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Alien Hunter (2003)
Director: Ron Krauss

review by Rob Marshall
Spoiler alert!
Julian Rome is a languages teacher and former cryptologist. He receives a call from NASA for help, after a GM research project in Antarctica detects signals coming from an object buried in the ice. Flying south through a blizzard, Julian is left stranded by stormy weather near the South Pole and out of touch with the authorities in Washington. Then, working alongside other scientists in an underground lab, he soon discovers the frozen object is a genuine extraterrestrial sealed inside a capsule. Can he decode the signal's message before the potentially hostile creature thaws out?
   Blatantly, this rips off several genre classics, including The Thing (1982), Close Encounters Of The Third Kind (1977), and The Andromeda Strain (1971). There are frequent references to SETI, as if the filmmakers were striving to place this in the same subgenre as superior drama Contact (1997), yet the ramshackle plot's beginnings in postwar Roswell, and a government conspiracy to suppress the truth about a crashed UFO, only serve to make this another wearisome straggler in the parade of uninspired X-Files cash-ins. James Spader is well cast as Julian Rome. It's the same type of role - a scientific misfit at odds with the establishment - he played in Stargate (1994). He's one of those rare actors (Jeff Golblum is another) who can handle science fictional dialogue about theory and technology without obvious embarrassment, so that we may accept the intellectual brilliance of his gifted yet likeable character at face value. However, the relative blandness of the entire supporting cast, playing out their drearily stereotyped roles, is unforgivable and the exploitative screenplay by J.S. Cardone (the writer of Shadowzone, and The Forsaken) shamelessly cribs all its notable plot elements from infinitely better works. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Keir Dullea is wasted here in a nothing part as a US Defence Secretary, making the fateful choice about whether or not to dispatch a Russian submarine to nuke the Antarctic base in order to halt the spread of an alien virus...
   The packaging blurb promises "pulse-pounding" terror and thrills, but the only way this is likely to affect your heart rate is if you become extremely irritated by the sheer predictability of every single new development. The monster is suitably gruesome, and its supposedly benign intentions remain intriguingly ambiguous, despite the fact that it causes numerous deaths. But the inevitable stalking sequence has no suspense and gracelessly lapses into the risk-free unreality of a cheesy videogame, while the mixed group of scientists exhibit the expected range of stock reactions (from hysterical denial and suspicious paranoia to grave reflection), once it's revealed their alien discovery is not a hoax (nobody mentions that infamous autopsy video, but your eyes will be rolling heavenwards as this obvious touchstone of UFOlogy lore springs immediately to mind). These scientists, with their persistent doubts and blind recklessness, talk to one another only to relate backstory details and explain the film's plot to SF illiterate viewers. In such a hopelessly unsophisticated arena of as this, even an intelligent trouper like Spader cannot save director Krauss' project from categorisation as stale B-movie fodder.
   Little more than a hodgepodge of sci-fi tropes and borrowings, Alien Hunter is a wholly dated and unimaginative production. Its only points of interest being an easily anticipated twist on Cocoon (1985), some design concepts filched from The Abyss (1989), and the filmmakers' cunningly 'practical' rationale (yeah, whatever works guys!) for getting their attractive leading lady (Janine Eser) into a swimsuit. With nothing to offer fans that have already seen all the films cited above, I would strongly recommend ignoring this one, if you can.
Alien Hunter

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