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Alien Agenda: Endangered Species

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Screen Entertainment
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Directed by: 
Kevin J. Lindenmuth
Debbie Rochon
Joel Wynkoop
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 Brimstone Media Productions was founded by independent filmmaker, producer, writer and director Kevin J. Lindenmuth as a means to make ultra-low-budget horror and sci-fi movies for release straight into the home video market. Over the last thirteen years, Lindenmuth has produced or directed at least seventeen micro-budgeted features (including "Vampires & Other Stereotypes" and "Addicted To Murder") and written two books on the world of independent movie-making; he has also used Brimstone productions to bring together other independent filmmakers from all over the US to form a kind of indie-collective.
The "Alien Agenda" series is the main result of these collaborations. Each film in the series combines the solo efforts of various indie filmmakers while Lindenmuth attempts to tie together the individual strands with his own overarching mythology concerning a war for control of the earth by two alien species: the Morphs and the Greys. "Endangered Species" sees Tim Ritter and Gabriel Campisi joining Lindenmuth to create an X-Files style entry in the series, while Ron Ford contributes some Blair Witch-style fake documentary footage for the opening sequence. The services of B-Movie queen Debbie Rochon have also been employed to add a touch of indie-glamour to the mix. The result is a film crammed-full of interesting ideas but often lacking in coherence and continuity.
We start off with a low-key tale of domestic drama and alien invasion (directed by Lindenmuth himself)! Megan Cross (Debbie Rochon) is a tabloid tv reporter who, while in the middle of making a documentary about alien abductees (the footage for the docu was filmed by Ron Ford), becomes worried about the suspicious behaviour of her boyfriend John (Joe Zaso), when he starts sneaking out of the house at strange hours and receiving secret phone calls. She becomes convinced that he is having an affair and decides to follow him to find out once and for all. Her worst fears appear to be confirmed when she spies John having a clandestine meeting with a mysterious woman — and she is less than convinced when, after she confronts him over the matter, he claims that the woman is actually his sister.
Later that night things get even stranger when the couple return home to find an intruder waiting for them in their flat. John dispatches her with some rather un-human-like powers and then has to confess to Megan that he is actually an alien -- one of two races (Morphs and Greys) caught in a battle for control of the earth! Apparently, the Morphs (who can take on human form) want to live in peace with the remnants of humanity (humans are actually a minority since most people are really Morphs in human form!) but the Greys have the power of time travel and have travelled "back to the future" to stop the Morphs altering history and thereby ensuring the Greys never evolve! The woman John has been meeting is a member of a human resistance organisation called the Complex which monitors alien activity with the intention of discovering the true motives of both species. Not surprisingly, Megan is rather confused and disorientated by this series of complicated revelations (much like this reviewer!) especially since she is actually pregnant with John's baby. Not knowing what to believe, she ends up blowing her alien boyfriend away with the intruder's gun!
Jump forward six years and Megan is now working for the Complex (the alien baby plot-line is buried almost as soon as it was introduced when we are told that it miscarried). We're now into the second story directed by Gabriel Campisi (with a few scenes at the beginning involving Megan inserted by Lindenmuth to join the dots). After a chopper is downed in the mountains near Las Vegas, two survivors emerge with a strange box which they're at great pains to hide in the winter snow. Afterwards, they are attacked by two "men in black" types. One of the fugitives is killed in the attack, but the other escapes into the mountains.
Another five years later, and the survivor, Fritz Coligan (Alejandro Aragonez) turns up again in Las Vegas where he contacts the human resistance movement and talks to Megan (who looks no older than she did at the beginning of the film, even though that story was set a good decade earlier). Unfortunately, one of the men in black is on his trail and Fritz has to make a quick exit. He turns up at a resistance safe house and explains to the strange looking girl who lives there — honestly, this woman has the most bizarre haircut since Jack Nance in David Lynch's "Eraserhead"! — how he himself used to be a man in black, assigned the mission of transporting the Drabodok stone: a crystal, used by the Greys as a powerful source of energy. The men in black soon catch up with Fritz and the rest of this segment of the film involves him being chased about all over the place, not only by the guys in black raincoats and cheap sun glasses, but some dodgy looking stop-motion robot aliens as well!
