I will see pretty much any alien invasion movie, and this one had big special effects, and looked super-fun! Then I learned that it is the result of two guys who run a special-effects shop who decided they may as well circumvent the whole system and make their own movie, hiring super-cheap actors, since the special effects will be the real star. You kind of have to respect that. So I was eager to see this, but then the first reviews came back saying it was not just awful, but among the worst films in memory, with a cast of vapid pretty things who no one could possibly care about, and a God-awful ending that will go far to erase any weak, lingering hope one may have had for the future of humanity. So then I REALLY wanted to see it!
It is with the greatest regret I must report that it is not that bad. We open with the blue lights landing just like in the trailer, and see our hero Jerrod look into the light and start getting all veiny. Then we flash back to the previous morning, when he and his GF Elaine touch down in L.A. from New York. They have come to visit Jerrod’s friend Terry, played by Donald Faison, who has recently made it rich, although I’m not sure we ever find out how. African-American Terry has a huge penthouse and white blonde trophy girlfriend in Candice, who turns out to be a total hoot, while he’s also screwing his [also white] personal assistant. Now get this, I believe we’re supposed to understand that Jerrod—who looks like he has had ONE thought in his entire life, and that thought was: “Dude!”—is supposedly an ARTIST. Yeah! Contributing to this are the fact that he wears a T shirt with cut-off sleeves that says “Good Art Club” or something, has tattoos of like SKULLS and shit [SO crazily alternative—and DANGEROUS!], lives in Brooklyn, and we later see him making graffiti-like sketches in a book. The tragic part is, given the current state of the art world, he COULD plausibly be a successful artist. Perhaps I shall kill myself now. Eh fuck it, I’ll wait ‘til after I finish this review.
But while we’re at it, let’s continue whaling on our young actors and their vapid characters. Eric Balfour, who plays our tortured artist [that is no stranger to hair product] looks like a cartoon hero—in fact, he totally looks almost exactly like the animated hero of the forthcoming Tangled [see above]. Turns out he also played Kemper in the remake of Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and was the bad boy Jesse who dated and dumped Buffy after she finally realized she needed to give up on Angel. Playing his girlfriend Elaine is Scottie Thompson. Now, she is but one of three female characters in this film whose collected brainpower might equal that of one developmentally-disabled four-year-old, and normally in these sorts of movies I get a sick sort of perverse pleasure when 1/3rd of the screenplay is made up of utterances of “Like, oh my God!” But that’s not the case here—nor need it be, because Ms. Thompson’s face says it without words. She has pale blue eyes and big lips and conveys absolute vapidity. Of course, it might be different if she actually had a character to play. We soon find out that she’s pregnant. Joining them is Terry’s girlfriend Candice, who won my heart when she had a pouting fit that Terry hadn’t brought her a Cosmo from the poolside bar, and ordered Terry’s assistant Denise to get her one. She has a few more flashes of glory, but all in all she could have been MUCH more of a totally insensitive entitled bitch. She also smokes a cigarette at one point and there’s a hilarious moment as Elaine flees the room because ONE exposure to secondhand smoke WILL KILL HER FETUS—and this is as aliens are sucking up thousands of people outside. Terry is the stereotypical movie black male who cannot seem to conceptualize anything beyond material possessions and monetary wealth. Together, they’re five of the most empty, soulless, superficial characters ever to grace our movie screens, and it verges on audacious that we’re supposed to care about them enough to get into this movie.
Alrighty! So they all stay up late and parrr-TAY, then pass out for the night, and wake when the aliens are landing outside. We soon see the aliens hoovering up people like you saw in the trailer. It would seem that you stare into the light and you start to get all veiny, and something about it hypnotizes you [“Who wouldn’t want to look at something so beautiful?” Elaine opines] and next thing you know you’re being sucked in. There’s actually not too much to talk about regarding the rest of the movie. Basically they just stay in the apartment and bicker about what they should do, try this or that, freak out, and get killed. This movie has been said to be a mash-up of Independence Day and War of the Worlds [Spielberg Version], because of the aerial battle above L.A. in the first instance, and because of tendrils that come into apartments looking for people in the second. When they find people they suck them in for snack time later [they’re not just for breakfast anymore!] or just rip off their heads and toss the useless body aside. Which is kind of funny because--all that work on their abs for nothing!
