What a bottom-feeding pile of garbage. This reviewer has seen many bad movies — enough bad movies that I’ve ruined any arthouse bona fides I may have had — yet, sometimes, I’m still surprised that something so amateurish manages to get made. This is one of those shitty movies where no one involved, even the professionals, seemed able to capitalize on their work.
Alien Rising, from 2013, is a direct-to-video shitfest brought to viewers by screenwriters Michael Todd and Kenny Yakkel, and director Dana Schroeder. This was Schroeder’s second directing effort, and, if his IMDb page is any indication, it will be his last. Thank goodness. We shitty movie fans may be into flagellation, but everyone has limits.
Alien Rising stars Amy Hathaway as Lisa Morgan, a former DEA agent who is shanghaied into a secret government project run by the gruff and mysterious Colonel Cencula (Lance Henriksen, proving yet again there is no role he can age out of).
Cencula’s project is the study and manipulation of an extraterrestrial psychic for military use. A derelict alien spacecraft was discovered in orbit around Neptune, and there was one survivor. Brought back to Earth, it was discovered that the alien was pregnant, or something, giving birth to a monstrous avatar that, scientists believe, is a toughened surrogate that the fragile alien can use to explore new and hostile worlds. The military wants to figure out how all this works so they can create surrogate soldiers to use on the battlefield. Morgan gets pulled into this because, get this, she had a twin, and twins are, like, psychic, you know?
Of course, Cencula has ulterior motives, turning he and the other Marines under his command into the bad guys, with Morgan being the hero. It won’t be too hard for movie veterans to guess where this is going.
What’s most impressive about this film is the scale of its futility, and I think the blame rests with Schroeder. Hathaway couldn’t be induced into elocution or emotion for more than a scene or two throughout the movie, mumbling through many of her lines. Henriksen is a legendary character actor, yet his talent and dependability weren’t enough to disguise a lack of rehearsal, or Schroeder’s use of early takes. There are scenes throughout the entire film where Henriksen appears to struggle to recall his lines.
Then there’s the CGI.
The worst visual effects I’ve ever seen in a movie were in Birdemic. The CGI in that flick is so bad that comparing it to what appears in an actual, professional production, is somewhat useless. That film was more like those involved were just playing at making a movie, like kids in the backyard with dad’s camcorder. Alien Rising, on the other hand, had a budget of 3.5 million bucks. That’s not blockbuster money, by any stretch, but cinematic magic has been made with far less. Disregarding the CGI in Birdemic, the CGI in this flick is worst I’ve ever seen in film. It’s worse than anything made by The Asylum, or any other big monster crap shown on SyFy. It’s worse, comparatively speaking, than any of the CGI from Star Trek: The Next Generation, and that show premiered more than thirty years ago.
Nothing integrates into backgrounds. Nothing moves with realism. Everything looks like a cartoon. Interiors look like they exist in only two dimensions. Explosions never mesh with scenery, or what’s blowing up. There are a couple gore shots here and there, and the blood spatters are as flat and featureless as Kansas, as brightly-colored as fluorescent paint. It’s a stunning amount of ineptitude. It’s so bad that the only way it can be enjoyed is with schadenfreude, and even that takes effort.
I found a softball interview with Schroeder online, and he touches on the man-hours that went into the production, including the number of digital artists that were involved. Schroeder and company worked hard on this project. They believed in it. And the result is a mess. The only thing they have to be proud of is that they managed to get this film to completion. I sympathize with how important this project was to them, but facts are facts. This movie stinks.
Alien Rising falls way down the Watchability Index, displacing Paranormal Investigation at #279. I recommend staying away, unless one happens to like watching car wrecks.