Every day Robert Saucedo shines a spotlight on a movie either so bad it’s good or just downright terrible. Today: Cowboys vs. aliens
Forget Indians, everybody knows the cowboy’s greatest enemy comes from outer space.
In High Plains Invaders, the Kristoffer Tabori directed gunslinger vs extraterrestrial creature feature, James Marsters (Buffy the Vampire Slayer) plays Sam Danville, a former officer in the Indian Wars who, seeking a bit of a thrill, has turned to a life of crime. After tasting the sweet nectar of Indian-killing, Danville is not content to go back to his old life. No, now that he has shot people dead, Danville leaves his best gal Abigail Pixley (played by Cindy Sampson) behind and transforms himself into a train robber.
When his latest escapade accidentally causes a train derailment, Danville is crushed to find out he has unwittingly become a murderer. His spirits aren’t the only things that are going to be crushed though; Danville faces a hanging — just as soon as the town’s incompetent sheriff can lead his motley crew of deputies into putting together a half-decent gallows.
Yes, High Plains Invaders begins with its toes firmly dipped into typical western chestnuts. There’s the dusty one-street-town complete with saloon, general store and prison. There’s the contemplative hero who has just a bit of a bad streak running through him. There’s even a bounty hunter — albeit one who is a real beauty and looks good in a skirt and gun strap. And I’m not talking about Bobba Fett.
Sanny Van Heteren plays Rose Hilridge, a sassy lass who makes her bones killing bad guys — and doesn’t take gruff from anybody.
But honestly, this is all window dressing — as fluffy and ultimately meaningless as the decorative trimmings on a pistol. There is only one thing that people watching a movie about cowboys vs. aliens want to know about — and that one thing doesn’t involve character development.
The invaders of High Plains Invaders are a group of shiny gold insectoids that scuttle about on crab-like legs, drilling into the ground in search of Uranium. Not only do these creatures use the raw element as a projectile weapon that they shoot out of their mouths and into the chests of unsuspecting yokels, the aliens seem to get some kind of high from snorting the stuff.
In a big of unlucky happenstance, Jules Arning, a squirrely little man played by Sebastian Knapp, has been processing the element at his ranch on the edge of town. When the aliens get a whiff of what a treasure trove of uranium they are sitting on, it becomes a massacre worthy of James Cameron standards.
Well, maybe not James Cameron. More like Roger Corman.
The film, while utilizing some impressive make-up effects and an admirable job with computer graphics, is still very much a low-budget film. The effects are rough and the filmmakers choose to play much of the action off-screen where the audiences’ need to utilize their imagination helps keep the budget in check.
James Marsters does a respectable job as a western hero — though I have to admit I missed the faux-British accent he donned while playing Spike on Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel. With only a standard American accent at his disposal, the actor seemed to loose some of his charm and charisma — but maybe that was just my low-level racism at work.
The film, while low budget and awfully cheesy in its plot, is surprisingly entertaining in places.
When it plays out like a prison siege film like some kind of combination of Assault on Prescient 13 and Starship Troopers, the movie hits the spot in ways few straight-to-DVD creature flicks do.
High Plains Invaders is not a perfect film and it won’t win any awards for its ingenuity but there are worse ways to spend an hour and a half then watching cowboys and aliens duking it out at the OK Corral.
Robert Saucedo recommends the graphic novel IRON WEST by Doug TenNapel as the best cowboy vs. aliens bit o’ fiction around. Follow Robert on Twitter @robsaucedo2500.
Robert Saucedo is an avid movie watcher with seriously poor sleeping habits. The Mikey from Life cereal of film fans, Robert will watch just about anything — good, bad or ugly. He has written about film for newspapers, radio and online for the last 10 years. This has taken a toll on his sanity — of that you can be sure. Follow him on Twitter at @robsaucedo2500.