If Alien Raiders were to win any awards, it would be for having one of the worst titles possible. It’s the sort of title most would just skip straight by. Which is a real shame as it’s a classy, tense and well-told alien horror movie. One that just happens to be set over the Christmas period for some tenuous but welcome holiday links.
Directed by Ben Rock, his first feature film as a director. It stars Carlos Bernard, Mathew St. Patrick, Rockmond Dunbar, Courtney Ford, Jeffrey Licon and Samantha Streets.
Taking place within the confines of Hastings Supermarket, a large grocery store in Buck Lake, Arizona. It’s a cold, winter’s night and the staff are getting ready to close as they do any other night. That is until a heavily armed group burst in, kill several employees and shoppers, and take the rest hostage.
At first it looks like a violent robbery. Until one named ‘Spooky’ (Philip Newby) begins to check the hostages to see if they are one of ‘them’. It appears this group are here for a specific reason and Spooky is the spotter. That is until he is killed in a shootout with an off-duty cop. Now, with no spotter, the hostage takers are forced to hold up inside the supermarket until they can be sure everyone inside is safe.
This group are a band of rogue scientists who have made it their mission to track and stop an alien invasion. One where the creatures infect the body and you’d never know it wasn’t human, until it attacked.
They have tracked the aliens to this store, where they believe the king is hiding in one of the employees. With no spotter though, someone who was infected but able to stave off the spread because of their drug addiction, they must do a more primitive test.
Time is not on their side though as the local police have surrounded the building and the negotiator has a vested interest as his stepdaughter is one of the hostages.
It sounds silly. It sounds cheesy. However, Alien Raiders is neither of those things. What it is, is a combination of The Thing, Invasion of the Body Snatchers and Splinter. The story is wholly unoriginal but is executed in such a way, the lack of originality is easy to overlook.
A gritty horror, Alien Raiders nails how to build tension as the story unravels to show the supposed villains as potential saviours of humanity. However, they’re aware no-one would believe their story so they’re at loggerheads with their hostages and the police outside. Once the crap hits the fan, as you would expect, the hostages and hostage takers are forced to team up, but the threat has become almost uncontrollable. It’s constant white-knuckle-ride all the way to its final credits.
What helps this is an excellent cast of characters portrayed by an excellent group of actors who are giving it their all. Most are very likeable and the more we find out about them, the more likeable they become. It is very easy to be invested in the plight of everyone inside the store and easy to hope most survive.
This is a low-budget offering, but it never feels like it is. Cleverly filmed, the aliens are kept in darkness to hide any dodgy effects even though most are practical anyway and look great. Some may bemoan the darkness, but it actually adds to the atmosphere and makes sense in the context of the story.
Calling it a holiday horror is a bit of a stretch though. It is set over the Christmas period and there are festive decorations about but that’s about it. Once the film gets going, it’s all but forgotten. A minor complaint though as Alien Raiders is a quality sci-fi horror movie. What it lacks in originality, it makes up for through sheer determination to accomplish what it is doing well. That makes it a must watch even if the title is incredibly poor.
The Final Score - 7.5/10