ALIEN HUNTER (a.k.a. Welcome To Willits) *** USA 2016 Dir: Trevor Ryan. 82 mins
Trevor Ryan adapts his own 2013 short film for his feature debut, in which a bunch of slasher movie archetypes (including Rory Culkin as philosophical stoner) descend upon Northern California’s UFO hotspot “The Emerald Triangle” to get high and figure out why so many people have disappeared. The local convenience store owner blames Sasquatch for the unexplained missing persons, the protagonists debate important issues like the plural of “Bigfoot” (Bigfeet?) and a local pot farmer seems to have lost all grip of reality after several previous encounters with brutal Grey aliens.
Culkin, typecast but fun as always, is surrounded by an above-average cast for what amounts to a nastier extension of the core concepts of the greatest ever X FILES episode, “Jose Chung’s ‘From Outer Space’”. The film wears its pop culture influences on its sleeve (including BREAKING BAD) while echoing the underrated Ryan Reynolds black comedy THE VOICES in its portrayal of a delusional, murderous character from opposing viewpoints. This results in fitfully funny spins on slasher movie clichés, notably a coitus-interruptus kill (“So this is what they wanted with my weed!”), and Culkin’s historical riff on the usual campfire exposition sequence. Erratic pacing and an abrupt ending work against it, though the intentions are good and, amidst the clips from NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, REEFER MADNESS and President Reagan’s term, Dolph Lundgren sends himself up as “Derek”, a key character from a credibly corny fake cop show named “Fists of Justice”.
Review by Steven West