I can’t help but feel a bit hoodwinked by this film. From the director of Friday the 13th, we are talking the original film before Jason decided to take over the duties of slaughtering camp counselors. Yes, I’m talking the Sean S. Cunningham who also delivered us the guilty pleasure The New Kids and a little later in his career Deep Star Six. As though to sweeten the deal and make this film all the more tempting to horror fans, Bruce Campbell even stars in the film. Campbell at this point had been successful with the Evil Dead films, Maniac Cop, and the criminally underrated but cult classic TV series The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. I thought for sure I had stumbled across a gem of a film and that I’d be excited to write about it. Sadly, within 20 minutes of watching the film, I immediately understood how this film had slipped past my radar. Thankfully the film isn’t rotten, but it is the kind of straight-to-video or late-night film that is meant for a rare breed of cinephile, one who can ignore the cheap effects and generic plot; in other words, people not so different from myself.
Jack (Bruce Campbell) is the unfortunate inmate who is being transported to another prison in the middle of a nasty snowstorm that causes the squad car to wreck. Jack and the officers escorting him trudge their way through the snow to reach a small airport. At the airport all the passengers are stranded, and there are no flights departing till the storm settles down and the runway is cleared. The phone lines and radios are down, so all anyone can do is sit around and wait. Things end up going bad when one of the stranded passengers turns on one of the officers escorting Jack, which results in an altercation that leads to both the officers being killed. What makes things more interesting is that when Jack kills this suspicious stranded passenger, he discovers they are not even human, but some kind of strange alien that disappears into a pool of goo when they are killed.
No one wants to believe Jack, but since he’s the man with the gun, he’s the one who is in charge, and it doesn’t take long before the other stranded passengers start to realize not everyone around them is as human as they appear to be. The one person Jack seems to trust is Cathy Garrett (Chase Masterson). It seems the only reason Jack has to trust her is because she is the only pilot, but for all we really know she could be one of the aliens as well. There is even a fun scene that involves an x-ray machine to reveal who may or may not be an alien, though things of course go awry and many of the stranded passengers remain as possible aliens. This was easily my favorite sequence in the film, and it is too bad it takes place early on into the film.
The kind of paranoia we see going on with aliens being disguised as humans and then the isolated snowy location should immediately be giving you vibes akin to The Thing, only this is nowhere near the same caliber as the John Carpenter masterpiece. What the film does get right is the use of the limited space. I’m a sucker for these kinds of films and stories; it’s just a shame this film just lacks suspense or anything one could mistake as tension. The biggest mistake was that the film relies heavily on terrible CGI, when if they had gone practical with some of these effects, it would have improved the film immensely. It is a little baffling to me that a director with experience using practical effects would simply cheat the way he does in this film.
Perhaps I’m being too generous by calling this a film when this is clearly a shot-for-TV movie. Bruce Campbell seems to know what kind of movie he’s a part of, and he does elevate this from the typical SYFY movie that we were being offered at the time. Still, I can’t help but feel this should have been better. The script is above average for this brand of movie, and then the direction of Cunningham does offer us some glimmers of hope, but then there is a sequence that is supposed to be a slow-motion attack. I don’t know what happened during this scene, but it shouldn’t have even made it into the completed film. If anything, it should have been reshot, since it involves one of the bigger characters. If you can ignore the bad CGI and the terrible dissolves and just watch it for the brainless entertainment that it is, then maybe you might have fun with this.
Thankfully this one is only 84 minutes, but as much as I’m a Bruce Campbell fan, I have to give this film a hard pass.