Did Hawaii have a Governor for a while who really liked low-budget movies? Because it seems a lot of them genuinely filmed there, and not just “Lost” (although perhaps they left all their equipment there and the SyFy Channel borrowed it). If only that Governor had demanded that all movies shot on his island were good.
This is part of one of my favourite sub-genres, “films with misleading descriptions”. IMDB tells us it’s to do with people noticing the heat index is rising, and a soldier stepping in and discovering a sinister plot – I mean, if you squinted really hard you could make that fit the events in the movie, but you’d be disappointed if you expected exactly that from the finished product. A group of Army scientists are on Hawaii looking for evidence of alien life – I think that’s why they’re there? They certainly mention that from right at the beginning. Main man and “That Guy” actor par excellence DB Sweeney is Captain Steve O’Bannon, and he’s flying a microlight round the island, looking for stuff, only to have his engine damaged by an alien which leaps up from the canopy, helpfully leaves a claw in his flight recorder and then drops down again, without being seen.
As they give it to us right at the beginning, I feel forewarned is forearmed when it comes to the special effects. People occasionally talk of the “weight” of a bit of CGI, that feeling it’s a thing in the same scene as the actors, but in “Heatstroke” I’m not even sure the creatures (sort of an insect-human hybrid thing) are in the same movie. The camera wobbles but they don’t, they’re lit completely differently…it’s sort of embarrassing, and if this is the best they could manage, they probably ought to have just put them in the movie less.
Steve crashes his microlight into the middle of a modelling shoot on the beach, which is both “starring” and being directed by Caroline, played by Danica McKellar, making her second appearance this week for the ISCFC. She’s equally poorly used in both, really, being the eye candy who doesn’t do much of anything. She’s at least written pretty well, having a full character and giving as good as she gets in conversation, but in terms of stuff that happens, she’s sort of irrelevant.
But if you ignore the special effects, and the poorly served female characters, this is actually alright. The team find evidence of alien life, and the super-skeptic Army Major and his scientist sidekick Dr Taggert, who’s completely at the other end of the scepticism scale, turn up too. People run about the woods and get sliced up! One of the team gets possessed by an alien, I think? Maybe just so it’s easier to film fight scenes between two humans than one human and a blank space where some rubbish CGI would be. I’m not doing a very good job of convincing that this is a half-decent movie!
The acting is pretty uniformly great, for one. McKellar is excellent, Sweeney is fine, and they give characters to pretty much everyone, so thumbs up to Aussie TV director Andrew Prowse (“Farscape”, among many other things) and writer Richard Manning (who also wrote for “Farscape” and “Star Trek: The Next Generation”, being responsible for all-time classic episode “Yesterday’s Enterprise”). If they’d had a bit more money (like for hiring extras, as the entire island has 7 people on it) or a better CGI team, this could have been a very strong movie. They could have also spent that money on more scenes, as there’s too much padding, like the whole flashback / dream sequence thing, which goes nowhere and does nothing.
There’s lifts from two of the 80s most iconic sci-fi movies, too. The creatures act and sound a bit like the Predator, and there’s a heroic sacrifice with a grenade just like that bit in “Aliens”. Only problem is, in “Aliens” the people who blew themselves up also blew up some aliens (the creature survives the explosion in this) but they also didn’t have a fully loaded rifle right next to the grenade which they could have used. Ah well.
If you’re ill in bed and this comes on SyFy Channel, don’t leap to turn it off. But don’t expect too much either.
Rating: thumbs in the middle