After spending a good three days wading through cinematic refuse like The Crow: Wicked Prayer, Zodiac Killer, Raging Sharks, The Sisterhood, Brothers in Arms, and the most amazingly inept version of War of the Worlds ever conceived ... I was more than ready for a B-movie that could charm me and make me smile. I had They Are Among Us penciled in as just that movie.
And dammit, the movie just refused to play along.
Clearly content with being a feature-length, and particularly ridiculous, episode of The X-Files, They Are Among Us tells the tale of small-town alien invasion, and the inevitable stress it causes to one precocious young teenage boy. Now, take that concept and inject it with 40 ounces of blithering blather and outright boredom, and you've got a pretty good idea what's really among us: Yet another stupid direct-to-video title with a slick, shiny DVD case.
We're talking about a super-creepy race of interstellar slug-like creatures who accidentally landed on Earth by getting stuck to a meteorite ... and promptly began killing and replicating all the townsfolk they could find.
Sounds pretty neat, eh? Sadly, no. Because this low-budget X-Files wannabe also has the intention of wedging a full episode of Dawson's Creek into the mix, thereby creating a movie that's one-half limp sci-fi schpiel combined with a bunch of flowery and glib teen angst material. Frankly, by the time the aliens get nasty enough to drop the disguise and make with the goop, you'll be well into REM sleep and dreaming of better movies.
Alison Eastwood (yes, the daughter) stars as an allegedly intrepid alien hunter who just might have stumbled into the right neighborhood. Other actors you'll probably recognize (and sympathize with) include Corbin Bernsen as the aliens' favorite plastic surgeon (don't ask), Bruce Boxleitner as a concerned father who's also married to a space slug masquerading as a human housewife, and crazy old George 'Buck' Flower as (you guessed it) a crazy old mechanic. Oh, and the amazingly sexy model known as Hunter Tylo pops up in a few scenes as a mean little alien vixen; sorry guys, nil on the nakedometer.
While They Are Among Us is not as aggressively awful as one might expect, I suspect that "not aggressively awful" is not exactly what you're looking for in a weekend rental. Directed in a professional, if somewhat dry, fashion by genre veteran Jeffrey Obrow, They Are Among Us isn't as overwhelming terrible as it is dryly derivative, annoyingly slow, and pretty darn boring from start to finish. But there is a really nasty alien at the end that looks like a giant Pac-Man covered with snot, so if the flick pops up on cable one night, be sure to Tivo the final 13 minutes.
Video: It's a widescreen anamorphic transfer, which looks pretty clean through most of the daylight sequences. Sadly, most of the flick takes place at night, and if I could paraphrase my favorite song of all time: The grain comes out at night.
Audio: You choose between Dolby Digital 2.0 or 5.1; either way you're getting a whole lot of chit-chat and only a few of the freaky alien squeals. Optional subtitles are available in Spanish.
Extras: There's a 8-minute featurette entitled Creating the Creatures, which is just cool enough to make you wish the creatures had played a bigger role in the movie. Aside from the BBQ-slathered Pac-Man monster, I will admit that the alien effects are pretty darn slick, so let's give some credit where it's due.
There's also an audio commentary with director Jeffrey Obrow, screenwriter Lars Hauglie, FX supervisor Chad Washam, and actor Michael DiLallo. It's a somewhat dry but amiable affair; the guys clearly like their flick, but don't consider it the second coming of Alien. In fact, the guys' yak-track made me wish I liked the movie a bit more...
Rounding out the extras is a collection of trailers for Alien 3000, Rottweiler, Zodiac Killer, Premonition, The Slaughterhouse Massacre (it's a romantic comedy), Chronicle of the Raven (a.k.a. Jennifer's Shadow), and The Devil's Rejects.
I'll give They Are Among Us our Rent It designation, mainly because the filmmakers are clearly trying to tell a straight-faced and entertaining invasion story without being obnoxious or cheap about it. Should the flick pop up on cable one night and it snags your attention span, feel free to give it a shot. It's certainly not awful enough to give you a migraine, but They Are Among Us just feels like an oft-told tale, retold (yet again) with very little ingenuity.