way rather than carefully planned out.

I'm truly torn on this film. On the one hand, it has all the elements that a b-movie requires to be admired. On the other hand, it's horrible.Your own personal enjoyment of this film may come from your innermost desire to see a trainwreck. I'm not going to score this film, which is the first time I have done this. I will leave it open to interpretation and let you score it for yourself. While watching this film, I did note that everyone involved appeared to be having fun and believed in the material and played their parts with conviction, no matter how bad they looked while doing it. Some of these actors never appeared in another film. Others still went about their careers as if nothing ever happened. But something did happen, and it was called Alien Species.

Score: N/A





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