Wednesday, November 30, 2011

High Plains Invaders (2009)

A group of unlikely citizens fight aliens in the west

It's 1892 in a little mining town called Avaranth in Colorado. Sam Danville is going to be hanged for various crimes ranging from train robbery to murder when suddenly a spider looking alien attacks the town. It's up to Sam, the shopkeeper, a female bounty hunter, a nurse, an outlaw, a scientist and the Sheriff to fend them off till they can get away, die trying or save the day.

This begins like a "Night of the Living Dead" setup where they get holed up in the Sheriff's headquarters, only to periodically come out when finding a different way to kill one. The situation is looking hopeless as every time a bug is taken out another pops right back in its place like a weed. To make matters worse, a woman is injured inside and the loud mouthed bounty hunter named Rose postures and all the while threatens Sam that she's going to collect on his reward dead or alive. The nurse and Sam are attempting to rekindle their relationship that went sour from something that happened with his criminal history. With the exception of the bounty hunter and the opportunist outlaw that was formerly Sam's friend, the rest attempt to use the situation for redemption and turn into self-sacrificing heroes no matter the cost to save humanity from space invaders who are drawn there for a specific reason.

This is derivative but to its benefit "High Plains Invaders" is short and also painless in that the main characters don't make very many stupid moves, in part to how simple it's kept instead of going well beyond its means like many Sci Fi Channel/Syfy made-for-TV movies have done in the past. The majority of the film is a pretty straightforward from-one-thing-to-the-next type with a little down time to somewhat personalize the characters in between random attacks. The performances are passable, nothing that you haven't seen before with people trying to survive from something attacking them, albeit kept a little more realistic than over-the-top cinematic. The tone at points rides a fine line between trying to be humorous and serious, but usually more of the latter. Their western accents come and go per scene and occasionally come off as a caricature but the simplistic dialogue is still said with some meaning.

"High Plains Invaders" is catered to the neck deep genre addicts who are given a little taste of a gimmick when two genres are combined. If you separated both portions, then this would be left standing with two below average movies, with the final result itself hitting around middle road. The look of the western times comes with some harsher color templates such as grays and browns to make it feel more authentic than characters standing around on a pristine movie set. Science fiction fans have seen what invasions can do in the modern day with countless movies on the subject. But if anything, how the west is utilized here seems to limit the level of intensity and big action scenes as the resources were less than spectacular compared to modern weaponry such as tanks and aircraft. It makes the events seem somewhat basic: run, hide, shoot, plan, fight over what to do. Sure it's not going to be "Wild Wild West" or even "Independence Day" due to restrained budget reasons, but they don't always take advantage of what they have and get as innovative as one would like to make up for the fact. Even their shoot outs are fairly uneventful the way bullets bounce off the large bug creatures' hard backs like it was nothing. Though the projectiles the creatures themselves shoot come with some gaping wounds from being quicker on the draw than their western counterparts. Comparing then and now, it goes to show that humans haven't changed all that much even when aliens enter the picture. Some are good, some look bad but are really good, and some are just plain ugly despite looking good.

Rating: 4.5/10

Director: Kristoffer Tabori (Pursued, The Accidental Witness, Fireball)
Stars: James Marsters, Cindy Sampson, Sanny Van Heteren, Sebastian Knapp
Link: IMDB

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