We’ve had more than our fair share of strange interns at the House of Horror over the years. There was that mouth-breather who smelled like formaldehyde, the guy who thought he was Hunter S. Thompson, and then the pack of feral rejects that we keep in the basement to perform menial tasks (like feeding the gnarly humanoid versions of the staff that we’ve manufactured to replace us when the zombie apocalypse happens).
Lately, however, we’ve actually been really fortunate to have had some awesome interns skulking around the building, including Patrick Dolan, the congenial gentleman who composed these two Cinemacabre reviews after we locked him in the chapel screening room with only a stack of ‘rays and whatever barely edible sustenance we could slide under the door.
While there may be no sign of intelligent insight in Alien Opponent (a.k.a. Alien Infiltration), there is plenty of life and boisterous brutality to be enjoyed in this film that supposes the most dangerous game is not man (or woman) but in fact an alien that looks like a character from the video game Mass Effect with a Power Rangers makeover.
After the titular foe crash lands into a barn owned by junkyard proprietor Megan Mazurski (Ashley Bates: Banshee!!!), the otherworldly oddity proves to be a bit of a hard-ass, so she offers up a $100k bounty to anyone in Tomstown who wants to try beating it to an intergalactic pulp. The would-be mercenaries who answer the call run the gamut of silly stereotypes, and are limited to the minimal exposition required before they’re blown away or they blow someone else away for shock, awe or at least a punchline. Some standouts are ex-wrestler “Rowdy” Roddy Piper (They Live) as a beast of a catholic priest, Jeremy London (looking a bit puffier than his days in Mallrats) as a horny alcoholic drifter, and newcomer Adrienne LaValley as a stripper-cum-Lara Croft who indisputably kicks the most ass of the film; her dancing and kickboxing abilities are highlighted in a sparring session with Piper that also prove he’s still got some rasslin’ chops.
Surprisingly great, this Chiller TV original is a Battle Royale-style free-for-all gorefest complete with alliances, double-crosses, explosions, gunplay, hand-to-hand tussling, a reanimated corpse, makeshift battle armour, cannibalism, child killing, dog throwing, and even a laser shark! The best part: these are not isolated events but part of a greater fun-as-all-hell flick that’s the cinematic equivalent of a double chocolate cookie, coated in candy, stuffed into a birthday cake and thrown into a tornado. In other words, the film is packed so full of ludicrously blood-spattered joy that reason and logic hop out the window and one is left dumbstruck and entertained, like a baby watching a set of dangling keys.
Colin Theys (Steve Niles’ Remains) does a serviceable job directing, but it’s writer John Doolan (Sasquatch Assault) who really shines with a script that displays – but doesn’t dwell upon – its influences (which are mostly a handful of video games and ’80s sci-fi action films), features some genuinely humorous dialogue and tosses in a handful of excellent twists that subvert expectations.
If you believed that Die Hard could have been improved with zombies and a handful of actors from classic teen comedies, then consider your prayers answered.
In Terror Experiment (a.k.a. Fight or Flight), a terrorist sets off a viral bomb inside a “Federal Building” that turns all it infects into vicious zombies. A group of survivors are trapped inside and must fight their way out while the army, secret service, fire department and a some scientists argue over their fate.
With a plot of Roland Emmerich proportions, it crams government conspiracy, grossly overt 9/11 analogies (including direct references to the tragedy), zombie action and a poor attempt at character development into a meagre 80 or so minutes. The result is a dull, convoluted mess that speeds through its plot without taking enough time to develop any tension or emotional connection to the characters.
In mini-Emmerich fashion, director George Mendeluk (Meatballs III: Summer Job) goes overboard with stunt casting, utilizing the faded star power of Jason London (Dazed and Confused), Judd Nelson (The Breakfast Club), Robert Carradine (Revenge of the Nerds), the Gary Busey-esque Lochlyn Munroe (Scary Movie) and, of course, Asylum regular C. Thomas Howell. It’s money that would’ve been better invested in a script doctor to flesh out some back story, lay down some narrative groundwork, or just focus the plot itself, which is so jam-packed with stuff it all becomes a blur.
There’s clear borrowing from Demons (sentient running zombies), Aliens (the female protagonist goes full-on Ripley) and a series of hostage-action films (think JCVD, The Negotiator and Airheads), but despite taking cues from great flicks of the past, the whole ordeal comes off like a bar band covering your favourite song: it hits all the marks but still butchers it to hell.
Let’s just hope no one’s praying for Freddie Prinze Jr. and Jason Biggs to fight vampires on a speeding bus while Andrew McCarthy and Emilio Estevez try to destroy a haunted meteor.