Short Horror Reviews: Andrea Ricca - Aliens
For Part 2 of my Andrea Ricca review series, let's explore some extraterrestrial terrors!
In my first journey into the wacky world of Andrea Ricca, I explored nine short films of his that centered around monsters and other big and deadly creatures wreaking havoc on humans. Now, we'll be focusing on a smaller set of his films which center on a different breed of creature: aliens. Ironic that I would be covering a series of alien horror films, after doing a pair of reviews about alien documentaries that (at least partially) tried to dispel the common belief that aliens are inherently dangerous. Nevertheless, I'm sure I'll be able to keep an objective mind when approaching these four films. So without further ado, let's dig in!
First up is Aliens Night, which actually has two plotlines going on in tandem to each other. While the government is sending the Air Force out to deal with a UFO sighting, a beautiful young scientist (Stefani Autuori) must fight back when a group of aliens invades her home. From the start, it's clear that Aliens Night seems to be aiming higher than Ricca's past work. In addition to the dual plot arcs, the graphics are much more sleek and polished than those in the films I've previously discussed. There's still the expected hiccups, but overall, the aliens on display here are effectively creepy.
Stefani Autuori makes for a lovely and emotive protagonist. In a nice twist, the script not only allows Autuori's character to be tough and proactive against her alien foes, but also gives her some compelling depth. SPOILER ALERT With the question-provoking "No Violence" note on her gun and the fact that the movie ends with her preparing to experiment on one of her alien assailants that she has tied to her bed, you might be left wondering: have I been rooting for the bad guy this whole time? Were these supposedly evil aliens really all that evil? It's worth noting that they don't attack Autuori until after witnessing her kill one of their own. It's a neat little conundrum that will hopefully be examined further in the sequel. Spoilers Over
So altogether, Aliens Night brings everything that makes for a good short horror film and then some. In addition to the fast-paced action and strong protagonist, the improved graphics and surprisingly deep script make it a cut above other Ricca-directed films. Fingers crossed the sequel doesn't drop the ball!
Score: 10 out of 10 ignored Post-It notes.
Aliens Night - The Return of the Greys:
At first glance, it seemed that Aliens Night - The Return of the Greys was going to be as much a disappointment as the Furfangs sequel. On top of being a standalone sequel that abandons the original's creative potential, it featured Andrea Ricca (whose acting has been shaky in past films) as protagonist Joe. But as the film follows Joe as he finds his home under siege from aliens, The Return of the Greys cultivates enough of its own charm to make the missed opportunity easier to forgive.
The action in Return of the Greys comes at a consistent rate, matching that of its predecessor. And while he doesn't reach the same heights as Stefani Autuori, Ricca makes Joe a fun and likable protagonist by playing him up as a goofball who ends up being surprisingly effective at fighting off aliens. And like the first film's scientist, Joe is a character written with a dash of depth. SPOILER ALERT While the aliens this time around do attack without provocation, you might still be left wondering if Joe's really justified in his murderous retaliation. The fact that he breaks Area 51's non-disclosure agreement almost immediately after signing it also doesn't speak highly about Joe's morality. Spoilers Over
While it doesn't hit as hard as the original, The Return of the Greys still has the same action and touches of depth that made it a fun watch. The sprinkles of comedy thrown into the mix and Ricca's improved performance only add to the enjoyment.
Score: 7 out of 10 rolled-back eyes.
In the most overtly comedic short I've covered for this series as of yet, Andrea Ricca plays a young man challenged to a "Car vs. UFO" street race by a group of bored aliens. While humor has always been a big part of Ricca's more entertaining films, it always comes partnered up with quick-paced action. The latter is sorely missing from UFO Race, with the titular race being almost devoid of thrills. In the end, it feels less like a sci-fi short film and more like a mediocre Saturday Night Live sketch. The film also makes the same mistake as the previously discussed Space Monster in relying too much on shoddy CGI, with half of the movie's scenery being entirely computerized.
Still, UFO Race isn't a complete disaster. The banter between the aliens has its moments and the conclusion is surprisingly heartfelt. It's not among Ricca's memorable features, but there's enough there that you might enjoy UFO Race if you're in the mood for a slice of comedy.
Score: 4 out of 10 logging trucks.
In the final short of this set, a government agent (Andrea Ricca) tracks down a crashed spacecraft--and comes face-to-face with a strange new kind of alien creature. Similar to UFO Race, Alien Worms' biggest downfall is in its thrills. But where UFO Race was lacking in thrills, Alien Worms has attempted thrills that fell flat in their routineness. It's the usual shoot-em-up action, with a speck of variation only appearing during the final moments of the film. Aside from that and a not-so-surprising twist ending, Alien Worms is nothing that hasn't already been seen in Ricca's filmography and (in some cases) done better.
Score: 3.5 out of 10 grenades.
While the set of Andrea Ricca "Creature Feature" films I reviewed was a mixed bag in terms of quality, his interstellar offerings proved an even split. While the Aliens Night films were enjoyable for their action and their unexpected depth, UFO Race and Alien Worms proved less than entertaining. But through the first two features seen on this list, Ricca shows that he has the capacity for injecting not only thrills and mayhem, but also nuance into his short films. Along with the improved graphics and stronger acting, the Aliens Night movies show off the better side of Ricca's abilities. Now moving into the final stretch of this review series, let's hope those same abilities will be present in Ricca's supernaturally themed works.