Area 51 (2011) Review

Area 51 from After Darkby Shannon Hilson,

If you’re an alien fan and didn’t get a chance to catch After Dark’s Area 51 (alternatively titled simply 51) when it first aired on Syfy Channel in February of this year, then you may be pleased to hear that you’ll be able to get your hands on the DVD release come Tuesday, September 20th.

Directed by Jason Connery (yes, Sean Connery’s son) and starring Bruce Boxleitner (Tron:Legacy), Jason London (Dazed and Confused), and Rachel Miner (Bully), Area 51 opens on a military decision to allow select members of the media to experience a guided tour of the infamous base. This is, of course, being done in order to dispel the years of rumors about aliens being held and studied there, so every effort is made to make the visitors feel as if they’re being shown things they’re not supposed to see. That way, they can go home and get to work telling the world how normal everything is there.

Naturally, this is all just a ruse to cover up the fact that there are… you guessed it… actually aliens there. How ingenious! We’re not just talking dead ones either. Area 51 turns out to harbor a couple of different live specimens and as luck would have it, they choose the crappiest possible time to break loose and cause trouble.

Area 51 really doesn’t offer you anything that unique as far as premise or plot structure goes. In fact, I think it’s best described as a mish-mash of every alien movie you’ve ever seen in your life as far as the plot and characters are concerned. It’s as if the writers who put this together couldn’t decide which alien movie they wanted to rip off… so they just decided to do all of them at one time.

No, really. This is totally a parade of every movie alien cliché you’ve ever heard of. You’ve got your Aliens style killing machine. (Hell, the thing even looks like a ghetto version of the same alien.) You’ve got a shape shifter. You’ve even got a friendly, intelligent alien that somewhat resembles a mushroom and is a bit reminiscent of E.T. or someone similar. There is even a female human character in this that can’t help but remind you of Ripley from Aliens right down to the white t-shirt she wears to face off against the alien in a pivotal scene.

This isn’t the most well-constructed movie on the face of the planet either. There’s a lot of cheesy dialogue. Some of the actors really need to go back to acting school before they even think about taking another part. I personally don’t understand why they needed all these types of aliens, because I was really left wanting as far as learning about their species, where they’re from, what brought them to earth in the first place, and so forth – some of the things I find most fascinating about alien movies. The special effects were not that great, where they existed at all. (For instance, I’m sure the shape-changer alien only had that little ability in his bag of tricks to save the production crew a buck or two, as he simply changed into a doppelganger of any human he touched right before launching into his fight sequences.)

That can be said to be part of the fun of After Dark originals though. They’re cheesy and clichéd. The plots are pretty predictable and there are rarely any explosive surprises or plot twists waiting to ambush you around the bend. However, mixed in with the terrible acting performances are often a couple of pretty decent ones (Rachel Miner and Jason London in this one, for instance). Also, like many other After Dark productions, Area 51 does manage to hold your attention and entertain you during the 90 minutes you’re watching it, even if you’re chuckling half the time at the cheese level of it all.

After Dark movies (especially the ones associated with Syfy) are a little bit like those cheap frozen pizzas you get at the grocery store on a Friday when you don’t want to put much effort into cooking. You know from the get-go that there are a number of corners being cut and that you’re not getting any real nutrition out of eating them. They don’t even taste that good… yet… they do in a really weird way. You might inexplicably find yourself buying another one next Friday and are likely to even develop a certain blush-inducing craving for them over time that better pizzas just don’t satisfy.

That said, would I buy the DVD of this with my hard-earned cash? Maybe not. Would I recommend it to my sci-fi movie snob friends? Definitely not. But I would probably rent this one of those nights when I really felt like taking in a cheesy alien movie… if I hadn’t seen it already, that is. If you like aliens and enjoy “bad movies”, you could do a lot worse than Area 51 for sure.

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