A film that has its moments, but is seriously held back by some of the disinterested cast and CGI effects that time forgot. Anti-Life could be so much better than it ends up being. A real shame.
Set in the near future, a spaceship flees a devastating plague on planet Earth with a few thousand survivors on board – the last remnants of humanity. But the ship has a stowaway: a shape-shifting alien whose goal is to slaughter everyone on board. Clay Young (Bruce Willis) and his team are a hardened group of mechanics picked to stay awake and maintain the interstellar ark.
Anti-Life starts surprisingly well. We have a decent if unoriginal set up that has a crew on a ship to a new Earth as we have thoroughly wrecked our one, only to have something on board to endanger everyone. We have seen this so many times in the past what 30 years? That is becoming a tad stale, but usually, the crew that is left behind to run the ship are robots or some military type. Instead, we have a cleanup crew, janitors, mechanics, the people to make sure everything is clean and running by the time everyone else makes it to their new home.
If that sounds familiar then yes, the answer is, they are effectively truckers in space. This while is not the only Alien trope that we see throughout the film, to the point that we will get a combination of both Alien and Aliens by the time we have finished. But we are getting a tad ahead of ourselves. Let’s get back to that start.
There was a lower budget set for the film as the opening should be of large scope and the crowds are merely a few dozen people milling about, be it the people desperate to get on the ship or the people listening to the Admirals message before cryosleep. There is also quite the astonishingly bad image of two characters looking lovingly into one another’s eyes in front of the worst backdrop you could imagine. Primary school panto level decoration went on there. Regardless of the premise that this non-military, but the tough crew have to deal with a parasitic alien that makes whoever it gets a hold of into effectively alien zombies, should be an entertaining one. Right?
When our characters get to find out what is going on and they get their weapons they look like plastic toys. There is no hyperbolic wording here, they look like toys and the effects to show them being used are equally terrible. To the point you almost have to give every actor on screen using them an Oscar for not breaking character during the scenes.
When everything hits the fan in the final act no one truly seems to be in a hurry, there is no urgency to the film and this is where Anti-Life loses you. It can be B-Movie terrible with the effects, production. However, if the cast is all in and take it seriously, it elevates the entire picture, it brings a heart to it and there never appears to be enough of that. Characters move around in 3rd gear, yet their lives are on the line as they battle these zombies. It is disappointing as mentioned. You want your cast to care, while almost everyone seems to be in it for the paycheck.
So we get to Bruce Willis, who rather surprisingly almost not giving it his all, is entertaining in his role. He knows what type of film this is and goes along with it. Taking it seriously when he has to and hamming it up when called onto on other occasions. When some slight drama is required, Willis can compliment the film by giving subtle looks and expressions, it is a solid showing from him considering what he has planted himself into here. There are fewer excuses for the rest of the cast though as it is the veterans such as Timothy V. Murphy and the brief time we get with Thomas Jane that show they can portray a character. There is emotion there.
The rest of the cast stumble their way through the film, especially so Cody Kearsley who doesn’t help the film in the slightest. There is no real need for his character to be there and his partner Hayley (Kassandra Clementi) would have made for a more suitable lead. A pregnant woman wanting to survive for her and her baby, not just some guy who can barely emote his love for her other than looking at photos. Alas, we got what we got.
There is a lot else wrong about Anti-Life. From the CGI that causes you to blink twice, because you can not imagine it looking worse. To the decision for the army or security of the ship to be woken up only to show no military organisation in the slightest. Instead of making themselves a wall to defend what they need to. They bunch together in a little bundle to be attacked. Awful.
Despite all the misgivings around Anti-Life. There are some positives, the practical effects far outweigh the CGI and constantly proof that if you can afford it, always go as practical as possible. Some of the scenes that work the best when we get to the more horror part of the proceedings are in the practical. Simple autopsy scenes work so well because we can see it and it is not jarring dreadful CGI.
In the end, we have a film that has a decent enough idea. Even if it is copied from every sci-fi horror possible (a game to catch what film you think that moment is from). The viewer can find something to enjoy here, but boy it shouldn’t be such hard work to do so.
Signature Entertainment presents Anti-Life on Digital Platforms 12th February and DVD 15th February
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