Alien Outpost [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray A - America - Shout! Factory
Review written by and copyright: Anthony Arrigo (8th August 2015).
The Film

Filmmakers, producers, please stop it with the found footage movies. There have only been a handful of pictures that worked using that device, and there have been far too many that have only aided in driving horror fans mad. Nearly every single time I sit down to watch a found footage movie, I find myself thinking “Why wasn’t this just shot traditionally?” – and this is usually because filmmakers rarely stop to consider if using such an viewpoint makes any sense. Have you established there are multiple camerapersons, if you’re showing alternate angles? Who edited the footage? Why is there a theatrical score? But the biggest question of all is simple: does using found footage feel organic to the narrative?

I may have gone off on a tangent there, but most should agree with those valid points. In the case of “Alien Outpost” (2014), the found footage aspect isn’t the worst committed to screen; however, it also does nothing to aid in making the movie better. Instead, it simply feels like a cheap device employed because of a presumably low budget. Better idea: get more creative with your film.

In the year 2021, an alien race, known as “Heavies”, invaded Earth but were defeated by the USDF (United Services Defense Force) after a protracted battle. Still, thousands of Heavies were left behind when their squads retreated, leaving many places on the planet in a hostile state. In response, the USDF set up a series of outposts, intended to be manned by heavily-armed soldiers whose mission is to eliminate the remaining alien troops. In 2033, two journalists are embedded within a group of soldiers at Outpost 23, one of the last remaining outposts and also one that has seen some of the deadliest combat.

“Alien Outpost” tries to position itself as something akin to “Restrepo” (2010) meets “Starship Troopers” (1997), with footage of soldiers engaging in skirmishes against alien invaders cut with interviews meant to give each soldier a personality. The film is also a very clear allegory for the war in Afghanistan, with locals (who are Middle Eastern) both praising and condemning the military for remaining in their territory. As a result, soldiers never know whether an approaching citizen is with them or against them, leading to some tense standoffs. There are a number of potentially interesting ideas used here, though most wind up working against each other and dragging the film down in the process.

The worst part of this film is the constant use of title cards. Using one or two at the head of a film to establish a framework is one thing, but this movie is littered with them. They are ubiquitous. Facts pop up on screen over and over with the intention of providing additional context and filling in details, but all they’re really doing is screaming one thing: this movie didn’t have the budget to shoot what we wanted. There’s already next to no momentum to the film’s plot, and these cards – as well as the interstitial interviews – grind it to a full stop.

Any attempt to find something meaningful or worthwhile in “Alien Outpost” is a fruitless endeavor. The battles are less than exciting; the CGI is on par with Sci-Fi Channel productions, and the script is just “blah”. Some credit can be given to a couple of the actors for making the most of weak material. And I also want to give a shout out to my man Doug Tait for doing the best he can as the film’s Heavy. The alien design, while far from original, is actually kinda cool. The Heavies look beefy and imposing, yet there’s also a smooth elegance to them, too. But that isn’t enough to make “Alien Outpost” worth anyone’s time. This is one invasion that should have been called off.

Video

Due to the found footage nature of the film, the 1.78:1 1080p 24/fps AVC MPEG-4 encoded image is often unstable and slightly soft due to excessive movement; however, the moments when the camera is stable and allowed to focus yield some strong details. The interview footage tends to look best, and although the image is hardly exciting those moments do feature the best definition along with dark black levels. CGI tends to stick out like a sore thumb, but some of the effects are nicely blended in with the environment. Because no filmmaker can seemingly resist, the digital cameras have instances of anomalous interference where the picture becomes pixelated and jittery.

Audio

The best thing about this disc is the English DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 surround sound track (48kHz/24-bit), which is positively brimming with action. There’s a strong sense of directionality, with effects and dialogue enjoying a nice spread amongst all of the available speakers. Rears are constantly chattering with gunfire or soldiers yelling to each other, placing viewers right in the middle of skirmishes. The moments of action are sporadic, though, and a large portion of the picture is dialogue-heavy and relatively quiet. An English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 stereo track is also included. Subtitles are available in English, English SDH and Spanish.

Extras

The bonus features here include an audio commentary, interviews featurette with cast & crew, deleted scenes and a theatrical trailer.

Writer/director Jabbar Raisani and director of photography/co-writer Blake Clifton deliver an audio commentary that covers the film’s production process.

“Interviews with Cast & Crew” (1080p) featurette runs for 16 minutes and 23 seconds.

A reel of deleted scenes (1080p) runs for 3 minutes and 22 seconds.

Two theatrical trailers (1080p) run for 3 minutes and 40 seconds.

Packaging

The single disc comes housed in a standard Blu-ray keep case. A slip-cover is included on first pressings.

Overall

Found footage needs to get lost, and this film doesn’t do anything to make me feel otherwise.

The Film: D Video: B Audio: A- Extras: C+ Overall: C-

 


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