We know what you're thinking. You're thinking, "Finally! Bennett Media is tackling the 1999 direct-to-video magnum opus Alien Arsenal, directed by David DeCoteau!" Well, yeah - hard to believe it took this long, but here we are.
Seriously though, here's the deal: we ordered some stuff from Full Moon a few months ago during one of their sales - and, as a sidenote, the sale was ridiculous: 50% off blu rays, added to a Buy One Get One Free deal. So it really shouldn't have come as any surprise that, additionally, Charlie and the crew extended their predictable generosity to sending us a free movie -- one we didn't ask for, and never heard of.
Now, if y'all heard of Alien Arsenal or have even seen it, our pants are off to you - but we went into it with a spirit of adventure and experimentation. So, is it a hidden gem, or something considerably less than? Here's what we thought:
We went into this knowing director David DeCoteau best from his earlier Linnea Quigley epics (Creepozoids, Nightmare Sisters, Slimeball Bowl-O-Rama), but also being peripherally aware of his 150+ filmmaking credits for Full Moon, SyFy, Hallmark, and Lifetime. So, not surprisingly, this movie was a little bit of all those things - but more.
Supposedly, Alien Arsenal is a "loose remake" of the 1978 Full Moon feature Laserblast - which is fair but inconsequential, seeing as how the premise feels pretty common: a couple high school outcasts stumble upon a poorly-hidden pantry of various other-worldly weapons (ray guns, x-ray binoculars, invincible suits of armor) and then use said weapons to right the wrongs of the world (which is mostly just teaching lessons to bullies).
Predictably, the weapons' original owners fly in from outer space to retrieve them - disguised as humans and posing as foreign exchange students (which translates into broad Ace of Base-type complexions in Rammstein attire).
Make no mistake, this movie is an assertive time capsule of 1999 - not just through cultural references, but through style, fashion, and flavor, it's a charming celebration of its moment without any irony or self-awareness. You know, just like I like it.
It should also be noted that this is an extremely family-friendly PG-13 kid caper, which is a major strength - if not its only strength - as it allows any details that seem too silly or not as believable to be regarded simply as "fun." And man, lemme tell you, it is fun; if this was sold to me as Are You Afraid of the Dark?: The Movie, I wouldn't have had too many complaints, because 1.) the entire setup and how it's executed falls in line with the TV show every step of the way, and 2.) I liked it very much.
I really can't tell you very much about the film - if you can even call this a film: the SciFi epic Alien Arsenel. But I can definitely share about our first recent viewing. And I've got to say, it was definitely one of the best times I've had in this otherwise chode of a year.
We are the honored recipients of a free DVD copy, direct from Full Moon Features. It accompanied our recent blu-ray purchases of Meridian and Trancers directly from the company that produced them. Trancers was important to replace for us, as we prematurely sold it in anticipation of a blu-ray upgrade. Trancers has become a very special Christmas movie for us, and the holiday will be here before we know it. I don't know why he bought Meridian. I feel like the VHS cover is nostalgic for me. But I digress.
There in the box was our third, unknown freebie. The cover looked like someone's heresay interpretation of an acid trip, used to artistically allude to an alien invasion, in 1999. The stills on the back looked like Andy Sidaris meets Tron. And apparently 'Ralph and Baxter' have to protect their stolen interstellar weaponry from its angry other-dimensional original owners. We're sold and grateful for our prize for staying positive this year. Thank you to the universe and to Charles Band.
The circumstances surrounding our acquisition of this DVD called for a feature write-up. Something for the site, but about the feature. This meant sitting and watch-watching it. Minimal lighting, maybe popcorn, but quiet. Theater-style. This allows for maximum absorption. But as soon as this movie started, our commentary began.
We are fans of Rifftrax and MST3K, and love putting on the commentary for Jason Goes to Hell, but that has just never been our thing to do ourselves. It took this very special movie, that feels like an extended episode of Roswell, to finally crack these old stodgy film critics. It felt so good to laugh like that. Now go get yourself a copy, forget your problems, and just have fun. Because fun is the best thing to have.