Saturday, November 3, 2012

In short: Alien Factor 2: The Alien Rampage (2001)

Somebody has stolen some uranium and a Porsche from a nuclear plant somewhere in Maryland. A pair of FBI agents (soon-to-be dead Joe Ripple and Patrick "My character name is Agent Love" Bussink) are hot on the thief's trail through the backroads, but when they catch up with him in the woods near an idyllic small town, they learn that he's a) female and b) an alien (played by LauraLee O'Shell) who is very good at playing possum. Because Agent Love plays with the alien's spaceship remote, a deadly force field surrounds the woods and the town, and a bad-tempered cyborg (Bill Ulrich) soon goes on the titular rampage.

Will the local Sherriff's department (George Stover, Shannon Butch, Steven King) and their boss Allison Smith (Donna Sherman), a couple of tourists (Jaime Kalman and Jonas Grey), and Agent Love manage to protect the free world from the alien menace?

In the early 00's, Baltimore's greatest son Don Dohler, king of the provincial rubber suit monster movie, must have gotten bitten by the movie bug again, for he wrote, produced, and in two cases directed, another handful of horror films.

Alien Factor 2 is a non-sequel sequel whose plot has nothing to do with the film it's supposedly following up on; even the returning actors play different roles. In spirit, Alien Factor 2 is a true sequel, though, filled to the brim with all the things you love or loathe about Dohler's films. Firstly, the film is full of the expected stiff and awkward acting, with many cast members enunciating their (generally silly and stiff) lines as if they were afraid the words would bite them, and others indulging in various versions of off-beat scenery chewing or acting as if they'd prefer themselves to be part of the scenery. Character-wise, the film has the usual assortment of curious local stereotypes (there's little less threatening than Dohler-style bikers) acting oddly, suggesting the film's alien and her cyborg to be not the only ones not from planet Earth on screen.

Secondly, Dohler's sense of the dramatic didn't much improve in the intervening years between his classic phase and this one. The film is still full of non-sequitur scenes of people doing nothing of import and little interest, jumpy transitions, and a general feeling of awkwardness, as if the script were barely held together with spit, chewing gum, and good intentions. From time to time, the Very Dramatic™ synth score attempts to convince the audience how exciting the things happening on screen are, but always finds itself deserted by the slightly awkward staging of the action scenes and the general laid back feeling of the film.

On paper, all these Dohlerisms make for a terrible movie, but in truth, Alien Factor 2 is as charming and amusing as the movies Dohler made in his prime. The film's inability to be slick, the way it turns a (sort of) alien invasion into something manageable on the scale of a handful of small-town police, two tourists and a useless FBI agent, the way it smells and feels like a particular place and time, all are characteristics generally frowned upon in filmmaking, but they give Alien Factor 2 a personality and an individuality I find impossible to resist.

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