Warner Bros. // 2008 // 85 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // February 13th, 2009
The person next to you could be one of them.
Ignore the horrible Scifi-originalish title: Alien Raiders is a bad-ass little alien shocker.
A crew of masked gunmen invades Hastings Market one night, smiting the occasional hapless shopper and capturing the others, their motivations unknown. The local police immediately respond and, just like that, we have a hostage stand-off.
The leader of the mysterious assault force (Carlos Bernard, 24) orders his compatriots to dig in and begin a series of bizarre tests. Apparently, these guys are alien hunters and suspect that the big daddy of the extraterrestrial invaders is shacked up inside someone at the supermarket.
If the synopsis brings to mind The Thing, it's understandable. In fact, the similarity is acknowledged in the making-of featurettes, with Carpenter's alien masterpiece cited as a major influence. It's always cool to hear filmmakers give props to the movies that made such an impact, but Alien Raiders -- man that title sucks -- is far from a knock-off.
The alien-hidden-inside-some-poor-slob's-sternum certainly isn't a new genre convention, but it's used well here. While the question looms of who's infected, the movie doesn't bank all of its dramatic punch on the guessing game. There's a nice helping of sweet man-versus-alien action tossed in as well. And, in a smart move, the script methodically releases plot exposition over time instead of all at once or with a voluminous opening title screen. There are all kinds of questions when the gunmen first make their entrance and the savagery of their attack, not to mention the gruff tones everyone speaks in, makes Bad Guy the default position of their allegiance (unless you glance at the back of the disc and see Carlos Bernard wrestling with an alien or, um, read this review). Anyway, there are plenty of disclosures to come which turns those original judgments around and it's a thrill waiting for the reveals. In fact, there are a couple of bonus shorts in the extras that flesh out the mystery even further.
The pace is satisfying -- building up to a frantic finale -- and the characters are cool. Heading the list is Bernard, who is essentially Tony Almeida dropped in an Alien sequel, but that's about the greatest thing ever so who cares. He's all Alpha, spitting out orders, making the Tough Decisions, busting caps and ultimately unleashing a flying reverse clothesline from the meat counter to take down an alien mofo. He's supported by some other hard-asses, notably Rockmond Dunbar (C-Note from Prison Break) as the short-fused paranoid enforcer.
The formula works, surmounting the generic title and plot, resulting in one of the most entertaining sci-fi thrillers I've seen in a while. My one big complaint is the ending, which I saw coming a ways before. Talking about genre conventions, how this thing finishes up is about as clichéd as you can get.
A solid DVD from Warner Brothers. The 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen is clean and the 5.1 Dolby Digital surround mix is active and loud. Extras include featurettes on the making-of and the special effects, three bonus shorts that add depth to the story (don't watch them before the film) and trailers.
Fox action all-stars team up to pimp-slap some aliens in the middle of the dairy aisle. Dope movie.
The Verdict Not guilty. But where's the soul patch?!?
Review content copyright © 2009 David Johnson; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2015 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 85 Minutes
Release Year: 2008
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Short Films