Judge Ian Visser wonders if that is that alien in your tin box or if you're just glad to see him.
…in a tin box.
Facts of the Case
Jake (Nigel Moran) is a typical teen living in a quiet English village. When his parents leave on a weekend vacation, it's up to Jake to dig a pond and keep his lazy gardener motivated. While digging in the garden with his friend Kevin (Kieron Johnson), the pair discovers a buried metal box filled with a mysterious substance.
Is it a good substance, full of benevolence and love? Hell, no! This gooey concoction is pure evil, and over the course of the weekend it will wreak its awful killing power on Jake, Kevin, and the gardener. Will the pair be able to contain this monstrous power, or will it destroy them both?
I have no problem with low-budget efforts, and Alien Rising is nothing if not low-budget. The proper term to use is probably "home made," since there is little here to suggest a budget over fifty bucks. With that kind of limitation, a film needs something clever to make up for the technical shortcomings, whether its humor, unique characters, or a good story idea.
Unfortunately, none of these elements are present. The camera work and editing is bad enough that there are actually moments when you hear the director telling his actors what to do, and the acting is universally poor, varying from over-the-top to haltingly nervous. Even if everyone involved was a master thespian, with a cast of barely three people there is a limit to the amount of dialogue or story that can be created. As a result, we are subjected to long passages of watching Jake do things of a mundane nature like shower, berate his gardener, and make morning coffee in order to pad the running time.
Is the film scary? In a word, no. The creature from space is comprised of a mask and an ugly, long-fingered hand, and its victims seem to stumble around for ten minutes after being attacked while oatmeal splatters the floor around them. Fellow visiting aliens appear to be wielding (I kid you not) weed whackers painted silver. Any attempts at "boo" moments largely consist of Kevin jumping out and yelling "It's just me!" to Jake at the top of his lungs.
On the one hand, there is no way for me to compare this effort to a studio film. There's no budget, no experience, and little expertise. But on the other hand, it's never been easier to make or release your own film. Software can be bought right off the shelf to add menus, chapters, titles, cover art, and more. Decent video cameras are available for a few hundred dollars, and anyone interested in learning how to shoot or edit a film can visit any library (or the Web) for how-to information.
As such, there is little excuse for the low-quality presentation of Alien Rising. There are no menus or chapter selections, and not even a label on the disk. Is it that hard to make a DVD label, as opposed to writing your film's name in felt-tip marker on the disk? Moran claims he'll be submitting this work to festivals for consideration, but it is going to require a lot of polishing to avoid the garbage can. Additional effort won't do much to save the actual film, but it would make the reviewing experience a little less painful.
The video image is also home movie quality, full of grain and washed-out color. It's on par with your last family reunion's footage, and it gets worse during low-light or night scenes. Moran mentions he shot the film on a Sony PD-150, but there isn't anything here demonstrating proficiency with it. The audio is terrible, as the film relies on the camera's built-in microphone that renders close-up shots too loud and wide shots too quiet to understand. The entire production is also burdened with a hiss that rankles when the sound has to be turned up to hear the dialogue.
I wish I could be a nice guy and say that Alien Rising was a decent attempt at no-budget filmmaking by movie fans. But heaping praise on this effort would make me into that family member who is afraid to hurt their relative's feelings by criticizing their work. Instead, let me be blunt and say that the film lacks spark and creativity in its direction, effects, or writing. If a little more effort had been put into the technical aspects of the film it may have been passable, but when the low-end specs are coupled with a lackluster direction and story, the film just can't get off the ground.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
There is an inexplicable fist fight part-way through the film that leaves the two actors bloodied. The blood effects are pretty well done. That's about the only good thing I have to say.
I'm not a hanging judge, and I selected Alien Rising from the docket with the sincere hope that I could give a new filmmaker a bit of exposure. Even when compared to other no-budget efforts, however, Alien Rising has little to recommend it. It's not well-directed, well-written, or well-acted, and it would be unfair of me to pronounce it "innocent" when there is so little enjoyment to be had in watching the film.
Alien Rising is found guilty by this court. With consideration to the defendant's background, it is sentenced to community service and time served.
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