High Plains Invaders (2009)

The premise here is intriguing.

It’s an ordinary day in a small Western town.  Everyone’s gathered for the hanging. And that’s when the big bug-like aliens show up and start killing everyone.

It should come as no great surprise that this is a SyFy original, although it is better than most of that breed.  I’m mildly surprised that it does, in fact, appear to be an original and not merely a rebadged Indie film like most of SyFy’s better films.  In truth, it is a fairly modest effort, with everything quickly reduced to the handful of survivors trying to fight the creatures.  However, the action sequences do play out quite well, we care at least a little bit about the characters, and for the most part (despite a few odd anachronisms, like the very modern stainless steel revolvers) it achieves a reasonably convincing Western ambiance.

James Marsters plays a very familiar sort of morally conflicted Western hero — a train robber who gave himself up after the job went bad — and we find most of the old familiar characters here as well: the girl, the cowardly sheriff, the bounty hunter, the store keeper and so forth.

The creatures are reasonably well done — I like the design, and that it is far from clear just how biological and how mechanical these thing are.  They certainly look a lot better than the CGI critters in most of these things and I like their scorpion-like behavior in many of the scenesL it makes them seem far more believable. There’s a nice moment when we learn that they are a bigger threat than we’d realized, complete with a somewhat eccentric spaceship.

High Plains Invaders was filmed in Romania, which brings to mind all those Full Moon movies shot there.  However,  those Full Moon efforts always felt a little flat because they used so many Romanian actors in them who really couldn’t act well in English. That isn’t the case here (although there do appear to be a few Romanian actors in the bit parts, but then they all get killed off right away).

I’m not sure what I think of the scientist mining pitchblende (Uranium ore).  It is rather  anachronistic, even if there is that little reference to how it isn’t worth anything yet, even though someday people will realize just how valuable it is.

Which still doesn’t make it worth the time, money and effort he’s putting in to get the stuff.

Nor do I really buy all the talk about the ore reacting with the creatures digestive juices and chain reactions and so on.  It all has a classic rabbit-out-of-a-hat feeling about it and it really isn’t clear whether our genius scientist is merely making an inspired guess about alien biochemistry, or whether he’s anticipating Einstein (there’s no mushroom cloud, so it’s probably the first.  Maybe).

As a SyFy movie, this one is definitely better than average, and reasonably entertaining as these films go.

There is one thing I quite like about it, though, something which reminds me of so many classic Westerns:  our heroes shoot and shoot and shoot and yet never run out of ammunition or need to stop and reload.

Just as in all those classic B-movie Westerns.

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