B-movies are difficult to examine critically. It is easy to systematically shred the nonsensical plot points and view once acclaimed actors with derision. You have to take the performances and direction with a heap of salt, otherwise, you are in danger of taking yourself more seriously than the film. That being said, the recently released 2020 sci-fi/thriller Anti-Life, a self-assured B-movie trashcan, is undeniably dreadful in both scope and effort.
Set in the not-too-distant future, a generic extinction-level event has forced humans to flee the planet. The action begins with a group of chosen people boarding the Ark, a spaceship bound for the colony of New Earth, where humanity hopes to reside and prevent its eradication. The aptly named Noah (Cody Kearsley) successfully boards the Ark as a stowaway, enabling him to follow his pregnant girlfriend Hayley (Kassandra Clementi) to New Earth.
Hayley is quickly placed into stasis for the duration of the journey, while Noah attempts to assimilate with the mechanics and janitors so as to not appear suspicious. One of said mechanics, Clay (Bruce Willis), slowly takes towards Noah and adopts the position of mentor. However, following a comical montage highlighting Noah’s successful integration into the team, an alien lifeform is released which insidiously spreads among the crew, leaving them to battle for their lives as they approach New Earth.
The story and attempted narrative are unintentionally hilarious, centred around an antagonistic alien whose characteristics unexplainably and conveniently change throughout the 92-minute runtime. Initially, it causes a janitor to explode, then controls other crew members on a parasitic basis before finally congealing to form a knock-off Mindslayer. It is like the director John Suits watched every alien flick before filming, throwing in all his favourite aspects to form a non-cohesive mess.
Anti-Life shamelessly steals major plot points from The Thing, Resident Evil, Alien, Predator, and Independence Day, yet still manages to fall short of anything approaching a complete movie. The cheap production and makeshift effects do not absolve Anti-Life of its poorly handled story and ineffective direction. Any film which can take Bruce Willis spraying alien-infested zombies with a flamethrower, but make it incredibly dull, deserves any criticism coming its way.
Willis supposedly carries the film as a disillusioned, grizzly drunkard, whose drawling dialogue is as lazy as it is unintelligible. While he roams idly through the cheaply produced corridors of the Ark, which could easily be a local leisure centre spray-painted in grey, we reflect on Willis’ career and weep. Slurping and grimacing as he swigs from his spaceship moonshine, the lack of effort is startling. At least Nicolas Cage throws himself into B-movies with energy, whereas Willis winces his way through to a meagre paycheque.
The gaping lack of an effective score combined with slapdash special effects epitomises the ongoing laziness. Recycled shots of the Ark slowly moving through space typify the cost-cutting production, culminating in a scene on New Earth which is as uninspiring as it is cheap. New Earth is tinted with garish blue to supposedly resemble an extra-solar planet but remains blatantly and embarrassingly some well-travelled forest path in Georgia.
B-movies like The Room and Sharknado have a defined position in cinematic history. Their silliness and self-assured nature have garnered cult followings as a consequence. Unlike its predecessors, Anti-Life does not attempt to be horrific, thrilling, or comical. For a space-based action film it is ironically devoid of any atmosphere and is as lifeless as the crew members possessed by the malevolent extra-terrestrial. Filled with the familiar faces of action movies past and present, the initial intrigue slowly withers to nothing, and you are left with Bruce Willis’ taut, expressionless face unsuccessfully attempting to incite and motivate the audience.
Dir: John Suits
Scr: Edward Drake, Corey Large
Cast: Bruce Willis, Cody Kearsley, Kassandra Clementi, Rachel Nichols, Thomas Jane, Johnny Messner
Prd: Corey Large, Danny Roth
DOP: Will Stone
Runtime: 92 minutes
Signature Entertainment presents Anti-Life on Digital Platforms 12th February and DVD 15th February