One thing that’s priceless about a horror film festival feature is that you never know what you’re going to get, as the films that filter through are original ideas drawn from a fresh wave of directorial talent pitching ideas to genre supportive producers. Projects, in this case, financed by Warner Brothers, that give you 2 million dollars and seven weeks to put together something under the title of “Alien Raiders”! Director Ben Rock (TV’s Shadow of the Blair Witch), best known for being the artistic brain behind the stickman media figure associated with “The Blair Witch Project” (look at anything promotional for the film and you’ll see it) stepped up to the challenge. The result is that Ben Rock has made a name for himself with a cool ass, balls to the wall, no-shame A style/B flick in Alien Raiders – crossing elements of “The Thing”, “The Mist”, and your favorite hostage/negotiation film, and slamming it onto the screen with action authority.
What Ben Rock did with this story and budget exemplified, in my opinion, superior talent. With a production level that comes across more as a film than a sci-fi channel feature, fans had a chance to indulge in some absurd alien/hostage tension that took itself seriously and left the laughs and one-liners to the sideline.
“Alien Raiders” is a no-joke film about a small western supermarket, that upon closing one night, is sieged by a band of what-seem-like street thugs that come roaring out of a van with video cameras and shotguns. They mean business, and several shoppers are blown away in cold blood as the place is locked down. All looks criminal and familiar until a thin, odd looking man who arrived with the armed gunman starts to grab people by the head, one-by-one, and “scan” them. His is psychic, and looking for aliens.
In essence, “Aliens Raiders” reveals itself as a story about an elite-team of alien hunters, that have been following the trails of an infestation, looking for the king alien. Once identified and taken out, destroying the king would mean an end to this plague of possession. Months and years of underground research have led this team to a small supermarket, where they proceed to lock down and scan the people captured, one by one.
One or two aliens are actually discovered, and they are subsequently blown away to shit. Just when you begin to get the sense that this is actually all going down for the best of mankind, the psychic “scanner” is blown away by an off-duty cop loose in the store. Now, with the police at bay around the perimeter of Hastings Supermarket, hearing shotguns and screaming murders from behind the barricaded doors – this diluted special-ops team must contains the remaining prisoners just long enough to sort out who is who. Those uninfected have nothing to worry about. They will be let free. The only thing standing between them and their freedom is a test. Children and store managers alike must all take it – its the only way to tell. All it consists of is a little dismemberment – removing the little pinky finger from your hand with a sharp knife. Its painful, but kindly enough, they put the severed digit in cups full of ice, which gets handed to you on your way out of the room. Bloody fucking awesome!
Final analysis: With a fine job directorally, and an above par effort turned in by all – Carlos Bernard (24), Courtney Ford (Criminal Minds), Mathew St. Patrick (Six Feet Under), Tom Kiesche (Criminal Minds) – cast and crew alike – “Alien Raiders” far, far exceeds expectations on about every level. Rock’s roots in makeup special effects ensured that there were disturbing monsters, and ample gore and gunshot wounds amidst the hostage negotiations, the gripping storyline, and alien monster battles in the produce section (cleanup in aisle 7!). Its an alien sci-fi/horror film that creates tension by taking itself seriously, and keeps you guessing until the very end, as every effort is made to figure out, “who is the king”? This is how sci-fi horror should be! Shocking and intelligent while riding the borderline of normalcy, with good acting that makes you forget that aliens dont even really exist! “Alien Raiders” is a perfect example of what you wish you would get from a low budget film. I personally recommend checking out “Alien Raiders” when it hits the shelves in February of 2009.