High Plains Invaders (2009)
Reviewed by The Foywonder
Starring James Marsters, Cindy Sampson, Sammy Van Heteren, and Sebastian Knapp.
Directed by Kristoffer Tabori
Starship Troopers goes west...
High Plains Invaders is an above average Syfy original, a pleasantly diverting Wild West creature feature worthy of a Saturday matinee viewing.
James Marsters (Spike from "Buffy" and "Angel") forgoes his blonde locks and English accent to play Sam Danville, a good-hearted outlaw suffering from serious crisis of conscience. So guilt-ridden is he over an unfortunate robbery turned fatal that he turns himself in to be hanged. Just as he's about to hang from the end of the noose, what should come galloping into town but an extraterrestrial insect with a nasty disposition. Danville goes from condemned outlaw to reluctant hero as he leads the townsfolk, including the love of his life he once left behind when he turned to a life of crime and a rootin' tootin' Annie Oakley type lady bounty hunter who lets Danville knows she will be gunning for him when they finish dealing with the infestation from outer space, as they fight back against these burrowing intergalactic insects.
The only thing we ever learn for absolute certain about these space bugs is that they really have a hankerin' for uranium. That's why they've arrived at this small town on the plains; the owner of the mine has struck uranium, the reason why so many of his mine operators keep getting deathly ill.
Everyone in the cast does a fine enough job in the stereotypical roles, not enough for anyone to standout. Marsters primary personality trait is being glum even as he fights back against the alien invasion.
One look at the design of the creatures and its easy to see the Starship Troopers influence, though they are still somewhat unique with their long forked tails, impossibly toothy scolex mouths, and their ability to shoot back. The design of the thorax actually had me expecting them to turn out to be vessels driven by smaller aliens inside. Still not quite sure how these alien bugs would have the engineering know-how to build a gigantic spaceship capable of interstellar travel. I'm sure Bob Lazar could explain it.
The real showdown, however, isn't between the traditional Wild West archetypes and the uranium-starved bugs from beyond - it's between the filmmakers and the budget. We see what looks like thousands of these bugs dropping from the mothership but only see them attack one at a time until the very final moments. The computer animated bugs look fairly credible, which may be due in some small part to how inorganically metallic they are meant to look in the first place.
Marsters does the standard running away from an impending explosion and jumping in slo-mo right at the moment of the massive explosion; except the explosion is hardly massive and Marsters ends up looking a tad silly leaping in the air for a kaboom that hardly appears to have warranted such dramatics. Got the sense the explosion was intended to be much more massive but that level of pyrotechnics wasn't in the cards for this cash-crunching production.
Besides, we're tuning into watch gunslingers high noon it out with alien insects. Those scenes are just good enough to be enjoyable even if the small budget never allows the filmmakers to go all-out as you can tell they would so very much want to.
High Plains Invaders is not a film I'd suggest you go out of your way for. Come across it on a lazy Saturday afternoon and it will serve its purpose.
3 out of 5
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