A genuinely intriguing premise of an alien parasite using a male host to reproduce itself is ultimately hampered by a virtually non-existent budget, and the decision to turn the tale’s second half into a courtroom child custody case reminiscent of a stunt episode from David E. Kelly’s Picket Fences. (Chiefly, an episode where the rearing and custody issues of a fetus grown inside a cow. Seriously.)
InAlienable is an earnest effort to present moral arguments about humanity, guilt, and whether society can handle radical redefinitions of ‘family,’ but it’s the kind of story that works fine on paper, letting the reader imagine the characters and interpret the dialogue him/herself, but on film it looks clunky and melodramatic, particularly when workmanlike director Robert Dyke is struggling with a handful of locations and shooting time that must have been absurdly tight. (The hero’s bedroom, for example, is presumably a loft, but we’re only shown two angles that lead one to believe it’s just a rented office, with the tenant’s possession’s packed tightly behind the camera and crew.)
The cast is equally uneven with Richard Hatch playing the role of a gene scientist Eric Norris, a man responsible for the death of his son and wife in a car accident. Eric is determination to protect the alien hybrid he carried to term after a space rock infected him with an outerspace bug with absolute and sometimes impassioned gravitas. (A protracted ‘lock up’ which has Shilling (Koenig) keeping Eric strapped to an ironing board is plain ridiculous, and graphically evokes Ed Wood, Jr.’s Bride of the Monster.)
His performance is offset by Courtney Peldon, who plays his long-suffering workplace love interest Amanda Mayfield. Peldon is stuck delivering clichéd lines in ridiculous situations where her character should be repulsed, and Amanda’s ongoing support for Eric feels like a feeble excuse to keep a pretty girl around, since she’s needed for the expected and familiar twist finale.
There’s also the stunt casting that has a flurry of sci-fi related character actors popping up for sometimes one scene to play uninteresting roles. Among the distractions are Gary Graham (TV’s Alien Nation), Richard Herd (the original V mini-series), Rick Avari (Stargate), Marina Sirtis (Star Trek: The New Generation), and Koenig (Star Trek) and Hatch (Battlestar: Galactica). There’s also Koenig’s late son Andrew, and Alan Ruck (Spin City), appearing briefly as the colleague who informs Eric of the peculiar infestation picked up in an x-ray.
The film’s tone goes wonky when Avari appears as a conspiracy nut who decides to defend Eric and his son. Avari tends to play roles with little bits of quirky business, and his version of the character is part rambling fuddy-duddy (which is often heightened by the formerly sincerely, now quirkly music score). Avari extends this broad behaviour into the concluding court scenes when he duels moral arguments with government prosecutor Crystal Barry (Sirtis), which director Dyke breaks up by cutting away to the same ten-odd extras holding up protest signs outside of the courthouse.
Koenig, in turn, plays Shilling with an aura of grand Shakespearean tragedy; he torments Eric because he stole the woman he loved, but you just wish Eric would clock him in the head with a crowbar so Shilling/Koenig was out of the story for good.
The creature effects for the ‘strawberry scented’ child are an expectedly economical mix of prosthetics and puppeteering, but the bonding scenes between Eric and his caged alien tentacled child Benjamin veer on bathos, particularly when Eric teaches the child a Charlie Chaplin walk. It’s a motif that’s looks equally silly in the film’s early flashback scene when Eric teaches the jig to his lost son.
Fans of Koenig and his canon might be curious to see this personally supervised production, but there are too many elements that hamper its integrity.
© 2010 Mark R. Hasan