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Alien Strain

Alien Strain (2014) Movie Poster
USA  •    •  82m  •    •  Directed by: Robert Benavides Jr., Andy Palmer.  •  Starring: Michael Finn, Laura Gordon, Michael Phenicie, Rolf Saxon, Rachelle Dimaria, Jason Connery, Jesse Bryant, Jennifer Frances, Guy Griffithe, Damian C. King, Malorie Mackey, Art Roberts, Henrik Rutgersson.  •  Music by: Jason Solowsky.
     After his girlfriend vanishes without a trace on a camping trip, he quickly goes from witness to suspect. Now, a year later, she returns to the very spot from which she was taken, but not like she was before.


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Image from: Alien Strain (2014)
Image from: Alien Strain (2014)
Image from: Alien Strain (2014)
Image from: Alien Strain (2014)
Image from: Alien Strain (2014)
Image from: Alien Strain (2014)
Image from: Alien Strain (2014)
Image from: Alien Strain (2014)
Image from: Alien Strain (2014)
Image from: Alien Strain (2014)
Matthew, a psychologically troubled mental hospital inmatepatient haltingly tells his assigned psychiatrist the story of his girlfriend's abduction by aliens followed by her return a year later, seemingly normal though traumatized but in fact poised on the edge of physically metamorphosing into an alien being -- stronger, faster, and with meaner teeth -- with whom his relationship became a bit tense, especially when her Rachel-personality seemed to be slipping away.

(I have to mention here that on multiple occasions the movie violated its own "This is one person's flashbackmemories" premise by showing us things that happened when Matthew wasn't there to see them. That's just bad.)

At the same time as he's recounting this and we're watching it happen, however, we keep getting flickers of him tenderly holding her, in her normal human form but bald, looking exactly like a woman who's going through chemo- or radiation-therapy for cancer.

Eventually, after much to-ing and fro-ing and sub-story involving another woman, Alicia, who works as a signals analyst for a private firm out in the desert where Rachel vanished, deciphering apparent alien signals, and whose own sister had similarly disappeared a few years earlier, we get to the crux of the matter: did the whole alien-abduction thing actually happen, or is an elaborately constructed false memory that his mind built because it can't face the fact that Rachel died in his arms from cancer and he was powerless to prevent it?

And then the film gives us this ending: Matthew, after but not immediately after living through the memory of her death from cancer, suddenly flips out and bursts in on the psychiatrist screaming "You've been playing me the whole time! You're one of them! Where's Rachel? Take me to Rachel! I want to see Rachel!" and attacks the shrink until a couple of orderlies run in and zap him with a taser and drag him away. We then cut to a conversation between the psychiatrist and Rachel, who is alive and fully human-looking, but oddly flat and unemotional. He tells her:

"In the end, the plan just wouldn't hold. The submersive memories continue to break at the point of your death. I'm afraid he's not a candidate for re-introduction."

"I understand. What happens to him next?"

"We have protocols for this type of thing. He'll be dealt with. Probably sent to the mines. But it's important for you to understand: when it's time for us to descend, it will be people like you that will help us to our victory."

"Of course."

All of this is intercut with shots of a clearly very sedated Matthew being rolled down the halls of the mental institution on a gurney. Then we see what's obviously a dreamhallucination he's having in which Rachel (fully human in appearance) is leaving him. In this scene she's still pretty unemotional, but shows some amount of affection for him, like an adult dealing with a child that they've enjoyed taking care of for a while, but now have to say goodbye to:

"Remember me, Matthew. I will always be with you."

"No! You can't leave me again! I don't know if I can do it this time!"

"Yes, you can. You're strong."

"No, not without you."

"You must. Destiny is within you now. You must survive."

"No! No! No! No!"

And she says "I love you" as she walks away.

Is this all her telepathically communicating with him, or entirely a construct of his own mind? Who knows, but if it is really her then what's the deal with "Destiny is within you?" Is she pulling some kind of a fast one on the aliens who think she's fully trustworthy, or just trying to give him a false sense of importance and hope to help carry him through his life in the mines?

Back in the basement the psychiatrist tells her "I'm sorry abut Matthew" and she says, emotionlessly, "I know" and gets walks away. (It's interesting that throughout this scene the psychiatrist's been his normal self; he doesn't become flat and unemotional when there aren't any humans around that need to be fooled. Perhaps it's because he's a genuine alien while Rachel's a human whose mind has been overwritten by them.)

Last scene: Matthew's gurney goes past another one, one which a screaming Alicia is strapped down: "I don't know anything! Please! Where are you taking me? Matthew, wake up! Matthew!"

So, what the heck? Does the ending make sense? I didn't think so at first and was indignant at having it foisted off on me, but after having had to work through it it in my head in order to write this review I've decided that it does. The alien abduction of Rachel, and her return, actually happened. The very last bit, with Alicia, shows that Matthew really did have some interaction with her and, the fact that Rachel didn't die in the alien-abduction-and-return story means that the "submersive memories" have to be the ones about her dying from cancer in the false no-aliens scenario that they were trying to write into Matthew's mind so that he'd stop believing his own memories about aliens.

This still doesn't explain two things though: firstly, what the heck were the aliens doing? If they wanted to cover all this up wouldn't it have been infinitely easier to just to kill Matthew?, and secondly, after that whole metamorphosing-into-an-alien affair why is Rachel stillagain in normal human form in her end-of-film scene with the psychiatrist?

So: I've bounced around a lot on scoring this film. At first I thought the twist ending didn't work and was going to punish the film by giving only three stars, then I decided that it did and was impressed enough to go to seven, and then I decided that I had to take one off because of the unanswered questions that I talk about in the previous paragraph. (And also for the flashbacks-to-things-that-Matthew-couldn't-have-seen problem.) So, in the end, six stars.

(Oh, and by the way, I thought that the prosthetics and make-up work they did on Rachel-as-alien was really good.).

Review by wdstarr-1 from the Internet Movie Database.


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Feb 27 2016, 14:30