Director: Greg Connors
Screenplay: Greg Connors
Starring: Ozzie Devrish, Tonia Renee, Bert Kennedy, Anthony Edwards
Producers: Stuart Wall
Running Time: 82 min
BBFC Certificate: 18
The straight to DVD Alien Undead is a straight-up action/sci-fi/horror with a hell of a debt to owe to Aliens. Your appreciation of the film will depend on your penchant for very low budget genre films really. Personally I've seen a lot and can let common problems slide so long as they deliver on a certain level so Alien Undead was sent to the right audience in my case.
The film is set in the 'near future', where eight people are trapped by waves of zombie aliens in some sort of space station research facility. This mixed bag of scientists, test subjects and mercenaries struggle to work together to get out of this mess before the creatures have them for dessert or the rapidly approaching government agency arrives to 'hide the evidence'.
The story is pure cookie-cutter as are the characters – evil head scientist (check), hardened soldier who's blatantly going to give his life to save the others (check), bad-boy who's secretly a soft touch (check) etc...... However, with a film like this that kind of comes with the territory. Also, it's clear that the makers of Alien Undead are paying homage to the wave of Alien rip-offs from the 80's every step of the way, and cliches like this are all part of the love letter they are writing to the sub-genre. What they also get dead right in terms of mimicking such 'classics' is the visual style. Rather than trying to ape the look of more expensive modern titles and failing miserably as most straight to DVD actioners seem to do, Alien Undead brings out the old school lighting, with big bold colours mixing with a healthy dose of strobe lighting. For a cheapie it looks great and the insistence on using practical effects whenever possible is a good move too. Even some of the exterior space station shots look like models, far more preferable to shoddy CGI in my eyes. There's a hell of a lot of blood splashed around too to earn it that 18 certificate. The splatter helps keep the action nicely violent and fun in an over-the-top fashion. The action is admirably intense too – just about pulling off the fast-cutting editing style that I usually hate.
Unfortunately, it's hard to ignore the films flaws though. As soon as anyone opens their mouths the film comes tumbling down. The acting and dialogue is truly atrocious. OK so a few cheesy lines fit in with the cheesy films it's mimicking, but when they're delivered this badly it's difficult to let it slide. The main leads aren't too painful, but the 'weedy guy' and 'sarky woman' (I can't remember their character names) make me want to murder something every time they're given screen time.
For some reason I find it hard to truly rag on the film though as it's heart is in the right place. It's short and sweet at only 84 minutes and the action is thankfully spread evenly throughout rather than all crammed at the bookends or just constant (which sounds good but doesn't usually work). There is a slow patch in the third quarter as a semblance of a plot is toyed with, but the final act makes up for it. There's even a dark final twist which is fairly well handled.
So yes it's not a great film by any stretch, but as back-to-basics bargain bin action movies go it's one of the better ones. Just make sure you reach for the fast forward or mute button whenever there looks to be a 'dialogue-driven' scene.
Alien Undead is out now on DVD released by Left Films. Special features include a 'making of' documentary, a concept art gallery, trailer, deleted scenes, cast interviews and a bonus short film Netherworld. So a pretty extensive package – it's a shame there's no commentary as I'm a sucker for commentaries on low budget features, but you can't complain when you've got so many other treats.