During an all-girl secret society initiation, one of the new members is killed playing Russian Roulette. Many years later the survivors are invited for a reunion to a lavish estate, which ... See full summary »
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I saw "Manos, the Hands of Fate" and lived to tell the mediocre tale; I also saw daylight the other-side of "The Lucifer Project" and "Doomsday Weapon", and so I reckon I know a stinker when I smell one, but I can say with confidence, that "The Alpha Incident" is not the proverbial turkey it's often branded.
Bill Rebane's reputation precedes him, but occasionally he does get it right, so credit where it's due, "Alpha" is a moody, atmospheric and suspenseful if somewhat talky thriller about a Martian virus that has potentially infected a small group of mostly bystanders at a remote railway station, forcing them into quarantine under the watchful eye of Government bio-chemist Stafford Morgan, himself also in containment maintaining contact with the outside world via telephone as he awaits news of a much-anticipated antidote.
While it's limited in action, it's not as benign as some other reviews might suggest, with a clever plot twist significantly ratcheting up the tension as the desperate group learn they must not fall asleep, lest a fate worse than death awaits.
The performances from Morgan, Goff and Newell in particular are actually very watchable, not over-wrought and certainly not amateur fodder. Star-billed Meeker might be the biggest name on-hand as the meek railroad pen-pusher, but Morgan is clearly the lead and his reliable presence underlines why he was such a prolific actor in the 1970's and 1980's. There's plenty of sympathy for each of the characters (which are mostly clichés), none moreso than Newell's small-town nubile "Jenny", watching her potential evaporate under the prying scrutiny of small-town rednecks looking for tail to taint.
Rebane-regular Paul Bentzen and dependable supporting actor John Alderman play the scientists desperately trying to develop an antidote before our stricken survivors submit to eternal slumber, with the prospect of failure looming large as the tone becomes more sombre....
While not entirely absent here, Rebane's hard-earned reputation as a plodding film-maker, substituting reams of dialogue for the action a micro-budget can't afford, his narrative is relatively taut and the tension and pathos he builds, quite effective. And if you do persist, you will be rewarded with some cheap (but effective) special effects that won't soon be forgotten - a little bonus material for those who persevere. It's not a great movie, but it's a lot better than its reputation implies and well worth watching.
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