Throughout horror cinema history, writers and directors have played with the notion of body invasion and replication. Such stories were famously played in John Carpenter’s The Thing, both versions of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, and, most recently, Jordan Peele’s box office-topping Us. This type of horror tale seems to be cyclical, often appearing at times of political and cultural crisis, times when the people of a given country or even the world are struggling with their identities and what they thought they knew about themselves and the world at large. So it comes as no surprise that Peele isn’t the only writer/director tackling this theme in the modern era.
Writer/director Peter Stray‘s Alien Party Crashers (2017, High Octane Pictures), which is listed under the much better title of Canaries in the UK, gets its VoD and DVD release in the United States this month. Alien Party Crashers bills itself as a horror comedy in which the first wave of an alien invasion happens to coincide with a New Year’s Eve party hosted by a fame-lusting DJ named Steve (Craig Russell) in a Welsh valley. With a name like Alien Party Crashers, I was expecting more of a romp or a screwball horror comedy. The title, which is my biggest issue with the film, exudes a zaniness that the film does not contain. However, the the ultimate lack of screwiness is actually good for this film.
Without spoiling too much of the plot, the story actually begins all the way back in 1980, as two government officials–one from the United States and one from the United Kingdom–investigate strange goings-on in a remote forest. There, they unexpectedly find the dead body of a Vietnamese native. As the story flashes forward through vignettes in different periods of time and in locations spanning the globe, we begin to see a pattern. Strange sudden storms pop up out of nowhere, bodies seemingly out of place and out of time fall from the sky. We’re left to grapple with the mystery of how they got there.
Everything eventually culminates in a full-on invasion that begins at a New Year’s Eve party in modern times. As the partygoers try to survive the onslaught of so-called “Canaries,” government agencies around the world monitor the events, but do nothing to prevent them.
As a horror film, Alien Party Crashers has much going for it. There’s action, violence, gore, aliens, spoken of but barely seen roguish sexcapades that include a gratuitous flash of male rear nudity for those who are into that, and some really good practical visual effects and make-up. The science fiction and humor elements are not quite as good. There are some funny moments and some clever payoffs (the corkscrew comes to mind). However, those payoffs are too few to label this movie a horror comedy.
As for the science fiction elements, there is not enough of a reveal, not enough exposition into what’s causing the things we’re seeing on-screen and why. The time travel, alien invasion, and replication are all handled in a clever way. The problem is that the ultimate explanation of it all feels wanting and unsatisfying. Even after our heroes uncover the truth, the truth is confusing.
Don’t let the above criticisms discourage you from seeing this movie. The music, direction, acting, and overall production quality of this film is spot-on. They even manage to cast some recognizable faces in smaller parts. Robert Pugh, whom Doctor Who fans might recognize as Tony Mack from the eleventh Doctor’s “The Hungry Earth” and “Cold Blood” episodes, appears as a police officer/bar owner. Also, the horror elements of this movie, and the fact that it is left open for a sequel, make up a bit for the confusing scientific explanations.
I enjoyed Alien Party Crashers. It’s not the zany comedy I was expecting. It does contain a few political subtexts, although not on the level that Us does. I’m not sure why the name was changed from Canaries, which seems much more fitting given the film’s content and story. That said, it’s definitely worth a watch for fans of films like Invasion of the Body Snatchers.