Alien Outbreak (2020) | Directed by Neil Rowe
Written by Neil Rowe | Starring Katherine Drake, Ritchie Crane, Philip Alexander Baker
Alien Outbreak is available on DVD from Dazzler Media | Release date: 20th July 2020
Special effects master turned director, Neil Rowe gives us this disturbing, and disorienting tale about aliens and mass suicides. Audiences will immediately recognize touches of Alien, Night of the Living Dead, and War of the Worlds in this slow burn of a sci-fi/horror that shifts tone from scene to scene offering some surprises and disappointments along the way. Dark and brooding for the most part, the movie also uses its daytime scenes to great advantage. This bizarre mash of genre is reminiscent of so many other movies, at times it looks like a string of trailers.
The plot concerns a group of police officers in a remote rural English village. Sgt. Zoe Norris (Katherine Drake) is resolute, brave, and lovely in her role as the heroic anti-hero. One evening her mates drag in a half crazed man mumbling about people killing themselves and monsters, in addition to other insane stuff. When his guards loosen their grip for a moment he attacks Zoe, which is a shame since she is the most sympathetic one of the group.
When she is called to investigate a disturbance, she finds a suicide victim lying in the road and a trail of blood. Rule number one in horror movies is to always call for back up and never attempt to enter a creepy house alone. Soon Zoe is introduced to the very effectively done alien mecho monsters, looking like a cross between a bionic flea and the arachnids from Starship Troopers.
Meanwhile all attempts to escape the village or contact the outside world are futile. Giant spaceships bearing supersized humanoids and loads of the bionic bugs keep getting in the way. The exact cause of the alien appearance is never fully explained, as are many other plot points. Therefore, pay attention because this film will not spoon-feed you.
One thing I found odd is the temperament of the cast never really changes despite alien threats, rampant suicides and constant tension. They all seem in good spirits and in no danger of suffering from mental breakdowns despite the unending stress.
The film proceeds in fits and starts, with some scenes ending in dramatic showdowns culminating in explosive scenes of violence and mayhem. Other portions consist of tense explorations of forbidding hallways leading to longer jaunts down creepy hallways ending in… nothing.
At one point, our jolly group of defenders come across a farmer who has actually captured one of the extra tall extraterrestrials in a barn. Our ploughman has the thing strung curcifix style. The unearthly visitor is pretty damn ugly – a combination of Nosferatu, James Arness as the original Thing, and the alien in the old Twilight Zone episode ‘To Serve Mankind’. In addition to being unsightly, the visitor is pissed off about his predicament and is howling like a banshee, non-stop.
When the farmer decides to have some fun and torture the being, our cops get cold feet and look to split, fast. Of course, they run smack into a horde of metal beasties and several of the humanoids.
There is a nice scene where the survivors gather back at the police station for an Assault on Precinct 13 night of mayhem. The last desperate effort of escape is very well done and handled professionally by the director.
The film has many positives; primarily in the special effects. The bugs are amazing and as fine an execution of SFX you will see. The spaceships and the humanoids are outstanding and the small amount of gore is done cleanly and effectively. The acting is more than passable, especially by Katherine Drake who carries the weight of the film on her shoulders. Unfortunately, there are long drawn out scenes where actors engage in pointless dialogue, once again, stifling any drama and tension that should be present throughout the film.
Upon first viewing, I was not sure I cared for this film. Many scenes were too dark to the point of invisibility, too many lines of dialogue lost to my untrained ear, and a plot that seemed thrown together like the screenwriter was on acid. However, the second time around the film fell into place and made for a comfortable watch.
I am not saying Alien Outbreak is the most original, mesmerizing or thoughtful film out there. Any horror movie is more effective if we care for the characters and Rowe’s superior SFX work is undone by the human element. However, if you are a fan of horror/sci-fi blends this one merits a watch.