Reviewed by The Foywonder
Starring William Katt, Dedee Pfeiffer, Wittley Jourdan, Randy Mulkey
Directed by Scott Harper
Released by Asylum Home Entertainment
If you listen to the most recent I Am Legend edition of Dinner For Fiends, during which the topic of Alien vs. Hunter came up, you’ll hear Dread Central’s very own Sirand tell the tale about how he almost got the gig to make this Asylum mockbuster. It fell through because, as he puts it, they didn’t want to take a chance on an unknown. Yet they were willing to put it in the hands of Scott Harper, the guy who made Supercroc, The Asylum flick from earlier this year about a giant crocodile that rises from the depths and proceeds to just walk around a lot not doing much of anything. I don’t know if Sirand’s movie would have been good but I am willing to go out on a limb and say it would have been a hell of a lot better than the pointless, worthless, pathetic excuse for a motion picture they wound up with. What would he have had to do to make it worse? Ninety minutes of a blank screen?
The production of AVH (for short) proved such a fiasco that I’ve been receiving emails over the past couple weeks from more than one Asylum insider telling bits and pieces about what an utter catastrophe the making of it turned out to be and how it wasn’t just the worst Asylum movie ever, it was going to be one of the worst movies ever made. All of them pointed the finger of blame at director Scott Harper, his ego and his incompetence. Here are a few snippets of what they told me.
“…AVH is the worst thing I’ve ever seen. (Harper) would show up 2 hours late each day and play on his iPhone while the first and second ADs actually directed the scenes. He has no idea how to make a movie.”
“(Harper) stated that he didn’t like any movies made before 1970 and that he was going to direct Captain America.”
“I’m amazed the editor didn’t quit. (Harper) would stop on every shot and change it for no reason. There were shots they only had one take of and yet he’d insist being shown another take; he’d then be shown the exact same take and rave about how much better it was. When told it was the same take he’d call the editor a liar. The poor guy spent days having to correct footage Harper kept tampering with just to be doing something.”
“So they ordered a day of reshoots. However, instead of shooting any of the missing 25 pages of the movie’s climax, the director shot 20 takes of a hand grabbing a gun.”
“Harper would never apologize for anything or admit he was an idiot. Everyone who works with him has to constantly cover their collective asses because when he screws up he blames everyone but his own incompetent self.”
There’s actually more that I’ve been told further solidifying Scott Harper’s rightful place in the hallowed halls of cinematic hackery, but since my sources prefer to remain anonymous and the other stuff they get into is so specific as to reveal who they are, I can’t reprint it here. I think you get the idea though. Suffice to say, Scott Harper is not the post popular guy inmate at The Asylum.
Given all that I’d heard about AVH‘s behind the scenes troubles, seeing the words “FILMMAKERS COMMENTARY” written on the back of the DVD case piqued my interest; Harper’s take on the film’s making might have proved interesting. Even more interesting is that Harper is nowhere to be found on the “Filmmakers Commentary” track; instead we get the line producer and first assistant director. Seemed to be a very diplomatic commentary track; I only listened to about a half hour of it and didn’t hear any talk of the problematic shoot outside of the usual spiel about rushed low budget filmmaking. But more importantly, I never heard either of them bring up Harper’s name even once.
Even more curious is a short “Making of” featurette that’s primarily just a musical montage of set footage. We never hear from Harper here either and he’s really only seen in it once – sitting on the ground clutching a prop machine gun while production assistants are clearly shown mapping out a scene. Very curious indeed.
I realize I’ve spent a considerable amount of time talking about the problems that plagued Alien vs. Hunter behind the camera without actually getting into the matter of the film itself. Is it the worst movie ever made? No. Is it the worst Asylum movie ever made? That’s debatable. Is it an indefensibly atrocious piece of filmmaking? Damn straight!
Truth is hearing about those problems really gave me an interesting perspective watching the film itself as it’s quite apparent those problems translated to the screen immensely. I was also told the movie was recut and reedited about a half dozen times trying to salvage this mess into something watchable. It shows – and it’s still barely watchable. AVH is terribly directed and edited; the narrative becomes increasingly scattershot and there’s overuse of establishing shots, recycled stock footage, and mismatched shots. I lost track of the number of times the same shots of the Alien and the Hunter got repeated. Between the slapdash editing and the crummy script (not all of which even got filmed) you just watch with a complete disconnect to anyone or anything on the screen.
