The truth is that – with my various commitments – I’ll never get the chance to take in everything that gets ‘hawked’ my way. While I keep a good handful of lists – and my Amazon.com queue is certainly chocked full of pictures I might purchase or rent – there are simply far too many for me to get to in a single lifetime. And … wouldn’t you know it? So, so, so many of them do look very good! Some of them are obviously well-produced with a good chunk of change spent on producing the latest and greatest special effects while others look to have taken a much more reserved approach, hoping that the weight of a grand story might just make up for the missing visual spectacle. As my list of reviews suggest, I’ll damn near watch anything: the only qualifier is that, yes, I have to make time for it. So those of you who’ve passed on suggestions? I do thank you for your patience.
Arrowhead – or as it’s more commonly known as Alien Arrival (2016) – apparently evolved from a well-received short flick of the same name. Writer/director Jesse O’Brien definitely packed the work with more than a healthy share of meaty ideas, and that alone might make it the kind of film that’s worth a single experience, though I suspect many won’t find it worthy of a second helping. It kinda/sorta reminded me of a good number of other SciFi projects that may’ve achieved a higher profile or a purer pedigree; but – at the end of the day – I have to say I found it a bit undercooked, much of which might well be owed to the fact that it had far too many ideas for this reviewer to keep track of in a single sitting.
The truth hurts but sometimes short films don’t translate to full features as what’s authentically novel about them gets obscured in the bloated production.
(NOTE: The following review will contain minor spoilers necessary solely for the discussion of plot and/or characters. If you’re the type of reader who prefers a review entirely spoiler-free, then I’d encourage you to skip down to the last few paragraphs for the final assessment. If, however, you’re accepting of a few modest hints at ‘things to come,’ then read on …)
From the film’s IMDB.com page citation:
“A tech is sprung from prison by a revolutionary leader who promises him an opportunity to save his father from a scheduled execution if he completes a data-stealing mission. But it goes awry, stranding him on a strange alien moon.”
Question: when is a good idea a bad thing?
Answer: when it gets weighted down with baggage unnecessarily complicated.
And, yes, it is a crying shame because up to a point this Arrival works rather efficiently. Though it definitely borrows on the aesthetics of so many other Science Fiction films that came before – Fortress (1992), No Escape (1994), Screamers (1995), and Starship Troopers (1997) come to mind in varying degrees – O’Brien and his cast and crew go to some good lengths to make this desolate landscape all of their own. The effects – while minimal – work on their own efficiency, giving the audience just enough to sell their inclusion while not being so intrusive as to draw unnecessary attention to themselves (the curse of the low-budget thriller). Actor Dan Mor – in the lead as ‘Kye Cortland’ – handles the responsibilities of leading man here quite well, though I would’ve had his costuming and makeup handlers pay a bit closer attention to facial hair (as it goes through wildly different levels far too often).
Arrival’s chief failing is that – as the film wears on – it grows increasingly difficult to ascertain what it’s all about.
Now, most of that is owed to the ‘big twist’ O’Brien’s script conceals as long as is humanly possible. Suffice it to say that not all is what it seems – not a huge surprise given that anyone watching closely should have been questioning some of the developments as they occurred – and the big twist isn’t quite handled logically, and it’s given far more clout than I felt it deserved. Without spoiling it, let’s just agree that ‘time dilation’ and ‘time loops’ are two very different things, though they do seem to be used interchangeably in the last reel. Things like ‘how did a man survive for three years without food and water’ don’t get the kind of narrative coverage they should’ve (even a small aside would’ve eased viewers into accepting this possibility) – and don’t even get me started on how his tight-fitting uniform could’ve held up after such a time.
Might I suggest: Alien Arrival is exactly the kind of project that should be picked up, dusted off, and tried again at some point. In this era when damn near anything and everything is subject to a reboot, then I’d easily point at this as something worthy of a second go. Let the dust settle. Let some new clouds roll in. There was enough good stuff in here to make it worthy, so let’s give it a makeover to make it worthwhile.
Alien Arrival (2016) was produced by Vertical Entertainment, TV1 General Entertainment, and GRLA. DVD distribution (for this particular release) is being coordinated by the good people at Vertical Entertainment. As for the technical specifications? Though this one occasionally smacks of super-low budget filmmaking, I still found the bulk of it to contain some very good sights and sounds. Yes, a few of the effects sequences are a bit undercooked, but they don’t distract from the experience on the whole. Lastly, if you’re looking for special features, then prepare to be disappointed as there isn’t a single one on the disc of note. A big miscalculation, if you ask me.
As a fan of obscure Science Fiction and Fantasy titles, I was excited to finally put Alien Arrival in the DVD player for a spin. While the film has some pieces that are reasonably interesting as well as impressive, the whole is a somewhat horrifically uneven piece relying a bit too heavily on cleverly hidden twists to hold more narrative weight than they ultimately do. That and the fact that O’Brien’s script flounders more than it swims makes this one occasionally feel like it’s wallowing in its own self-importance. That’s a shame as it wastes an otherwise pretty interesting performance from Mor as the tortured soldier trying to figure out what exactly his circumstances might be.
In the interests of fairness, I’m pleased to disclose that I watched Alien Arrival (2016) from the Vertical Entertainment DVD release issued a few years back that I purchased on my own dime.