Directed by Jason Connery.
Starring Bruce Boxleitner, Rachel Miner, Vanessa Branch, Jason London, Andrew Sensenig and Damon Lipari.
Following pressure from the American public, the military open the doors to Area 51 to two well-known reporters only for the well-managed tour to turn into a fight for survival when one of the base's 'long-term visitors' attempts to liberate himself and his fellow alien captives.
Earlier this year I had my introduction to After Dark Originals - the straight-to-video arm of filmmaker Courtney Solomon's (An American Haunting) After Dark Films - with Husk, a low-budget horror about a group of teens who encounter a supernatural force in a corn field (think Children of the Corn meets Dark Night of the Scarecrow). While Husk proved passable, on the other end of the spectrum comes the latest release, a sci-fi / horror entitled 51, which is hard to describe as anything other than a complete waste of 85 minutes. Given that it's co-produced by SyFy - the company behind the likes of Almighty Thor, Mega Piranha and Sharktopus - that should really tell you everything you need to know about the film, but if SyFy's output is alien to you then basically what you're getting is a glorified (actually, not even glorified) TV movie that shamelessly rips from its influences and comes across as an amateur dramatics mash-up of Aliens and The Thing.
The 'movie' starts with the United States Air Force coming under scrutiny from the American public over the secrets contained in Area 51, forcing military chiefs to open up the airbase for a carefully managed tour led by Colonel Martin (Bruce Boxleitner of TRON fame). Among the attendees are blogger Claire (Pirates of the Caribbean's Giselle) and TV reporter Dr. Keane (Andrew Sensenig), and although the guests are shown top secret military equipment, they soon realise that Col. Martin is hiding Area 51's true treasures - a selection of extraterrestrials held captive in the base as test subjects for experimentation. Naturally, despite the best efforts of the military to cover their tracks, the aliens use the opportunity to spring their escape and as all hell breaks loose, the soldiers and their guests are left fighting for survival.
Occasionally, these kind of low-budget straight-to-video horrors offer something in the way of a saving grace, be it copious amounts of decent gore or gratuitous nudity, but I'm afraid that 51 contains little of the former and a bit, fat zero of the latter. The make-up effects belong in the mid-1990s and the extraterrestrials themselves are laughable, with the aliens looking like something out of Gerry Anderson's Space Precinct. Meanwhile, despite some familiar faces popping up in the cast, the acting is mediocre at best and the direction from Jason (son of Sean) Connery does little to salvage the situation, especially given the tired, predictable narrative and weak dialogue from a script that surely must have went through just the one draft.
I suppose there will be masochists out there who enjoy this kind of thing, but the biggest compliment I can offer 51 is that it isn't the worst film I've seen this year. That 'honour' belongs to Almighty Thor, although 51 certainly puts up a good challenge. Everything in 51 has been done before, and done a million times better. In fairness, it is a slight step up from SyFy's usual trash - but only just - and frankly you're still going to want to avoid it.
Gary Collinson (follow me on Twitter)
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