Evil Aliens

Director: Jake West   
Emily Booth, Jamie Honeybourne, Sam Butler

There are certain moments in your life that you will remember greatly, like they happened just a few minutes ago. I've described some of mine in past reviews, and those moments were the expected stuff, like driving a car for the first time. But as a movie buff, I have a lot of key moments in my past that have to do with movies. Movies that basically blew me away when I saw them for the first time. When I was young, Disney movies like Snow White And The Seven Dwarves and Pinocchio made a big impression on me. As the years progressed, certain movies that were more adult in nature made an equal impact. I'll describe one such episode in my life. I have a long-time friend who is kind of my student when it comes to movies. I have introduced him to many memorable movies he probably wouldn't have seen otherwise, such as Tromeo And Juliet, Death Wish 3, and Rabid Dogs. Well, one day we were at the video store, up to watching another movie together, and it was one time I was stumped - I had shown him so much already that I was fresh out of ideas. Then I saw Dead Alive on the shelf, and it struck a bell. I remember I had read a review of it that began with it saying it was so gory that it was great, and I had stopped reading right there so I wouldn't read any spoilers. Anyway, I decided to pick the movie, telling my friend, "I've heard this is good", and we took it to his house to watch. Well, if you have seen this movie, you can imagine the impact it made not only on him, but on me as well. Despite my film education being bigger than my friend, I had never seen anything like it before. We both became Peter Jackson fans, and we have seen all his other films.

Now please let me go off that topic for a moment and get onto a completely different topic. (Don't worry, it will all make sense when you get to the third paragraph of this review.) I have long been fascinated by the idea that there is extra-terrestrial life. I'm not really talking about small stuff like fungus and bacteria (though I am 100% convinced that small life forms like that do exist on some of the planets we have spotted in other solar systems.) When I hear the term "extra-terrestrial life", the first thing that pops into my head is the idea of intelligent extra-terrestrial life. I suppose that could include creatures that we would consider "animals" back on earth - some animals on our world occasionally show the flicker of real thinking - but what I really imagine are creatures that have the intelligence level of humans, or even greater. On these occasions when the thought of extra-terrestrial life gets into my head, I often go into deep thought as to just what would an intelligent alien be like. I wonder what they would look like. Would they have ears on the side of their head, and two eyes above a nose and a mouth? Logical thought on my part says that chances are that would not be the case. Evolution on another planet making a creature so close to humans in many aspects seems very unlikely. But I also wonder what they would be thinking of Earth and the humans on it. Do aliens think that we are so lowly compared to them that this explains why they have not officially made contact with us? Would an alien race that discovers us see us as unpeaceful, with all our wars and crimes, and think we should be wiped out?

Some of you probably have an idea by now as to the kind of movie that I am writing about in this review. If not, I will tell you now. Evil Aliens (the title should have given some of you slow folks a clue) is a movie about aliens landing on earth, aliens who aren't exactly thinking peaceful Evil Aliensthoughts when it comes to humans. But this is not your usual standard serious-minded movie about alien invasion. Evil Aliens is a movie that has clearly been inspired by the early films of Peter Jackson, definitely Dead Alive, but also movies like Bad Taste and Meet The Feebles. It should have been a movie that I would have picked up right away at the video store, but it wasn't. When I first saw it and did research on it, I came up with reviews from a number of folks who said it was a bad rip-off of Peter Jackson. So I left it alone. But as time went on, I started to uncover an equal number of reports from other people who said that this was a good homage of sorts. The fact that there was so much disagreement about the movie intrigued me, enough so that I decided that I had to judge it for myself. Here's the plot description that was on the back of the Evil Aliens DVD box: "Brace yourself for this jaw-dropping slice of sci-fi horror lunacy! Gruesome mutilations, inappropriate body probes, and pointy weapons ranging from sports gear to chainsaws fill this gore-drenched classic of giddy alien mayhem. Looking for a new story, Weird Worlde TV reporter Michelle Fox leads her crew to a small Welsh farming town where residents are reporting alien abductions and impregnations. Unfortunately, the TV crews dramatic recreation of the events turns downright nasty when the real interstellar visitors arrive, and they're hungry for more than a close-up!"

