Oh After Dark, how you sadden me. I have been a defender of the After Dark Horrorfest from day one. When everybody else was writing them off as trash, I was there to point out the positive, and to foretell the gradual incline in quality. The last two years of ADHF were phenomenal. Excluding 1 or 2 duds, even “franchise” sequels like The Butterfly Effect 3 were rock solid. When After Dark announced that it was skipping over the Horrorfest in 2011, and releasing a series of films referred to as “After Dark Originals”, I was met with both sadness, and intrigue. Perhaps After Dark would follow it’s current trend of turning out better flicks as each year passed. Or, and honestly the more likely scenario, now that After Dark has more creative control over the films being presented, it will stifle creativity, and turn the event into nothing more than the Z-grade schlock that After Dark was known for before beginning the yearly event. Though it’s still too close to call, my first two experiences with this year’s crop of films have been less than pleasurable. Part of me is still clutching to the hope that the films will get better. From a business standpoint, it makes sense to lead with the strongest films. This will be viewers first exposure to the series. Hopefully, the management of After Dark aren’t versed businessmen, and the best of the set are yet to come.
As you all know, SyFy has been airing the ADO flicks as they’re released. The first was the failed attempt at homage, “Husk”, Which you can read all about in our review. Next on the chopping block is a film by the title of “Area 51”, or “51” as the teaser poster would lead you to believe. Area 51 takes place at the notorious military base of the same name, located in southern Nevada. The government has apparently given in to pressure from both the media, and citizens, to allow journalists to enter the base, and document their findings. Of course, as shady as our government, and it’s military generally are, they have no plans on allowing the journalists to see what’s really going on in the base. Housed in the sub-basement, that most people aren’t even aware of, is a dangerous, shape-shifting alien that has spent it’s entire life being held captive, and tested in various ways. A scheduled daily injection gone wrong, costs the life of the head research scientist, and lets the proverbial cat out of the bag. Military personal, as well as their journalist guests, are now in a fight for their lives against alien life forms that were, before their first encounter, denied to even exist.
I love shape-shifters and body-snatchers. It’s one of my favorite sub-genres of film. Much like the zombie flick though, and any genre of film, it’s very easy to churn out a cheap, almost unwatchable entry into it’s realms. “Area 51” is the perfect example of how not to handle a film about a shape-shifting alien. Everything about the films screams incompetence. Even the creature design is nauseating. I’m a practical effects warrior, and would much rather the creature design to be handled with rubber and latex, but just as technology has advanced, the methods to which you can apply make-up effects in a convincing matter has progressed as well. Every alien life-form was handled with what appears to be paper mache, and badly choreographed puppeteers. This may sound to you as if it could be one of those “so bad it’s good” types of situation, but I assure you that there are no redeeming qualities to this film.
One of the biggest problems you run in to while giving your film a military setting, is that it’s hard to portray in a believable way, the ways in which the military handles it’s self. While not all viewers are well versed in things such as the way to handle a weapon, and more importantly, the way you are trained to fire that weapon, it still creates an inescapable element of cheese. When you see so-called well trained experts depicted in film as basically “spraying and praying” what seems to be an unlimited amount of ammo(That’s for you Adam), you can’t help but laugh a little bit. Add to that, the sloppy, un-kept appearance of the uniforms, and the fact that lowly grunts are carrying around side-arms, and it becomes clear that nobody involved in this production has ever even met a member of the military. This may seem like nitpicking, but it’s something that gets on my nerves, and ultimately ruins my viewing experience. I’m no military expert, by any stretch of the imagination, but it would be nice if the producers would have at least hired someone to do some level of research. It shows me a lack of care for the project.
The deaths in the film are all basically the same. More times than not, a tentacle will appear out of the darkness, and impale some poor sap. I guess you could consider the film to be gory, but it’s so terrible that it doesn’t even matter. There are only a few deaths shown on-screen, and few of those are even remotely memorable. It’s hard to keep track of who’s dying, and who’s doing the killing. The main alien it seems, has little to nothing to do with what’s going on in the base, and the aliens that are responsible for most of the deaths are never explained. Neither their origins, or where the fuck they came from is ever disclosed. They just show up, and we are basically told “We gotta kill those guys”, and so we do.
The acting is close to being porn-worthy. Not even Jason London, and Rachel Miner, two people that I have highly enjoyed in other films, can save this train-wreck of a movie. The script is as if it were written by an angry “alternative” teenager, with dialog that often made my butthole pucker. Two films in to this run of the After Dark Originals, and I’m already sorely missing horrorfest. If the next couple of films to air are equally as terrible, I may have to give up on After Dark entirely. At least until they turn a 180 and bring the Horrorfest back. I would recommend going out of your way to avoid this flick at all costs. Unless you’re put into the position where someone is offering to felate you in order to get you to sit through it, I can see no other reason to do so.