'Alien Outpost' is sci-fi at its worst and cheapest
Alien Outpost IFC Films
Director: Jabbar Raisani
Screenplay: Blake Clifton and Jabbar Raisani
Starring: Joe Reegan, Rick Ravanello, Adrian Paul, Reiley McClendon, Kenneth Fok, Douglas Tait, Nic Rasenti and Khalil Kathrada
Not rated / 1 hour, 30 minutes
Now playing in limited release and VOD
(out of four)
So you're faced with a few options. You can go down to one of your local theatres and drop down some cash for a full-price movie ticket to Alien Outpost. That's one option. Or, if you'd rather not leave the house - or maybe it's one in the morning and you just can't sleep, damn insomnia - you can scroll through your cable television provider's On Demand listings and find it there, too. There it is, right near the top of the list. Only eight bucks!
And then there's the third option, which is to walk across the street to your nearest Redbox machine, scroll through a few pages until you find a cheapo direct-to-video title you've never heard of but that looks pretty much exactly like Alien Outpost.
As you may have already guessed, the smartest of those three options is No. 3. It's only a dollar or two, and I promise you this - whatever alien-based movie you select from that machine will be roughly the same quality as this one, if not better. Believe me - I've seen some of those ones, and they aren't any worse than this. The fact that it got theatrical distribution at all is staggering to me. And I say that as someone who eagerly seeks out under-the-radar science-fiction titles. There are always a few gems if you take the time to find them.
Of course, the flip side of that is just what happened here - the reminders that, oh yeah, there's still a lot of bottom-of-the-barrel sci-fi out there. Alien Outpost legitimately looks like a movie that should be airing on SyFy, or maybe even as the pilot for a low-budget, high-concept network show that will get canceled after four episodes. The subpar effects and lousy costumes are what bad sci-fi dreams are made of. It's frustrating because this is the type of film that people point to when they denigrate the genre as a whole.
The level of quality is reminiscent of those microbudget "mockbusters" that have invaded rental kiosks and on-demand services over the last few years - the ones designed to fool people into thinking they're renting something close to, if not the actual, real thing (Transmorphers, anyone?) Honestly, IFC Films may have been better off just shelving it until May and then dropping it on VOD under the title Alien Avengers. It's at least worth a shot, right?
I suspect one of the reasons this movie got made at all is because of an industry-wide directive requiring that at least a couple of "found-footage" movies be made in every possible subgenre, and so Alien Outpost fulfills the "alien invasion" quota. Y'know - for posterity. So on that day in the future when actual aliens finally do make contact, we can show them the wide variety of narratives we captured on video tape (and the aliens can wonder to themselves why the movies are all so visually ugly).
But anyway, yes: this movie is presented in faux-documentary format. Most of the story is told through handheld footage from a film crew embedded with a military unit stationed at one of the few remaining outposts once used as strongholds against an extraterrestrial attack years earlier. The title cards tell us that the year is 2033, the invasion having taken place more than a decade prior, leaving civilization in shambles. The military unit is part of the United States Defense Force, which we're told took over various global duties once the UN dissolved in the wake of the attack. (We get several bits of stock footage to fill in the gaps as the history of this ongoing war is explained to us.)
So that's the setup, and the movie involves a conflict with the aliens - known as Heavies* and dressed in absolutely awful, Mystery Science Theater 3000-worthy costumes - that we couldn't possibly care less about, among almost entirely interchangeable characters (beyond a couple who yell or overact their way into recognition). The film occasionally shifts over to talking-head interviews with the soldiers from both during and after the conflict. Structurally, it's a bit similar to 2013's Europa Report, except the interview segments in this case don't add any context or dramatic balance. They're just in there as an arbitrary technique. (It's possible, even probable, the filmmakers wanted those scenes to give some depth to the characters who otherwise blend in, but it fails on that level, too.)
* Unfortunately, despite the moniker, the Heavies are NOT played by, say, Ray Winstone and Mark Strong types. A pity, really.
Because it is apparently impossible for any modern movie to not draw a parallel between its story and the War on Terror, Alien Outpost is - of course - set in the Middle East around religiously provincial villages. And look, I'm sure shooting in the desert saved the filmmakers a lot of money. But for a film that purports to examine a global invasion, it would have sure been nice for it to try a location that hasn't already been exploited by thousands of other movies and TV shows over the last dozen years. Aren't there aliens hanging out in Europe or South America somewhere?
Apparently not. In any case, regardless of location, the movie itself is a waste of time and effort, and there are movies just like it - just as pointless, just as cheaply made - available almost everywhere you look.