Alien Hunter Review
Alien Hunter begins in 1947 with a preamble through the various tropes of 1950s ‘Reds under the bed’ science fiction. There are strange radio frequencies, a spooked dog, Communists and an unseen alien assailant, plus a nod to the Roswell landing. As the film moves into the present day one hopes that this might trigger an updating of these clichés. More modern elements such as genetic engineering and a multi-racial, mixed sex cast are present and there’s even an explicit reference to John Carpenter’s remake of The Thing with its purposeful sharing of stock footage. Yet all hope is in vain, as the film instead takes the familiar route of settling for being a derivative SF/Horror thriller.
Much of the film is a simple padding out of the opening sequence, albeit with more characters: a radio frequency is heard coming from the Antarctic which, when investigated, reveals an alien presence. Heading up the investigation team is James Spader (who really should know better), a maverick linguistics professor who is known to have affairs with his students – including one who is now a doctor based in the Antarctic herself. He also, conveniently, happens to believe in the existence of extra-terrestrial intelligence which prompts conflict amongst the team as well as an unfortunate comparison with The X-Files. That series had itself paid homage to Carpenter’s film with an episode called “Ice” which was infinitely superior to the proceedings here.
This is just one of the main reference points; aside from The Thing, there are nods to the Alien franchise. As such, once the discovered being is revealed as a potential threat, the film quickly descends into the familiar; ‘dark corridor’ wanderings, teasingly brief glimpses of the alien, stalk-and-slash point of view shots prowling the aforementioned, and seemingly numerous, corridors. Most tediously, before the climactic revelations, there is the viewer endurance test of a ponderous build-up. Various theories are expounded as to what the frequencies could be (elaborate hoax, etc, etc… ) which are all rendered utterly pointless after the events of the opening scene and only cursory attempts are made at character development; the mixture of differing ages, sexes and accents allows each actor outside of Spader to seek refuge in broad stereotype. Added to this are cutaways to the Russian submarines, the White House and men talking in hushed tones in shadowy offices – including a rare appearance from Keir Dullea – in the hope that the impression will be given that the goings-on are far more interesting and complex than they actually are.
Admittedly, screenwriter J.S. Cardone does pull a few unexpected twists in the final reel but they are wholly in vain for two reasons. Firstly, the audience has long since lost interest, and secondly, the characters are such ciphers that we care little for their plights or antagonisms. After all, a film which has respected Irish actor John Lynch (Cal, Some Mother’s Son) playing a doctor on the verge of winning a Nobel Prize who does ridiculous and idiotic things solely to provide the film with a dramatically useful psychopath can hardly be expected to produce faith in its audience.
The presentation of Alien Hunter is pretty good on DVD. The Dolby Digital 5.1 mix is crisp and provides what little atmosphere there is, making full use of the rear channels. The anamorphic transfer of the original 1.85:1 aspect ratio is similarly clean. There is a murky look to the film though this has been the result of the cinematography rather than any technical faults and the disc copes well, if not perfectly with the darker tones.
The extras are surprisingly full for a direct-to-DVD release, the centrepiece being a commentary from director Ron Krauss. To his credit, he keeps up the chat for the full duration of the film and gives the majority of the cast and crew a mention. There is, however, little that is dealt with in depth, Krauss instead referring to any given subject as either ‘great’ or ‘outstanding’ before moving on. He also has the annoying habit of starting the majority of his sentences with the words ‘this is…’ though the amount of times he follows these words up with the phrase ‘stock footage’ is quite remarkable. No wonder filming was completed in a little over four weeks!
The main featurette is a 16 minute piece called “Alien Hunter: Behind the Scenes”. This spends time on most aspects of the production but relies heavily on clips from the film and rarely rises above the level of promotional guff. The other two featurettes consist of a storyboard comparison (three scenes over eight minutes) which offer nothing out of the ordinary, and footage of the location shoot. The latter is quite engaging - Alien Hunter was entirely filmed in Bulgaria – but suffers from a lack of contextual commentary.
The remaining extras consist of six deleted scenes, including an alternative ending (without SFX) – some with optional commentary from Krauss during which he admits that he ‘really likes’ each scene but cut them for reasons of timing – plus six picture galleries which focus on the make-up, production design and special effects. We also get trailers for Terminator 3, Bad Boys II and Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle. All the extras, including the commentary, are subtitled in Italian, Spanish and Dutch.