2003 Certificate: 15

Synopsis

What begins as a deft supernatural thriller suddenly transforms itself into an earthbound Alien-style gore-fest for reasons best left to director Lawrence Kasdan.

Director

  • Lawrence Kasdan

Cast

  • Morgan Freeman

  • Donnie Wahlberg

  • Jason Lee

  • Tom Sizemore

  • Timothy Olyphant

  • Thomas Jane

  • Damian Lewis

Review

On the evidence of this, horror-meister Stephen King is still feeling the effects of his collision with a van a few years back.

The knock seems to have done for his skills as a writer of spare chillers, such as the sublimely disturbing Misery and sweetly deranged The Shining.

It all starts off promisingly enough with four childhood buddies, now working as shrinks, teachers and car salesmen, able to communicate telepathically.

It transpires they rescued a disabled boy - Duddits - from a gang of bullies as youngsters in Maine and he transferred paranormal powers to them.

Twenty years on, the foursome are taking their annual trip to a hunting lodge deep in the wilderness when...they appear to stray into another movie.

Gone is the careful characterisation, subtle plotting and painstaking build-up of tension that promised a compelling journey into the unknown.

In comes a 12ft-high alien, an extra-terrestrial virus and gung-ho ET-buster Morgan Freeman, who thinks nothing of shooting off the finger of subordinates who disobey him.

He packs a pistol given to him by John Wayne and commands the 'Blue Boys', an elite 'under the radar' alien-containment unit.

They've been battling on and off with genocidal 'Ripleys' (Sigourney Weaver's character in Alien was Ripley) for more than 25 years.

The truth is, the human race has more to fear from Freeman, who is losing his grip after a lifetime of obsession with little green men and a dubious concept of patriotism.

"They drive Chevrolets, shop at Walmart, never miss an episode of Friends. These are real Americans," he intones portentously.

To be honest, only the real stupid would be foolish enough to skip an episode of Friends for this sci-fi nonsense.

Lines such as "he's come back from the dead...it must have changed him somehow" and a villain with an English music hall accent give you a taste of what's in store.

It's all a bit of a wasted opportunity, because you're initially hooked by the extra-sensory perception of the fatal four...but that all gets mired in the blockbuster mutation.

If you thought this was another Sixth Sense or The Others, then dream on.

Tim Evans