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observation notes: Alien v. Hunter

Along with Transmorphers, Terminators and The Day The Earth Stopped, this particular Asylum film is one of the more obvious tie-ins (if you don't know the film this ties into, honestly, why are you here?).

The film opens in familiar fashion, with an unknown object streaking through the sky over an out-of-the-way California town, attracting the attention of the locals, including a reluctant journalist (William Katt)(he isn't reluctant about being a journalist, he's reluctant to chase down a story he believes will turn out to be nothing. but he's wrong.) When the object crashes, it is discovered to be a spacecraft, whose pilot is an unharmed, man-eating alien, itself a tie-in of sorts, as it looks like a Predator's torso with an Alien head, all served up on a spider's legs.

A couple of quick kills on the alien's end of things and people are pretty much up to speed. Katt joins with the daughter (Wittly Jourdan) of a woman gone missing in the mini-invasion, and the two of them bolt right for the staff of the local newspaper, including the lovely and talented DeeDee Pfeiffer. On their way to the office, however, Katt and Jourdan had chanced to see the pred-alien spider-thing attack the sheriff's car, and so convince the newspaper staff - some seven or eight people - to leave the relative safety of their office for the absolutely unsafe outdoors. Interesting choice, this. Because it's not just the aliens they need to worry about; just when the carnage is about to begin at the...what? Claws? Tentacles? Hooks? of the pred-alien, the titular Hunter makes his first appearance (his appearance being a combination of Golden Age Iron Man, the Tin Man, and Gort from the original The Day The Earth Stood Still.) At his arrival, the greater story of the film becomes known: the aliens are, in fact, the prey of this hunter, and Earth plays no role whatsoever in this skirmish aside from coincidental settling, making all its inhabitants, especially our heroes, mere fodder for the crossfire. And once our protagonists are aware of the greater plot, it does nothing to lessen the danger or assuage their fears - quite the opposite, in fact, in both regards. Panic is a greater enemy than any other force.

So stuck now in the open, DeeDee suggests they go see this capable fella lives across the way - the open way. They need another route, a secret, safer route. Naturally, they go with the requisite underground sewer/waterway pipes/tunnels. Also naturally, they are not the first species to have discovered said pipes/tunnels. Those of our party that manage to survive make it to the capable fella's place, who just happens to be DeeDee's ex (Randy Mulkey) and daughter (Jennifer Couch); he's a crackshot bear hunter, and she remembers her lines well. The usual attempts to communicate with the outside world are made, but the ship or the aliens or something related to either or both is fucking with all reception, leaving our heroes truly and utterly on their own. 

From here it's just a question of which of our heroes are going to get picked off by the alien before said heroes can find a way to kill said alien, and how exactly they're supposed to accomplish this latter task. The film at this point becomes a tad reminiscent of others like Surviving the Game and Night of the Living Dead, but these aren't bad things.

Overall, I found Alien vs. Hunter to be a tense action-thriller, rural sci-fi, meaning light on the techno-speak and scientific explanations and heavy on the shotguns and non-army-issue camouflage. The result of this is that it makes any tragedies or victories our heroes incur that much more empathetic, because these aren't soldiers or government scientists or other sorts whose lives come with acceptable risks; these are people, regular people, like you and me, caught up in a crisis they could never be expected to negotiate, but somehow manage. I'm pretty sure I've mentioned this before, but one of the (minor, nitpicky) problems I have with Asylum flciks is the abundance of technical speak. Some amount of explanation and scientific backstory is necessary, even interesting, but occasionally the narrative emphasis of these films can get a little wrapped up in the "how" and "why," thus leaving less emphasis for the "who." I like the "who." Especially when the who is everyman. This film standouts among certain others in the Asylum catalog for its focus on people and not the source of the problem. In this regard, I enjoyed this film quite a bit.

William Katt is looking...okay. A little ridden-wet, but his chops are still intact, or at least as intact as they ever were. But honestly, in the triumvirate of curly blond dudes with a penchant for movies that air first on SyFy, Katt comes in a secure third, in my book, behind John Schneider and Christopher Atkins.

As for leading lady Ms. Pfeiffer, she isn't fucking around in this one. Her usual playful demeanor is replaced with one all-business, stern and concerned, strong, refusing to break or even show a bend. In truth, she becomes the practical center of the film, the coolest head, but still retaining a touch of sass, albeit in an authoritative, condescending way. Another good show for the better Pfeiffer as far as I'm concerned.

Asylum regular Wittly Jourdan - who's been mentioned here before for her work in Allan Quatermain... - proves herself an emotional tornado, oscillating between terrified, enraged, hopeful and despondent; all-in-all a good bit of acting. Other notables include John Murphy Jr. (30,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Universal Soldiers) as "Figgus" the stoner, and the aforementioned Mr. Mulkey (Universal Soldiers, upcoming, non-Asylum flick Super Shark), who with a mustache looks a lot like Danny Trejo.

The FX are all right, I know I was ribbing on the Hunter above, but the aliens are icky and kinda scary, no matter how boldly they wear their influences, and the score, though weird, was also weirdly appropriate. The leads get a little lost in the sea of strong supporting actors, but that makes for a more level playing field, dead-pool-wise, and a more unilateral investment on our end. 

Bottom line, this film isn't too far from it's source, Alien vs. Predator, so if you liked that one, there should be plenty you can find to like about this one. Plus, you know, Deedee!

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