Alien Express (2005)

Starring Lou Diamond Phillips, Amy Locane, Barry Corbin, Todd Bridges

Directed by Turi Meyer

Must resist urge to call Alien Express a trainwreck.

Must resist urge to call Alien Express a trainwreck.

It would be an understatement to call Alien Express a cinematic trainwreck…DAMMIT!

La Bamba is a cop haunted by a tragic event he still blames himself for and he’s still in love with his ex-wife, the young blonde hotty that left “Melrose Place” after the very first season because she wanted to move on to more “edgier” roles like this; I guess. She works as a staff member for Maurice from “Northern Exposure”, a US Senator from Texas running for President who goes around wearing William Shatner’s toupee. He and his unrealistically small entourage that includes Willis from “Diff’rent Strokes” as a member of his security team are aboard a new bullet train speeding towards Las Vegas on the last leg in his Presidential campaign.

A car waiting next to a deserted train crossing gets slammed by a flaming meteor right as the train approaches. Despite being a 100 mph bullet train, it still stops on a dime so they can survey the wreckage and call the cops. The star of Bats shows up so he can recite lines like, “We’ve got a meteor that hit a car and a dead guy covered in slime; I don’t think this train should leave.” But leave it does, along with a stowaway alien creature that hatched from the meteorite.

Kiefer Sutherland’s former frequent co-star is convinced there’s a killer onboard the train that needs to be caught, but mainly he’s just worried that something bad might happen to the ex-wife he still longs for. That’s especially bad because he’s a cop that doesn’t play by the rules. We know he’s a cop that doesn’t play by the rules because his fellow cops take turns saying different versions of this phrase to him. So after punching out his superior officer that dared to call him on his insubordination and reminding him that it was his fault the marriage dissolved in the first place, our hero that doesn’t play by the rules commandeers his helicopter pilot buddy to chopper him to the speeding train. In reality, if a helicopter was zeroing in on a train containing a Presidential candidate it would get shot down in a heartbeat.

Meanwhile, aboard the train, his ex, the blonde girlfriend from Airheads, still pines for her ex that doesn’t play by the rules, but is currently getting hit on by another member of the Senator’s staff, who has a European accent so you know right away he’s going to prove to be no good. Unbeknownst to everyone, the alien creature’s point-of-view vision has made mince meat out of Mr. Conductor, turning the campaign train into a runaway train. And they’ve begun multiplying too.

Making matters even worse, an eco-terrorist has also gotten aboard the train, taken the Senator hostage, and is threatening to blow himself and everyone else up unless the Senator drops out of the race and apologizes for supporting Alaskan oil drilling. While it’s a nice to see a movie terrorist that isn’t a right wing extremist for a change, the ultimate fate of this eco-terrorist character proved to be a pathetic plot contrivance of biblical proportions.

Mr. “Doesn’t Play by the Rules” jumps onto the out of control train just in time for the alien to multiply and truly begin its killing spree. As if things weren’t complicated enough, they get a call notifying them that the train is on a collision course with another train leading to a conversation that sounded more like a word problem I once had to solve in math class back in the second grade. Instead of trying to get the survivors off the train, Lou Diamond Phillips strips down to his undershirt and declares that they have to deal with the aliens before escaping because if the creatures get off the train they might “spread like a plague”. The survivors band together. Double crosses occur. I consider switching the channel.

Among the scant highlights of the film is hearing Todd Bridges yell things when battling the beasties like, “Die, you alien freaks!” and “How about a cocktail, you ugly suckers!” As you can tell from such dialogue like that, the people responsible for the film knew they were making a schlocky B-movie. Unfortunately, the film can’t overcome its budgetary shortcomings and the material isn’t strong enough to compensate for it. It also doesn’t help when one of the only characters with any discernible personality and who’s inclusion in the passengers fight for survival might have made things more interesting is among the first to die.

Alien Express is a trainwreck of a movie, and yes, trainwreck is the opportune word here. The movie wants to be “Critters on a train” but the campy aspects of the movie aren’t amusing enough, the characters are almost all one-dimensional, and the story is too clichéd; all of which could be overlooked if the monsters at least delivered. They don’t. Alien Express is a monster movie. When the monsters in a monster movie fail to capture the imagination then you don’t have a movie. It sadly seemed like less of a case of the filmmakers lacking imagination as it did them not being able to afford one. Like the majority of the special effects, the budget just isn’t there to make the creatures seem like anything more than cheap props capable of only a handful of repetitive movements.

The Alien Express aliens look like a toothy hybrid of Alien and a small dog. They spew some green acid/venom goo that incapacitates victims long enough for a pack of them of them to swarm the prey and feast on them like piranhas and can also move at super speeds, leading to much sped up footage and blurry computer effects. The film would have been much better off if they remained blurry CGI since most of the time they’re puppets; painfully obvious ones too boot. Even being brought to life with puppetry wouldn’t be so bad if the puppets displayed any signs of personality. Opening and closing its mouth and swaying its head are its only personality traits. There are also far too many scenes where they look like stationary props set up and posed for that particular shot. Aside from the goo spitting and the super speed (both of which aren’t used with much flare or imagination), the creatures could just as easily been called mutated, hairless rats and the audience would have never been the wiser.

And what proves to be the aliens weakness? They’re methane based, meaning a simple flame is all it takes to make them burst into a flashing blue light. Not only is this rather lame and makes the monsters seem especially wimpy, logically speaking, how could the original alien have even survived the flaming descent into our atmosphere or the fiery explosion from slamming into the automobile in the first place?

If Alien Express had a bigger budget for its creature and other effects then it might have been entertaining, even if only in a derivative B-movie fashion. As it is, Alien Express looks and feels like a more polished version of the kind of creature feature Fred Olen Ray would make. That’s not a good thing.

1 out of 5

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Jon Condit

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