The first good thing about the movie is—surprise!—the special effects. They are just integrated very well, and there are quite a few instances of a special effect going on in the background while something is happening in the foreground, which successfully conveys the impression that insane stuff is happening all around. On the other hand, there are several instances where the special effects just don’t INTERACT with their surroundings… for example, at one point we see a distant fire, but no LIGHT being cast by the fire. Anyway, all this leads is into the second good thing about the movie, which is that after a certain point it the battle between the aliens and humans is just all-out chaos, with shit blowing up left and right, and one never knowing where danger is going to come from next. It also helps that those aliens are all but unkillable, so after a while you really start to wonder how we’re going to get out of this mess. By the way, you might be interested to know that a nuclear blast less than a mile away will NOT cause so much as a scratch on today’s reinforced apartment windows!
SPOILERS > > >
Here’s where I spoil the ending for you, so if that’s all you want to know, here ya go! And if you don’t want to know, well, next paragraph for you. Thanks! Okay, so it comes down to Jerrod and Elaine in the alien dance of doom. They make puppy-dog “I can’t be without you!” faces at each other—despite the fact that anyone can tell that if aliens HADN’T invaded, they would have broken up within four months. So after they both get sucked up into the sky—kissing on the way [NOT kidding]—they wake up in the big human junk pile inside the ship. We see Elaine get probed [more on that below], then Jerrod gets his brain ripped out of his head. Well, it’s not like he was using it, anyway. But HIS brain is a PISSED-OFF brain, as you can tell because it glows RED while all the other human brains [who are apparently totally chill about this whole total-wipeout-of-humanity thing] glow a calm, pleasing blue. Did you know that your brain is glowing blue inside your head right now? It is! Anyway, so it would seem that the aliens pop human brains into their own noggins when they’re ready for a refreshing change of pace, but when the alien pops Jerrod’s PISSED-OFF brain into his head, he turns into a PISSED-OFF alien that’s going to fight the system from the INSIDE! YES, THAT is the ending you’ve been hearing about. It also argues that they think there’s going to be a sequel. And by the way, Elaine recognized Jerrod’s brainy essence inside the alien beastie right away. Such is the spiritual level of their love, which surpasses physical beauty to see the true essence within.
< < < SPOILERS END
But what about the twisted socio-sexual implications, you ask? Well first, let me observe that this movie is one where the women scream and cower and the men save them. Not one of the female characters here do one productive thing, and the men take it entirely upon themselves to save the little ladyfolk, as if they absolutely couldn’t do a thing for themselves. And it’s hardly a surprise to discover that the alien’s mouths look like—take a wild guess?—VAGINAS! Vaginas with teeth, which have a long history in horror movies, as well as literature on castration complexes.
But there’s a certain point in which an alien probe ascertains that Elaine is pregnant, and then there’s some hugger-mugger where there are several tentacles attacking her and we can’t REALLY see what’s happening, but there’s a strong implication that while aliens like snacking on human brains, they REALLY like munching on prenatal brains. Now, I wouldn’t have thought TOO much about this if the Brothers Strause’s LAST film, Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem, didn’t ALSO contain some SERIOUS alien violence against fetuses. In that movie, a huge phallic “appendage” forces its way down a woman’s throat, squirts some aliens in her [and those buggers DO look like sperm, don’t they?] and they end up eating her fetuses while inside her. So you know what, Brother’s Strause? It’s time to lay off the violence against fetuses. Because it is starting to say something ABOUT YOU. It is starting to say something very sick and twisted and ugly ABOUT YOU AS PEOPLE. So I highly advise you drop that whole angle. Just, any time you’re going to have a pregnant woman in your movie, just don’t go there. Okay? The world—and your wives—will sleep better.
So that’s it! Though I’ve done nothing but bitch, I totally enjoyed this movie. It’ll give you some good crazy alien fun and lots of special effects and stupid characters and will pass 90 minutes just fine. I think you’d do better to set expectations low and just go with whatever you get.
Sure, why not? You've seen worse.