There’s a reason why independent filmmakers who make a living selling moderately budgeted genre movies to videos and cable outlets insist on using generic titles for their movies. It helps to attract the attention of a video store customer who may not know the movie existed; hence the word “alien” will get their attention. Without the existence of video or cable, movies like “Alien Hunter” would not exist. Rather this is a good or a bad thing depends how much you like, or dislike, formulaic genre films.
“Alien Hunter” stars James Spader (“Stargate”) as Julian Rome, an alien expert and former SETI researcher with a tainted past. Now relegated to teaching communications to horny college students, Julian gets a second chance when “something” falls to Earth and lands in Antarctica. At the same time, research stations around the world are intercepting strange radio signals, all coming from the Antarctic crash site. Have aliens finally landed on Earth, or is there something more sinister going on? And is that stock footage from John Carpenter’s “The Thing” or am I seeing things?
“Alien Hunter’s” greatest asset is James Spader, who has been in one bad movie after another in recent years (with the exception of the odd “Secretary”). Spader is a terrific actor, which is a very good thing since “Hunter” has one of those “are the aliens here to invade us or befriend us?” plot. It’s entirely predictable, as is the presence of the movie’s two antagonistic camps — the altruistic civilian researchers at the Antarctica base and the nuke’em all U.S. Government. I wish I could tell you that “Alien Hunter” avoids cliché, but alas there’s not much about the movie that isn’t clich’d, including the inclusion of 1947 Roswell, New Mexico, the Holy Grail for UFO movies.
After Julian arrives at the base, he finds that the researchers have dug up the alien object and is housing it in one of their warehouses. This obviously doesn’t seem like such a great idea, especially for a bunch of brainiacs, but try telling that to screenwriters Cardone and Davidson, both of who are long-time veterans of B-movies. The two men’s extensive credits in the straight-to-video market means they’ve long ago given up trying to write anything remotely original. Which means I’m not shocked at all that Julian’s ex-girlfriend just happens to also be working at the remote research base, or that her new boyfriend is a jerk.
Of note is Leslie Stefanson (“Desert Saints”) as Nyla, a sexy researcher who offers up a potential love interest for Julian. This is a plus, since Janine Eser, as the ex-girlfriend, is written as unsympathetic at first, then just dull for the rest of the film. Nyla, on the other hand, has an easygoing personality and doesn’t mind walking around in a tight one-piece bikini. At one point she nonchalantly offers to join Julian for a shower. Alas, still carrying a torch for Ms. Dull, Julian says No, which effectively destroys any chance Nyla has of being the movie’s love interest. And unfortunately this also translates into a short shelf life for the character.
By the time our brilliant researchers conclude that the best thing to do is to crack open the unknown alien object you pretty much know where “Alien Hunter” is going. Of course a storm has appeared to conveniently close off the base from the rest of the world, which is doubly bad since the U.S. Government is trying to get in touch. Needless to say the movie’s science is a bit iffy, and just about anything can be accomplished by simply typing randomly on a computer keyboard. Also, the film keeps intercutting to a meeting at the White House, where characters slowly but surely fill us in on The Truth — with emphasize on slowly.
As a genre movie, “Alien Hunter” isn’t really that bad. The film is boasted by the presence of James Spader, and we’re treated to some decent special effects, including the appearance of a giant spaceship at the end ala Steven Spielberg’s “Close Encounter of the Third Kind”. Also, there’s a scene where half of the researchers fall victim to a flesh-eating virus in the space of 10 seconds that is quite thrilling. This particular scene also kick starts the movie into an active second half, putting behind a slow first that seems to get the impression people who watch a movie called “Alien Hunter” cares about characterization.
Ron Krauss (director) / Boaz Davidson, J.S. Cardone (screenplay)
CAST: James Spader …. Julian Rome
Janine Eser …. Kate Brecher
John Lynch …. Michael Straub
Leslie Stefanson …. Nyla
Aimee Graham …. Shelly Cline