22nd Oct2015

‘Alien Strain’ Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Michael Finn, Laura Gordon, Michael Phenicie, Rolf Saxon, Rachelle Dimaria, Jason Connery | Written and Directed by Andy Palmer, Robert Benavides Jr


On a camping trip, Matthew’s girlfriend Rachel was abducted by a UFO. A year later Rachel returns to the very spot from which she was taken but the creature she has become has Matthew fearing for his life.

Still haunted by her disappearance and subsequent return, Matthew now walks the bleak hallways of the Briarview Mental Institution. During one of his sessions with Dr. Charles Stewart, a memory is triggered that causes Matthew’s fragile psyche to further split into a series of flashes of Rachel that he has never seen before; a reality where she wasn’t taken at all, a reality where Matthew killed her. Convinced that these new memories are being planted, Matthew must forge a battle in his own mind to prove that Rachel was taken and that she was not the only one.

X-Files fans will be in for a treat with Alien Strain. This film has that same “is this really happening or is it al just a figment of someone imagination” type of storytelling that kept that show on the air for nine years. Plus writer/directors Andy Palmer and Robert Benavides Jr. throw in some decent monster make-up (which is totally spoiled by the films UK DVD cover) and a little body-horror into the mix; and the gross-out body horror, of Rachel’s illness/transformation/whatever, actually turns out to be the films most effective aspect.

No matter the issues with the film, you can tell there’s a really great movie just trying to get out from Alien Strain‘s convoluted, often confusing non-linear tale. Sadly the films biggest issue is it major downfall. The structure just doesn’t work! There are four different stories all twisted here – Matthew telling his story to his doctor, flashbacks to Matthew and Rachel together, the possibly false memories of Matthew, and… the truth. And as the film goes on it’s REALLY hard to keep track of just what part of this tale we’re seeing. Even moreso when all the stories come together as the film comes to its conclusion and the truth of Matthew’s plight is revealed.

But despite all that, Alien Strain still manages to keep you glued to the screen, just hoping that enough of the truth will be revealed at some point for this film to become coherent. Which I gues is as good a reason as any to keep watching! That coherence, the clarity the audience needs to make sense of Matthew fractured psyche is sadly strung out to literally the very end of the film, which means Matthew’s story is never finished. The truth is revealed and Matthew is… Well Matthew is left in a mental institution, which is where this story started.

Frustrating and intrigiung at the same time, Alien Strain is out now on DVD from 101 Films.


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