Whoa! Just what is up with these people? They've got cameras and boxes of tape cassettes; they are in a dark van and all wired up and nervous. Some guy they call Spooky (Phillip Newby: AMERICAN ZOMBIE) is questioned. They want to know if this is the place and Spooky says, "I think so."
That doesn't sit well with these folks and then we see they also have guns.
Spooky corrects himself and says he is sure that this must be the place. His compatriots don't like that either. Spooky has to be positive, yet he just can't bring himself to say that.
The van pulls up outside a rural grocery store in the small Arizona town of Buck Lake. It's almost midnight: the Hastings grocery store is large but not city large and the folks inside are few.
We meet local cop Seth (Mathew St. Patrick: SIX FEET UNDER [TV]), who talks to his daughter, Whitney (Samantha Streets), the cashier, and ignores the bagboy, Benny (Jeffrey Licon: HOOD OF HORROR). After Seth leaves, Benny asks Whitney why her Pop has a problem with him.
The folks in the van break into the store, shouting, threatening, shooting, pointing guns at everyone, and getting it all on tape.
Are they robbers? Terrorists? Neither, they're something much worse.
They are self-described Alien Raiders and they actually believe that aliens from outerspace are inside the store, inside a human body, and they aren't afraid to kill anyone who resists or just looks at them funny.
Led by a maniac named Ritter (Carlos Bernard: THE KILLING JAR, 24 [TV]) and a hardcore "Kill-em-all' asshole named Kane (Rockmond Dunbar: KISS KISS BANG BANG), they are going to go person by person and have Spooky look every one over. Spooky grabs the people by their head, has a vision, and either let's them go or says that the person "...might be one." If a person "might be one", they are abruptly shot without question and not given a second thought. These people are not only armed and dangerous, they are terrified: they really believe what they say which makes them unpredictably dangerous. There is no reasoning with these people. They are totally convinced that they are hunting Aliens from outerspace that hide in human bodies.
But there are only so many of the Alien Raiders and it's a reasonably large store. Big enough for some of the frightened hostages to try and hide. Big enough for the one off-duty cop to put up a heroic fight. One dead hero later and it's back to business for the Alien Raiders, only Spooky is dead. Without Spooky and his "gift", how are they going to find out who is really an alien? "Plan B!" Ritter says. It's a plan no one is fond of and things don't get any better for the Raiders and worse for their hostages.
Speaking of things getting worse, Seth has returned (the cops got a call) with the local law (which ain't much). Seth was a hostage negotiator in the big city before he moved out to Buck Lake (how incredibly fortunate for the newly minted hostages!).
The arrival of the cops only serves to put the Alien Raiders right over the freaking edge, and "Plan B" becomes a dangerous and deadly rush job, which forces the terrified store patrons into action and revolt. After all, nothing good can come out of cooperation. Look what they did to Tarkey! (Joel McCrary: EVIL ALIEN CONQUERORS).
ALIEN RAIDERS is hardcore Horror Thriller and not in the gory sense (though there is that). This movie puts your adrenalin into overdrive with its fast paced timing, razor-wire threat, and the inability to know if these people are for real or if they are part of some whacked out conspiracy cult.
When that question is gruesomely answered, ALIEN RAIDERS goes turbo-charged.
This is thanks in large part to the direction of Ben Rock and writers Julia Fair (THE BELIEVERS) and David Simkins. Simkins career has particularly involved the weird. Simkins wrote or produced (or did both) on TV shows like Bruce Campbell's The Adventures of Brisco County Junior, FREAKY LINKS, ROSWELL, CHARMED, ANGEL, DARK ANGEL, The Book of Daniel, BLADE: THE SERIES, and THE DRESDEN FILES.
Kudos must also go to Cinematographer, Walt Lloyd, for creating the mood of the scenes. The small spaces were suitably claustrophobic and the large areas felt exposed and dangerous. Seriously: such is the direction, camera blocking, and lighting that you actually feel the fear, which is exactly what a Horror Thriller movie should deliver first and foremost. Shot entirely in real night (not filter night), ALIEN RAIDERS is often unexpectedly dark and unexpectedly lit, and the threat stays manifest both ways. The audience never has a "safety zone".
I think that part of the reason for ALIEN RAIDERS success in delivery is its Horror Thriller pedigree. There are lots of Horror Thriller film makers behind the scenes in this movie. The special visual effects, what little there is of them, are convincingly and ably handled by Mark Koivu (THE MATRIX RELOADED, THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW, PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: DEAD MAN'S CHEST, PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: AT WORLD'S END) and Thomas D. Moser (BELIEVERS). Just as much as what we see though, is what we hear, and newbie ADR and foley mixer, Judah Getz (ROCK ZOMBIE, OTIS, FROM WITHIN, GHOULS), who only started getting movie credits in 2007, has already established himself as a wunderkind with sound and is committed to 29 other projects stretching to 2010.
There is the presence of the latest Horror Thriller clichés, to whit, the shuttery, stuttery edits that represent alien or otherworldly movement. Not enough movies have done this to make me groan when I see it, but knowing Hollywood, there will quickly come the day.
ALIEN RAIDERS is a movie that starts out tense, shoots right into exciting, then goes full throttle to the finish: and all done largely with a super tight story, as the low budget didn't leave much room for anything else.
Some have decried the SciFi Channel style name of this movie. But I think that the SciFi Channel has gone for way too long in taking the cool names and turning out absolute shit. It's high time we took the cool titles away from SciFi Channel and gave them back to movies deserving of the name.
ALIEN RAIDERS is no classic, as Ben Rock and crew weren't trying to create something new, but get back to old fashioned American monster movie mayhem of the 1980s and 1950s. That said, damn few have done it as well. Fun, thrilling, scary and electrifying, ALIEN RAIDERS is a full fist knock-out!
Four Shriek Girls.
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