I was looking for some hidden gems within the sci-fi genre when Alien Raiders came up in my search. The name did not lend it any credibility but I thought I would give it a chance – especially as it was described to me as having an interesting bystanders’ point of view.
Alien Raiders is a low budget science-fiction horror, which sometimes can be the best type of sci-fi horror if done right. This film is set in a grocery store late at night just before closing. Six armed masked people enter the store, taking the remaining customers and staff hostage, and it soon becomes clear that they are searching for something, which as you may guess from the title it involves aliens.
Now let’s start with things Alien Raiders did right. The setting of a grocery store is a good place for a hostage situation even if it doesn’t involve aliens. They started off strong, starting with some momentum and mystery as they take over the store. Unfortunately, that’s pretty much where the interest ends. From here on they fall into a pattern of clichés and tropes that make the viewer groan with fatigue, and after the opening scenes offer a promise of adequate character development and story arc, this falls aggressively and disappointingly short. It may never have been a great film but it could have been a good one at least.
The characters are very stiff in their dialogue and actions. Decisions such as turning lights off make little sense in the context of the film – apart from hiding the low budget prosthetics. Although this group is a band of rogue scientists that seem to know their stuff about aliens, they clearly lack sense, and even though they have hostages that possibly be aliens in disguise, they lack the concern to watch them for more than 5 minutes. Similar decisions by the characters lead to mind-numbing predictability in the story. The script tries to give these characters a backstory, adding remorse and empathy for what they have to do to the hostages to ferret out the alien, but it rings very hollow.
The cop presence which is intended to excite things further just undermines the credibility of the story. It is clear that the cops are small-town police, led by a cop that has previously been based in higher crime cities. Yet he seems completely inept at dealing with a hostage situation even equipped with this supposed experience. In fact, although there are several hostages at risk, he is most concerned with his step-daughter – seemingly because he doesn’t want to upset his wife with any ghastly news. And although there are a lot of gunshots that happen, the cops seem mostly unconcerned by this and continue to trust the hostage-takers at their word.
That isn’t to say that there aren’t good moments in Alien Raiders. Aesthetically, it tries to reach close to the foreboding isolation horror visuals of The Thing. And as it is set at night, they are able to pull back on the monster special effects, leaving it more up to the imagination. However, it fails to keep this momentum up, by destroying the atmosphere with inane dialogue that does little to drive the story. And if you love a good racist stereotype, Kane’s character offers that up in abundance with the angry black man caricature who wants to shoot everything that moves – but can’t keep his attention on the job at hand.
Perhaps the shoddy dialogue and terrible characters could be forgiven if it was not for the second half of the film, which proves to be even worse. With twists, you can see a mile away, they use the remaining time to kill off the rest of the characters in exceedingly slow and mindless ways. Offering up simple shock scares, that would be better suited to a slasher film than this sci-fi horror. This all ends with a pitiful twist which the story constantly reminds you was going to happen, with frustrating regularity, throughout the film. I am painfully bad at predicting twists but even I saw the ending coming.
Unfortunately, I would give Alien Raiders a miss unless you are very desperate to watch something new. You may be better served watching Splinter or Feast (both featured in my top 20 unknown horror films) than this poorly thought out budget sci-fi horror.