The third (and probably best) story is directed by Tim Ritter and is more of a pastiche of sci-fi and horror elements. The story steals from just about every cult movie you can think off: from "Night of the Living Dead" to Tobe Hopper's croc-monster classic "Eaten Alive". It is also the only film to feature a smattering of gore!
We are now yet another five years into the future! A nuclear accident has left the state of Florida a forbidden zone -- full of dangerous mutants. The whole area has been quarantined by the military with no one being allowed in or out. The resistance movement contact an agent called Cop Ransom -- his mission is to break into the forbidden zone and find a downed saucer belonging to the Greys, that is believed to have crashed in the area. If the resistance can salvage their technology, they may have a chance of combating the hugely more technologically advanced aliens.
Armed with a special detector to track down the saucer, Ransom has to fend off cannibal children, a giant mutant crocodile, a kung-fu kicking soldier guy and a female human slave of the Greys, who spews out weird, Cronenbergian, worm-like creatures from her stomach when stabbed by Ransom! Eventually, Ransom finds out that the Greys have set up a giant alien base in the area. He gets captured by a psychotic man in black and is tortured in a kind of demented take on "Reservoir Dogs". Eventually he escapes and attempts to blow up the alien base but the aliens can manipulate time and prevent the bomb from going off!
Lindenmuth takes over directorial duties once more, and attempts to wrap things up by taking us back to the Complex where Megan works (still looking no older, even though the film's time line means we must now be at least 16 years into the future). It turns out that all the failed missions that have made up the bulk of the film's running time have been Megan's responsibility. Megan's supervisor is suspicious that she may be an agent for the Greys while Megan suspects that she is being set up by someone else in the resistance movement. However, the truth turns out to be even worse...!
The first thing to mention about this film is, of course, the extremely low budget it was made for: the whole thing was shot on video and most of the acting is distinctly amateur. This needn't be a problem with indie films, since the advantages of having total freedom to follow one's vision without having to worry about pleasing a mainstream audience can often outweigh the disadvantages of working with no budget.
The problem with trying to make a science fiction film on no budget, though, is the dependency the genre tends to have on special effects. The various filmmakers involved have approached this problem in different ways, with varying degrees of success. Lindenmuth eschews any effects at all for his section of the movie and concentrates instead on paranoid situations and the conspiracy angle inherent in UFO mythology.
Both Campisi and Ritter's stories depend a lot on special effects though. Campisi uses a combination of computer generated imagery (it would be overdoing it to call it CGI!) and stop-motion model effects. The stop motion stuff is done rather well but the model robots just look like toys unfortunately, and the illusion isn't very convincing. The computer effects employed are also pretty basic and, since Campisi's effort relies on these effects at the expense of a strong story, his was the least successful section of the movie for me.
Tim Ritter, meanwhile uses good old-fashioned make-up effects. Some of them, like the rubber crocodile, may look rather artificial -- but watching a man wrestle with a rubber croc as though his life depended on it is quite entertaining! There are also some very good gore effects — particularly the scenes where some cannibal children eat there own father and where worm-like creatures emerge from peoples' stomachs. Ritter's film is more tongue-in-cheek than the rest, and the story seems built to cram in as many references to other films as possible. The tone is rather different from the other sections as well, and this makes it rather obvious that it really has nothing to do with them. It seems like it would have been better to present each film separately as part of an anthology rather than to attempt to tie them all together into one story. Too many plot strands are left hanging from each section, and, ultimately, the whole thing gets rather confusing and hard to follow.
Screen Entertainment are starting to make quite a name for themselves with UK horror fans thanks to their releases of obscure gems from the likes of Jess Franco and Lucio Fulci among many others. Now, thanks to their collaboration with Silk Purse Enterprises, we're getting the chance to see the work of independent film makers as well, and for that they have to be applauded! Although not the best example of Indie film-making, "Endangered Species" could be worth a rental at least for sci-fi fans, and is available to buy for well under a tenner! It may be worth taking a chance on if you're looking for something a little more low-fi than what your local multi-plex has to offer.

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