Thursday, April 30, 2009

Alien Raiders (2008)

I really, really want to review this movie…but since I couldn’t see most of it I really don’t know how!

Let me explain…apparently Alien Raiders didn’t have enough of a budget for LIGHTING and so everything was in the dark, making it impossible to see what was happening on-screen! Now, I’m all for dark shadows and dark scenes within a film that help ratchet up the suspense, but this was just ridiculous. I couldn’t even see the special effects (which I finally got to see in all their gory glory in the special features) they used and couldn’t quite tell who ate it (or was getting eaten) throughout the film.

The more I think about it, the angrier I get, because if Alien Raiders had used some decent lighting, it would have been an excellent horror film that’s a mix of The Thing, The Mist and Intruder. Unfortunately, the lack of decent lighting is so glaring that it takes away from the film’s finer points.

As a small-town supermarket closes up for the night, the remaining group of clerks and customers suddenly find themselves in the middle of a hostage situation as a group of black-clad, gun-totting intruders start killing people for seemingly no reason. Except that the intruders seem to believe that something alien is in the store…something that is hiding within a human host…something that needs to be destroyed before it is set loose upon the world.

Now, isn’t that a fresh idea for a horror film? Sure, it’s a bit derivative of The Thing, where director Ben Rock got his inspiration from, but it certainly has its own original storyline, written by David Simkins with the screenplay by Julia Fair. It definitely feels a lot fresher and more tightly wound than most mainstream horror movies released today. I also like how the story immediately throws you into a chaotic hostage situation and you don’t know what is going on or who the intruders are or what their purpose is. This intro really grabs you by the throat and gives you a good shake. Then, unfortunately, the action moves to the back of the supermarket, where there is no good lighting and everything gets lost in the dark. The story is still strong as it unfolds, but we just can’t SEE it!

The movie has its nice gory bits, but without proper lighting they are pretty much lost on the audience. Even the “king” makeup, which is impressive when we see it in full light in the special features, is lost in the darkness of the film. There are so many great lighting techniques that could have been used, especially utilizing the eerie glow of freezer and produce lights, but they are merely used to create atmosphere instead us being used to light the action.  As it stands, most of the gore effects are indiscernible from the shadows, which really is a pity after you see what a great job was done with the effects in the special features.

I can’t stress enough that had the lighting been decent, this film could have been one of the better films of the year! Everything else – acting, directing, etc. – is excellent. Though there aren’t really any recognizable faces in the cast,  every one of the actors did an excellent job. The direction by Rock is also pretty solid, though the use of shaky-cam is a bit overdone, especially when combined with the darkness of most of the shots.

While the film has an atrocious title (and dorky cover) that makes it sound (and look) like another crappy Sci-Fi Channel movie (they definitely should have stuck with their original title of Supermarket!), I was surprised at its engaging and tense storyline. Nevertheless, it was disappointing to see such a promising film be ruined by bad lighting.

Available from Amazon!

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