After watching Evil Aliens, I think I can safely confirm what others have said about it, namely the fact that it owes a great deal to the (early) work of director Peter Jackson. So much so, that if there had been no Peter Jackson, I don't think that Evil Aliens would exist, at least anywhere near the form that it is in right now. Like Jackson's early movies, it is an (extreme) black comedy, making numerous attempts to mine humor out of material that many would consider disgusting. Namely, with a Dead Alive-like enthusiasm for blood and gore. Although Dead Alive still beats Evil Aliens with the amount of blood and gore, Evil Aliens at times sure tries hard to pile on the goopy stuff. But the movie is influenced by Jackson in other ways as well, not just with the blood and playing it for laughs. There are also a number of camera techniques, such as with some cockeyed camera angles or the camera quickly zooming close-up to the action, that suggest Jackson as well. Call it an homage, or even a rip-off, but if you watch it you can't deny the movie is trying very hard to stand up to Jackson. But despite all of this effort, I didn't think that the movie worked. I'll start with the performances. I feel that I should mention up front that this is a British movie, so it should come to no surprise that there are accents. Having parents that are British, I could make out the dialogue... most of the time. There were some garbled words even I couldn't make out (or made me need a few seconds to figure them out in my mind), and I could only imagine the greater difficulty someone not used to hearing British accents would have with the spoken dialogue of the movie.

It's kind of unfair of me to criticize actors for speaking in the way they and their fellow countrymen were raised, so I don't blame them for that. I have something else to criticize about their performances, but like their accents, I can't blame them for this other thing. There are signs throughout the movie that show that the cast is a bunch of likable people who are not without talent, so I can imagine their internal pain when seeing them act in the way they were no doubt told to act by the director. Everyone in the cast acts "funny" - an exaggerated style that makes them look like a bunch of nincompoops. This sinks the movie almost completely by itself. Evidently, director West did not see that in Jackson movies like Dead Alive, the actors play it (mostly) straight. "Normal" reactions to the absurd come across as ridiculous, and can be funny. But acting "funny" in a movie like this makes the actors seems stupid, and it's hard to get involved with the plight of people who are idiots. Director West (who also wrote and produced the movie) doesn't just drop the ball when it comes with dealing with the actors. While Peter Jackson made good-looking movies on a low budget, the look of this low budget movie is lacking. It has a strange visual look, like the ones you see on some modern British television shows. (Was this shot digitally?) Also, when the movie is out of rooms and outdoors that are brightly lit (which is most of the time), everything looks very murky, and it's hard at times to make out what we're seeing.

This includes just about all the scenes with the aliens and the mayhem they cause directly or indirectly. I said there's a lot of blood and gore in the movie, but the darkness and other factors (like editing quickly to another shot) make it hard to appreciate all the work the special effects people did. The aliens themselves come across just as murkily as the gore. Except for the final shot of the movie, we never get a clear look at the aliens because of that editing and lighting. In the few scenes where the lighting and editing are (somewhat) better, the aliens then are wearing masks and curious get-ups that make them look like all of them are wearing black short-sleeved T-shirts. Their motivations are just as curious; we never get a real explanation as to why these dim-witted aliens are here on Earth, or why they leave humans they've captured unguarded on their spaceship. There were other questions I had with the movie, like: Why does the island that these people come to have no boats handy for emergency purposes or other reasons? Why does a bloody windshield make the protagonists feel they can no longer drive their vehicle to escape? How can someone deal with a machete stab to the gut with what is more or less a shrug? I found myself focusing on these questions, because I found most the movie surprisingly boring. It takes forever for the action to get going, and despite the eventual blood and entrails that spill forth, it's all directed so badly that I felt no enthusiasm, no sense of West cackling behind the camera with glee. West may know the words, but he shows no sign that he learned Jackson's music as well.

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See also: The High Crusade, Night Of The Creeps, Revenge Of The Teenage Vixens From Outer Space