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A military strike team is sent to wipe out an opposing alien race before they do the same to us. The plan: unleash the Devorga Strain, a virus that attacks the Mendax immune system. The plan sounds good, up until the team crash lands on the aliens' turf, injuring their captain and leaving the inexperienced Lieutenant Gray in charge. No pressure at all.
As a kid, science fiction was my favorite genre, as would any kid who grew up watching Transformers and the STAR WARS movies. Eventually, I gravitated towards the horror genre, which now takes up the bulk of my DVD library. Of course, I still hold a small spot for the sci-fi, which crosses over into horror once in a while. Why I bring this up now is because HOMEWORLD, the latest offering from Director/Writer Phillip Hudson, isn't a horror movie, per se, but it does attempt to offer a lot of the tense moments and paranoia reminiscent of horror films like THE THING and ALIENS. Unfortunately, it also shows its low budget origins.
The story for HOMEWORLD reads like your typical 'us vs. them' situation. The year is 3037, and an alien race known as the Mendax are waging war against Earth and all of its inhabitants. In an attempt to turn the tides on this war, Earth sends five of its finest - Captain Dolen (Vance Harvey), Lieutenant Gray (Beau Ballinger), Doctor Bane (Kenneth Sears), Corporal Hart (Bronston Delone), and Sergeant Fulsom (Larissa Kasian) - to the Mendax homeworld to deliver a deadly virus known as the Devorga Strain, that will hopefully wipe out the Mendax. Of course, as these stories go, the kicker here is that the Mendax have psychic powers, allowing them to dabble in illusion, deception, and mind control. Predictably, the paranoia sets in for the protagonists the moment they crash land, leaving the issue of trust up in the air.
Unfortunately, despite the potential for the film to explore the issue, the acting hampers it at times. Granted, I'll give them props for trying to create a sense of camaraderie between the crew members, as well as attempts to develop the characters, such as through the use of video diaries that are sprinkled throughout the film made by the crew prior to their journey. But all of that takes a hit at times, due to some of the dialogue feeling forced and coming out flat.
Despite the film taking place on an alien world, the lack of a budget forced Hudson to use a forest setting, which is interesting, but in doing so, makes it seem like the film is taking place on Earth in the woods. The special effects are reserved for a couple shots of ships, the video diaries and some computer screens. Everything else is as you see it. The Mendax themselves also suffer from the low budget, as they really do look like a guy wearing a Cylon helmet lookalike with a shag rug, which leads to the biggest obstacle the film faces: the target audience.
While it's not necessarily the film's fault, the whole thing is more like a drama rather than a sci-fi action fest, which Hudson wisely didn't play it up to be. There's little or nothing in terms of action or gore, as the film concentrates on the characters and the tension between them, with the alien menace taking a backseat. Again, this is probably due to the lack of a budget, and while I applaud Hudson for trying to take the film in this direction, it unfortunately alienates the rather large group of viewers who would go into this looking for another STARSHIP TROOPERS, when it really isn't.
Still, the film is interesting with taking an unorthodox approach to the sci-fi setting, but it's not what the majority would expect. The words 'if only' came to mind when I finally sat down to write this review. If only the budget was bigger. If only the acting was better. I could go on, but the same thing could be said of a lot of films. As it stands, it's a great try for a film to take this route, but in the end, it comes out with some success.
Audio: The sole track is the Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo mix, which for a low budget film like this, it does the job. In other words, there's nothing really fancy about it, but nothing that would have you playing with the volume. Dialogue is clear, with no distortion to speak of.
Video: Again, low budget, average expectations. Shot in 1.78:1 widescreen, the film has its fair share of grain, specifically in the outdoor scenes (which make up the bulk of the film, so go figure). The outdoor shots also exhibit low colour saturation and some fuzz, which help set the tone for the film. Likewise, indoor shots exhibit less grain and are sharper. However, there's also a lack of detail with the lower lit scenes, with the outdoor scenes taking the brunt of it. Overall, the film was shot well, but the low budget origins are apparent.
The sole extra for the film is the thatrical trailer, which does the smart thing by playing up the paranoia aspect of the film between the human characters. It's not as fast-paced or intense like Hollywood would have it with quick cuts and equally fast-paced music in the background, but it does its job of drawing you in.
I had trouble trying to decide just what to give this film. On one hand, the effort was there by the entire group to try something new, but on the other, they didn't completely succeed. This isn't a bad film, but it's lacking. A good start, but with everything, there's always room for improvement.