Alien Raiders (2008)

Alien Raiders (2008)

The person next to you could be one of them.

It’s the end of another night at Hastings Supermarket but just as the grocery store is about to close, a bunch of masked and armed men invade and immediately kill several people. The rest are taken as hostages and they assume that their captors intend to rob the place. However their intentions are made clear when they reveal themselves to be rogue scientists that have discovered and tracked down an alien infestation to the store. Some of the hostages are not entirely human but who?

 

Alien Raiders….the first problem anyone should have with this film is the appalling title. It really sucks and doesn’t do this film half the justice it deserves. I automatically assumed that it was some sort of cheesy Alien knock-off set inside a supermarket (the sort of thing that Roger Corman would have made in the 80s). But I was totally wrong and gladly so. Using its low budget to its advantage, Alien Raiders gives you the feeling of a film with much bigger scope. It has to make do with fleeting make-up effects and relies on a solid script which cranks out a few surprises of its own.

You need to understand the background to the film first to be able to appreciate it. The director had a budget of around $2m, seven weeks pre-production and then three weeks to complete filming which isn’t an easy task. So it’s understandable that the film relies heavily on the script and the strength of its underrated cast as it would have been too time-consuming waiting for a special effects team to work their magic either in pre or post production.

Given the time constraints, I think that Alien Raiders does an amazing job of getting its story across. Setting it in the supermarket is great as not only does it contain the physical story and keep the film within a reasonable budget but also makes it quite claustrophobic. It’s not rocket science to see that Alien Raiders borrows heavily from The Thing. The whole ‘someone here isn’t who they say they are’ spiel still works if done properly. There is a testing scene to determine who is human and who isn’t and which is much nastier than simply taking a blood sample as they did in John Carpenter’s classic. The scene is nowhere near as tense or atmospheric as Carpenter’s but at least you can appreciate the nod and it still has its own merits.

The great thing about Alien Raiders is that although there are some gory make-up effects on show here, the film isn’t about showcasing how gruesome and gory it can get. It’s about presenting a good story. The whole notion of this rogue band of ex-scientists going around hunting aliens using psychics to seek them out (and how they became psychic in the first place is also good, adding an element of revenge to their mission) is good and probably deserved to have a bigger scope. Think an alien version of Blade where he hunts vampires down without humans knowing. These people do the same thing only with ET and his friends.

It’s nice to see Carlos Bernard doing something other than 24 but he just basically reprises his Tony Almeida role here with lots of gunplay and taking control of situations. He’s been an excellent anchor in making that series a success, particularly in his ‘evil Tony’ phase and adds that touch of class to proceedings here. Rockmond Dunbar may also be familiar to fans of TV shows, playing Benjamin ‘C-Note’ Franklin in Prison Break for two seasons and an odd cameo later on. He plays the token ‘angry black guy’ and it’s a throwaway role that anyone could have done. But it’s nice to see another familiar face.

Apart from those two, the rest of the cast is filled with unknowns so you won’t be able to spot who is going to survive and who isn’t. The characters aren’t totally fleshed out either and just the right amount of information is given to us about who everyone is and what they are doing there to be able to make our own opinions. Not too much is revealed about the alien threat and little detail is given about the scientists and their past history, how they have come to be so well-trained and efficient and just what the hell really is going on. Like some of the classic horror films (I’m looking at you Night of the Living Dead), we don’t really need to know too much because it would harm the film. All we, and the characters, need to know is that there is a very serious threat lurking around and one which doesn’t need back story.

 

Alien Raiders had me hooked right from the start. Don’t be fooled by the cheesy title or even the bastard love child plot of The Thing and The Mist – just sit back and enjoy a very good low budget sci-fi horror which proves that there is still talent out there ready to make quality films for a fraction of the value of hacks like Roland Emmerich.

 

 ★★★★★★★★☆☆ 

 

 

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