ALIEN DOMICILE Review by Jean Stanton
Deep underground in the Nevada Desert, something is amiss. After decades of secrecy, fuelled by conspiracy theorists, sci-fi geeks and mildly interested tourists, the US Military has finally come clean and acknowledged the existence of the top secret area known only as Area 51. What goes on there is a different matter.
ALIEN DOMICILE desires to sit at the more cerebral end of the cinematic sci-fi scale. An opening lengthy quote from Darwin about evolution adds gravitas to the proceedings, but then we are immediately thrown into familiar territory, with heavily armed soldiers patrolling stark, empty rooms and corridors, tracking down … something. The setting is cold, metallic, industrial with a pulsating soundtrack that builds the tension. We could easily be in a videogame here. And then – the lights go out, we are plunged into darkness and ‘something’ grabs the female soldier; we can’t see what it is but it has a viciously loud snarl.
Four people waking up in an empty steel-walled room. Security has put them there but they don’t know why. There’s Russell (Monteiro), an old guy, waiting out the days till his retirement; Hanna (Brown), a security auditor who just wants to get home and see her daughter. Dimitri (Osipov) is Russian and therefore can only be up to no good. And then there’s Gail (Cofield), from special opps, who is not looking too well.
What follows is a traditional game of cat-and-mouse – or aliens-and-humans – with obvious echoes of Alien, Predator and other nasty, other-worldly species. Suspense, action, scares and a liberal helping of gore are doled out in big equal measures, driven by that cold, exhilarating – and often intrusive – soundtrack. So far, so samey, and enough to keep less discerning sci-fi afficinadoes mildly amused.
The alien itself is mostly hidden, with just jump shock brief appearances for the first part of the movie, later revealed as the common or garden ‘greys’ nastier younger brother, with glistening, sinewy veins and a rash of razor sharp teeth. The species is one of five alien groups that have been here since the 50s – and they need to evolve. Are they really the bad guys then or, as Dimitri says when forced to kill, do they have ‘no choice’? Does it matter? In a film that explicitly discusses Darwin’s theory of evolution, with all characters – human and othewise – fighting for survival of the fittest, it raises unsettling moral dilemmas and encourages us to think about why we do the things we do, and how far we would go.
Going even deeper down the rabbit wormhole, as each of the characters begins to experience frightening hallucinations, it becomes clear that something even more insidious is at play here, time and reality unfolds and bends back in on itself, time and again. As Dimitri, who had breakfast with his dead brother earlier that morning, points out: “this morning didn’t happen the way we remember this”. Like the characters, the viewer is uncertain what is real and what isn’t, leading to a final scene that will make you want to re-watch the movie and see if you can connect the dots.
Shot on an ultra low budget, ALIEN DOMICILE certainly has its flaws. The acting is often ropey, the music becomes annoying and distances you from the story rather than drawing you in, and it is all quite confusing. A decidedly generic movie, its script is not the best. However, there are some good performances – particularly from Sabrina Cofield as Gail – plenty of thrills, atmospheric and – if you pick at it enough – an intriguing storyline.
ALIEN DOMICILE is not a title I would have picked out for myself but I admit I was quite pleasantly surprised and will be watching the career trajectory of Kelly Schwarze and his production company with interest.
Dir. Kelly Schwarze, US, 2017, 88 mins, certificate 15
Cast: Elly Brown, Ashley Campbell, Sabrina Cofield, Michael Monteiro, Eduard Osipov
ALIEN DOMICILE is available to watch on Digital Download from 9th April.