Alien Raiders (2008)


I’m accustomed to rummaging through countless Netflix recommendations to find a scary movie I haven’t seen that manages to get more than three stars. It’s harder than you’d think since i’ve seen most of the better known ones and the genre as a whole is supersaturated with half-assed exploitation garbage. So when Alien Raiders popped up with a whopping four and a half stars on the “Our best guess for Adam” rating, I was intrigued. My expectations were still low though, given the ludicrous title that could only be cheesier if it was coupled with something equally ridiculous like Alien Raiders vs. Zombie Anaconda. Actually, I’d probably watch that too.

But lo and behold that fancy Netflix algorithm apparently has me pegged because I thoroughly enjoyed all 80 minutes of alien horror action. Not only was Alien Raiders far smarter than its title would imply, it was also much more professionally produced and artistically competent than a straight-to-video release has any business being.

The story: The opening credits roll over music video style shots of hands loading guns, consulting maps, and putting tapes into video cameras. From the moment I saw the words “Safety First” engraved on the blade of a combat knife, I was hooked. Afterward the scene shifts to closing time at an isolated grocery store where average folks are finishing their shopping. The owners of the guns from the credits pull up in a van and case the joint, discussing the likelihood that “he” is inside. We’ll have to wait to find out who or what “he” is.

The gunmen take control of the store in short order, killing several shoppers but curiously sparing others. Things get weird when one of them, nicknamed Spooky for reasons that are immediately apparent, goes from person to person laying on hands and staring hard into their eyes. The camera shakes so we know something supernatural is going on, then he moves on. But anytime he calls out to his fellows that a certain unlucky person is “one of them”, guns blaze and customers die. The attackers assure the terrified hostages they’ll be done in a few minutes but Spooky is killed by a plainclothes police officer before he can finish his search. The mysterious “he” remains temporarily undiscovered and the group has to devise other means of accomplishing their task.

 

So wait, which one of you is Spooky?

 

Biggest letdown: The biggest twist can be seen coming from miles away and the director lets up on the gas pedal a little in the third act, but those are minor problems compared to that horrendous title. Granted, when the biggest disappointment is the title, you’re doing okay. But Alien Raiders? I racked my brain to figure out how anything in this movie relates to raiders or raids or raiding and the only thing I could come up with was that the hostage takers are raiding the market for aliens. As a public service I took all of five minutes to put together these alternate titles:

Alien Grocers
Clean-up in Aisle Five
Certified Organic
Manager’s Special
Meat Department
Expiration Date
Anything But Alien Raiders

That was about the best I could do but I’m not terribly clever. Can you top me? Put it in the comments!

 

"We don't want to hurt anybody but 'him' - the guy who named this movie."

 

Why you should watch: After a compelling opening, the movie does a great job of revealing the backstory visually without relying on long-winded explanations. The makers of this film created an articulate storyline and chose to begin the movie right at the climax point, leaving everything before that to be no more than hinted at through snippets of video discovered by the police and inferences from the characters’ actions. It helps that the entire ensemble of relatively unknown actors puts in solid, heartfelt work.

There’s also a little novelty to be found here, although not in the alien impostor scenario, which has been done pretty much to death. The attackers’ initial brutality turns out to have a valid explanation so they remain reasonable and sincere, without a hint of cruelty. That compassion is nicely contrasted with their unflinching resolve: they never hesitate to kill for the cause, even if it’s just a human who gets in the way, but they feel really bad about it afterward. At one point they’re forced to resort to a rudimentary test to see who’s human and who’s not. Each shopper has to drink a quart of milk to change their bodies’ pH levels, which will produce some sort of reaction in an affected person. Perhaps aliens are lactose intolerant. What they don’t say is that to detect the reaction they need to chop off a finger to see if it grows back. Instead of taking it by force, they reason with each person and apologize profusely. And when the deed is done, they return the finger in a neatly labeled Tupperware container filled with ice so it can be reattached later.

 

But I need to play my numbers!

 

Memorable Moment: After Spooky’s death the group needs a new “spotter” to find the missing critter. They convince the cops to spring an aging junkie from a nearby jail. The rather ominous Charlotte is delivered to the scene in the back of a police cruiser, still in handcuffs. She pleads with the driver to loosen her restraints because she’s uncomfortable, which he wisely refuses. She proceeds to push the cuffs off with her feet, painfully breaking all the bones in her hands. When she’s finally free, instead of attacking the officer or fleeing as I had expected, she just throws her arm over the headrest, leans back and lets out a relaxed sigh.

Choice quote: “Aw, see that’s fucked up. You gotta get all sentimental and shit. Yeah, I’m in, man. Shit.”

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2 Responses to “Alien Raiders (2008)”

  1. […] 31 Flavors of Terror A terrifying movie terror-thon of terror « Alien Raiders (2008) […]

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