ALIEN OUTBREAK (2020)
Directed by Neil Rowe
Written by Neil Rowe
Starring Katherine Drake, Ritchie Crane, Philip Alexander Baker, Michael Terry, Ian Rowe, Chris Barnicoat, Peggy Salmon, Tom Menary, Jason Collins, Aaron Deakins, Gemma Wilks, Jimmy ‘The Bee’ Bennett, Tony Mitchell
Find out more about this film here!
ALIEN OUTBREAK is a competent and rather creative sci fi thriller that has a plot that drives constantly forward, offers up a unique message and a few big surprises by the end. Despite it’s low budget, the effects work really well and the actors are competent in their roles that require them to basically run, shoot, and repeat all the way through. It’s not perfect, but it is a better than average alien invasion film that has a lot going for it.
Police Sgt. Zoe Norris (Katherine Drake) is a Canadian officer recently transferred to the UK. While responding to a routine disturbance call, she soon finds a dead body and a women claiming her home is being invaded by unseen monsters. Soon, a spaceship is dropping off robot drone warriors and Zoe is running for her life. As the number of spaceships, robots, and aliens grow, Zoe and a handful of survivors make a mad dash across the countryside to find a place to survive this alien Armageddon.
While this is a low fi actioner, it is impressive that the film is able to offer up the caliber of effects that it does. The robots, spaceships, and cloaked aliens all have distinct and downright frightening looks. All of these computer generated effects are incorporated into the frame with the rest of the actors extremely well. It’s a testament to the advancement of computer imagery that this film is able to be as convincing as it is.
The story is also quite impressive and while the bulk of the film is about the chase as the survivors are basically running from one locale to the next battling the aliens, the film actually plays out like an extended TWILIGHT ZONE episode that speaks more about the human spirit than most slam-bang sci fi jaunts you and I have both seen a million times. While I feel a lot of screentime is whittled away with endless action, I do feel the message is a powerful one and shows that there is a little more going on than simple action. I do think this film would have played better as a short as the surprise ending does undercut a lot of the action that builds to it. Still, it’s deeper than your average low fi sci fi.
The main flaw of ALIEN OUTBREAK is that it lacks impact in the way the story is told. I think a lot of this has to do with the sound design and lack of score for the film. The gunshots, explosions, impacts, and all of the usual clang and clatter you expect from a sci fi thrillride simply aren’t there. The sound feels muted and I think something as simple as louder gunshots and more intricate sound design would improve the weight of this film exponentially. I also think that the minimalist score is a detriment to the impact of many of the more meaningful and shocking moments.
But that’s not the only reason this film seems to lack that oompf factor. The acting is rather uninspired. There’s a moment where Zoe explains why she transfers to the UK (she followed her fiancé here), but never in this film does she seem concerned with her fiancé’s well being (he’s offscreen the entire time). I also think that the editing of the film takes a lot of the edge off of the action. There are scenes where Zoe is driving across the backroads trying to get away from the alien ships. With the alien ship dropping off robot drones in the distance, we don’t get any kind of dramatic cutting to inside the car for a reaction shot. It simply has the car turn around and drive in the other direction. Had there been crisper edits, this film would have been a much more potent rollercoaster ride that I think the filmmaker intended.
That said, I was surprised with ALIEN OUTBREAK. I don’t feel as if I wasted my time with this low budgeter. I feel the filmmaker Neil Rowe has a lot of good ideas and the best intentions to give the viewer something out of the ordinary. While some of the technical aspects got in the way of the message, ALIEN OUTBREAK does end up being a potent invasion film that looks great and offers up some clever twists by the end.