The biggest crime of all is the complete failure of the “vs.” aspect of the film. This is inexcusable. Was this not supposed to be the point of the movie? Yet the Hunter spends more time scuffling with human characters than it ever does the Alien, and even when it fights the Alien, those skirmishes are every bit as lame as they are brief. And believe me, they’re brief. Heck; the Hunter is practically a spectator off on the sidelines during the climactic showdown between the Alien and the humans. If that’s the route the filmmakers opted to go you have to ask yourself what was the point in even making this movie in the first place. When you make a (BLANK) vs. (BLANK) movie those of us watching will be doing so because we want to see (BLANK) battling (BLANK), not (BLANK) getting blasted by Michelle Pfeiffer’s kid sister while the other (BLANK) watches.
Looking like a big spider with the torso and head of the Alien rip-off monster from the Marc Dacascos sci-fi movie DNA grafted onto it, the rubbersuited top-half portion of the Alien is actually fairly decent looking, but whoever came up with the idea to make it a big spider made a serious tactical error. We mostly see the rubbery monster suit portion of the Alien in close-up, no doubt because the full bodied CGI spider alien is costlier to produce and harder to integrate with the other actors. Thus, the filmmakers had to work around not showing the lower half as much as possible. This doesn’t just limit what they can do with the Alien – it utterly cripples how they can stage the attack scenes involving it.
Whoever designed the look of the Hunter ought to be embarrassed. Forget the face you see on the DVD art (and the back of the DVD case too) because that looks nothing like the one in the film. The Hunter actually looks vaguely like what Robot Monster probably would have looked like if the makers of that film hadn’t had to resort to the gorilla suit. I’d love to know at what point the effects wizard declared, “All it needs is an upside down salad bowl to wear on its head like a hat and it’ll be perfect!” That little accessory makes an otherwise generic costume positively stupid looking. In fact, when framed in the shot just right it’s hard not to get a Sgt. Kabukiman vibe from it.
A haggard looking William Katt stars as the single worst writer in the history of mankind. I mean a giant fireball falls from the sky just behind him and not only does he barely give it a second look, he tells another character moments later that he’s not interested in covering the story because he prefers things nice and quiet.
Give William Katt credit for being a trooper amid all this dreck. By the third act a good portion of his dialogue will have devolved to an awful lot of “AAAAAARRRRHHHHH!!!!” and “NOOOOOOOO!!!!” and “YAAAAAAAAH!!!!” I do believe it possible to build a drinking game around this.
The writer who wishes not to be bothered soon gets to watch the Alien eat the sheriff right before his eyes. Nobody believes him about what he saw until the Alien starts eating a couple non-believers in front of other non-believers’ eyes. Katt then leads the cut-off-from-the-outside-world survivors up a mountain to (supposed) safety. Personality wise, the characters seem to fall into the category of either frightened or pissy or, despite the gravity of their situation, wisecracking.
Look; when you make a movie like this you either have to give the monsters distinct personalities or make the human characters sympathetic – preferably both. AVH does neither. There’s no reason to care about any of the characters and the Alien and the Hunter don’t even have characters per say. The more I think about it the more I come to the belief that one could have completely left the Hunter out of the movie altogether and it really wouldn’t have made all that much of a difference.
The Hunter shows up with its invisibility powers and a laser rifle that makes a funny, old fashioned, “Pew! Pew!” sound when fired. For an extraterrestrial that specializes in hunting down dangerous otherworldly lifeforms this Hunter really does have some seriously piss poor aiming skills. It’s not like the Alien is a hard target either.
A survivalist backwoods bear hunter dude is then introduced. He’s like a less comical, less paranoid, less charismatic version of Tremors‘ Michael Gross. Still, actor Randy Mulkey plays the role convincingly enough to make him the closest any character in the film ever comes to having a genuine personality. It won’t take long before he and his militia buddies are shooting it out with the Hunter. Doesn’t really make much sense for them to be doing so, but you know how rival, rifle-toting rednecks are when you get them together out in the woods: they’re either gonna bond over deer and beer or start trying to shoot one another.
By the 45-minute mark the movie had already become mired in a series of characters either skulking about dank tunnels or roaming around the woods being attacked at random. The finale is enormously anticlimactic, especially given that the Hunter barely factors into it. And to add insult to injury, it ends with a gag regarding the true identity of the Hunter. You cannot make a movie that builds up this much ill will and then try to end it on a stupid punchline.
The longer Alien vs. Hunter went on I began to notice something was building up inside of me; that something was contempt – contempt for a simplistic film that couldn’t even do the simplest things right. AVH is neither fun nor exciting nor scary nor even so bad it’s good. How does one fail this miserably? This should have been a monster movie with a pro wrestling mindset. This should been rock’em, sock’em, mano-a-mano monster action. This should have been…
I give up.
1/2 out of 5
2 out of 5
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