STUDIO: Lionsgate (BUY IT FROM CHUD.COM)
RUNNING TIME: 90 minutes
- Behind the Scenes
- WIDESCREEN PRESENTATION!
Jason Connery. (director)
Bruce Boxleitner. Vanessa Branch. Jason London. John Shea. Rachel Miner. (stars)
Kenny Yakkel. Lucy Mukerjee. (writers)
There are totally aliens at Area 51.
In some ways Area 51 is a nice little change up in a world of high tech ambitious horror/sci-fi flicks. It has a small goal, employs a good deal of old school practical effects, and even has a few refreshing bits of playful comedic twists on the expected. But it’s also extremely generic and is often hampered by poor staging, set design that does it no favors, and a cast of extremely bland performers surrounding the very few participants who seem invested. It’s not a horrible film and under the right circumstances could be a decent diversion for audiences who have no problem with mediocre late night fare.
It’s directed by Jason Connery, so there should no illusions that this is some harkening of a fresh and talented young filmmaker. It’s workmanlike to be sure but with that comes at least a modicum of a guarantee the whole thing wont totally offend the soul. That said, Jason’s dad is retired and still churning out better work than his son simply by not making movies. He is not a very good director and this is right in his wheelhouse. By that, not as much a wheelhouse but rather a shack with aspirations to one day warrant a wheel of some sort.
The premise is simple: Area 51 DOES house aliens and untold dangers but in an attempt to sate the public’s curiosity a sanctioned press visit is staged to allow “access” and hopefully cause people to move on to other conspiracies. As a result, the press is shown what the government wants them to see while in levels below work continues with alien specimens of varying shapes and sizes.
Something gets loose and starts to kick ass. Ooops.
The sort of fun idea here is that there are various sorts of aforementioned creatures being held, which allows for the filmmakers to employ scene involving a shapeshifting beast who impersonates members of the facily [lame, cheap, and boring], a little cerebral nerd alien [cute], and a slimy scaly thing that enjoys squishing heads and stabbing the alive [fun]. It’s the most formula shit you’ll ever see but there is a timeless element to seeing how filmmakers still try to sell a man in a suit as a cinematic threat. Mostly unsuccessfully.
Also worth peeking at is Bruce Boxleitner trying his damndest to sell the massive amount of dialogue he’s been given as the duplicitous head honcho. Butting heads with the reporters he almost seems to be taking the gig seriously though it’s obvious that his Tron: Legacy role has him salivating for more worthy fare.
Remember Jason London? WHY?
What works is that the concept is ripe for satire and monster action, and it’s hard not to be a sucker for a flick where a creature that is obviously a man in a suit wreaks havoc on grunt soldiers with a little bit of gore thrown in. Sadly, it’s mostly uninspired partially due to the very pedestrian direction of Jason Connery and the budgetary limitations.
I love that the After Dark brand exists but in a perfect world it’d be a boutique shingle with interesting and challenging horror flicks and not some of this “quantity over quality’ nonsense. I’m for flicks about beasts on the loose more so than the next guy but only if the folks involved aren’t simply going through the motions.
But the creature is sort of neat. From some angles. In the dark. After I’ve had a few drinks.
ITS PLACE IN THE PANTHEON:
One in a long line of mediocre “monsters on the loose” flicks. Certainly not prime time material but not the worst thing in the world.
KEEPER, RENTER, or AVOIDER?
SPECIAL FEATURES, or “SPECIAL” FEATURES?
So very few special features, which is more than we need.
Area 51 has a monster in a suit, a nerdy little alien, and Bruce Boxleitner paying his rent. Somewhat noble causes all.
Out of a Possible 5 Stars