The admirably unpretentious Alien Outpost is made of up three distinct components:
1. It’s an homage to those matinee-style war movies of the 1940s and 1950s. Not the ones that shoot for Oscar-style “drama” with a capital D, but the action films that use a wartime setting to tell an exciting story — and maybe make a few interesting points about man’s obsession with war along the way.
2. It works rather well as a straightforward “survival horror” flick.
3. It’s an “alien invasion” story that somehow manages to bring something a little novel to the table, which is impressive all by itself when you consider we’ve had hundreds of “alien invasion” movies since (at least) 1950. In other words, Alien Outpost is presented in documentary style: several interview segments, a good deal of found footage / first person camera perspectives, and a helpful amount of on-screen text to help keep the viewer up to speed.
In a nutshell: it’s the not-too-distant future, and mankind is still reeling from the aftermath of a global alien attack. Seems that we were able to destroy the invaders’ resources, which caused them to turn tail and head back home, but not before leaving thousands of soldiers behind. The soldiers stationed at “Outpost 37” (which is located deep within Middle East territory, of course) have reason to believe that the castaway aliens are regrouping and organizing a new attack, but instead of reinforcements, the outpost gets, that’s right, a documentary film crew.
It all sounds almost unbearably familiar, but after a slightly slow start, Alien Outpost turns from a collection of disparate parts into its own movie. The interview segments present an intriguing story about a failed alien invasion, while the bulk of the movie is an enjoyably unironic wartime action flick in which each soldier gets one noteworthy personality thread, a few clever quips, and (probably) a heroic demise at the hands of gun-wielding terrorists or (eventually) the armor-plated aliens themselves.
The special effects are low-key (which makes sense given the faux-documentary format) but well-crafted, thanks to first-time director Jabbar Raisani’s extensive background in computer animation, and the action sequences are surprisingly impressive in the editorial department. Again, that’s relative to the “first person” visual presentation. Once you’ve seen a lot of the found footage style, it’s easier to notice when things work and when they don’t. Once Alien Outpost gets down to the action, there are some pretty cool visual tricks to appreciate.
Given its premise, not to mention its geographical setting, Alien Outpost often positions itself as a pretty obvious allegory for our recent/current altercations in the Middle East. Whether or not the film pulls it off is up the the individual viewer (I say it doesn’t), but that doesn’t stop the fun stuff from hitting the screen with a decent enough batting average. What Alien Outpost lacks in thematic depth it eventually makes up for in action-flick enthusiasm, and while it’s certainly not the brainiest or much unique movie you’ll ever see about soldiers vs. aliens, it certainly works well enough as a Saturday-afternoon diversion.
3 out of 5 space burritos