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Alien Raiders (2008)

DVD Cover (Raw Feed)
Director:
Ben Rock Ben Rock
Starring:
Carlos Bernard Carlos Bernard
Mathew St. Patrick Mathew St. Patrick
Rockmond Dunbar Rockmond Dunbar
Courtney Ford Courtney Ford
Jeffrey Licon Jeffrey Licon

6.1 / 10 - Overall Rating

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Genres: Alien Film, Horror, Sci-Fi Horror, Science Fiction
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Review by Chad
Added: December 31, 2008
Alien Raiders is a movie that I was all set to pass on until I saw a string of solid reviews supporting it. I hate to sound like a snob, but the title alone almost killed it for me; "Alien Raiders" sounds like the latest Sci-Fi Channel original, and as someone who has seen more than enough of those turds, I had no desire to see their latest corn-lined offering. Still, the plot did intrigue me, and those aforementioned reviews assured me that I may very well walk away from this one with a smile on my face. Thankfully, they were right: Alien Raiders, while not a classic film, is leagues above the garbage that premieres on the Sci-Fi Channel, and it's actually much better than a lot of the stuff that goes directly to video these days.

We begin in a supermarket in the small town of Buck Lake, Arizona. It's Christmas night, and it's a fairly unremarkable evening: the manager is counting the day's earnings, the stock boy has called out sick, and Benny (Jeffrey Licon) has been asked to work a little overtime. He reluctantly agrees thanks in large part to wanting to hang around cashier Whitney (Samantha Streets), the girl of his dreams, for just a little while longer. Whitney's father Seth (Mathew St. Patrick) is also on hand to talk to his daughter and pass off a disapproving sneer at Benny every now and then, there's a few other random shoppers in the store, and again, it's a very typical night in the world of retail.

Then, a group of armed soldiers charge into the store, chain the doors up, and start waving their guns around while telling everyone to get down on the floor. A robbery? Not quite... these five people - Ritter (Carlos Bernard), Sterling (Courtney Ford), Kane (Rockmond Dunbar), Logan (Tom Kiesche), and Spooky (Philip Newby) - are looking for aliens which infect humans in order to seamlessly blend into the general population. As it turns out, these monstrosities are coming from this particular town, and as it also turns out, the "king" is rumored to be in this store at this very moment... but who is it? That's the million dollar question, and it's also the question that these militants seek to answer so that they can blow his head off before the police storm inside to break up this apparent "hostage situation."

Combine The Thing with The Mist and sprinkle in a little bit of Alien, and you'll find yourself with the (horribly titled) Alien Raiders. That was the impression that I got of the film during my preliminary research, and while I thought that it was a formula that would be pretty hard to screw up, I still wasn't expecting a masterpiece. The credits rolled a short while ago and I'm now sitting here typing this review, and I can safely say that I was right on all three accounts: yes, this film feels exactly like a combination of those three films, no, it wasn't a masterpiece, and yes, it was a formula that those filmmakers couldn't screw up.

Working in the film's favor is the fact that it feels a lot like The Thing, and I'm not just talking about the general concept. This is a film that knows when to show you the monster and when to keep it in the shadows, and these boys knew when to raise the level of action just enough to whet your appetite and when to slow it down so as to leave you expecting something to happen at any second. They also played the paranoia card to perfection and used this against those of us watching at home, leaving us to guess and second-guess as the film moves along. Each character is given a little time to shine, and thus, it's not a simple task to pick out who is an alien masquerading as a human and who is a legitimate member of the human race. If you enjoyed the slow-burning, "something can happen at any second" approach of John Carpenter's classic, then you'll almost certainly find a lot to love in this little indie gem.

I also enjoyed the way that the film played all of this off in a very serious fashion - with a title like Alien Raiders, you're probably expecting a huge b-movie cheesefest, right? Well, that's not what you're going to get: this is sci-fi horror at its finest, no gimmicks or camp value needed. The characters play it straight, the storyline stays far away from comedic relief and witty one-liners, and the monster effects are as good as one could hope for from a film that falls somewhere between "Hollywood blockbuster" and "low budget." This is a film that sucks you in and keeps your attention up until the credits roll, and should it ever make an appearance on the Sci-Fi Channel, its quality would make it seem remarkably out of place on that network.

Now for the complaints, of which there are a few. Remember how I was comparing this to The Thing up above? Well, the film does borrow a few ideas from that film and it does share the same basic concept, but there are moments when it does more than just "borrow" bits and pieces. There's one scene in particular that was changed ever-so-slightly, but still felt like a blatant rip from its obvious inspiration in both concept and execution. I know that damned near any film that attempts to mix that paranoia element with alien beings will draw similarities to The Thing, but there were a couple of moments when the film moves away from "similarity" and heads towards "copy." I can't say that this completely turned me off to the film as a whole because it was still enjoyable, but it did pop into my head more than once.

There were also a couple of what I like to call "It's in the script!" moments to be found that sort of hurt the storyline. You know what I mean: those events that can only occur in the world of film, events where any real person would do one thing but the film's characters decide to do the complete opposite solely to progress the storyline or to make way for the next event. I'm going to avoid specific examples as all of my major grievances come from events that occur towards the end of the film, but they are there and they do unfortunately open a couple of holes in the plot.

So, bottom line: is it worth a purchase or a rental? I think so. It does have its problems, sure, and it may not be the most original movie on the shelf, but it is a fun ride and it does provide a solid night of entertainment. Yes, it does borrow more than a couple of elements from The Thing, but if you're going to copy someone, you might as well copy the best. With that said, you'll probably see this in much the same way as I did if you enjoyed that classic: not quite on the same level, but certainly not just another cheap imitation either. 8/10.
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Tristan #1: Tristan - added 01/06/2009, 01:26 AM
I was with Chad on the tile. It sounded like another sci-fi disaster, so I skipped past it when it popped up online a few weeks back. After his positive review I decided to check it out. It's basically The Thing in a super market, but it was still quite enjoyable.

8/10
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