In 2001, nearing, sadly, the end of his way-too-short life, Don Dohler went back to the well a little more explicitly than usual and, rather than simply reworking the plot of 1978′s The Alien Factor for the umpteenth time, decided to make what would be billed as the film’s official sequel, Alien Factor 2 : The Alien Rampage. And while you could make a pretty strong argument that movies like Nightbeast and The Galaxy Invader had more in common with the original Alien Factor than this thing does, that’s really neither here nor there since, as we’ve already established, pretty much every Dohler flick tells a variation of the exact same story anyway.
This time around the escaped alien baddie (headed for some type of intergalactic zoo, as in the first film) is an evil invader that traps an entire suburban Maryland town within it’s insidious time-warping forcefield (a concept Dohler must have thought was pretty neat since he named his at-the-time straight-to-video production company Timewarp Films). Backwoods locales are traded in for more sorta-urban environs like warehouses and the like, 16mm is swapped out for videotape, and while there are still some garage-level makeup and other FX on display, it’s worth noting that, sadly, poorly-done CGI has replaced a good chunk of that, as well.
In short, Alien Factor 2 is Don Dohler getting with the times, to the best extent that his $35,000 budget allowed him to do so. Venerable members of his “acting” stable are gone,replaced with more youthful (though no more talented) replacements (although watch for the bag lady in this flick for a whole new definition of fourth-wall-smashing pantomime self-parody — and yes, never fear, George Stover is still on hand), and frankly a lot of the cram from those earlier, fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants-and-just-shoot-the-damn-thing’s efforts are lost io translation to the video age.
But it’s still about as far from a “professional” (whatever that even means anymore) filmmaking effort as you’re likely to find in this blighted 21st century we live in, and Dohler’s love for the DIY ethos can’t be completely buried under all that newfangled technology. You get the sense of a guy adapting to survive, but not quite comfortable with his new environs. And that’s a shame given that he was, unbeknownst to himself at the time, nearing the end of his rather remarkable run. But hey, we don’t always get to go out on a high note, I guess, and it would be unfair to say that Alien Factor 2 is no fun at all, because frankly it still is. I like to consider this one guy’s struggle to retain the essential characteristics of his work in the face of long odds and changing tastes, but in truth Dohler’s work appealed to such a small segment of the public that he probably didn’t actually need to bend with the times as much as he did apart from the fact that things like 16mm film stock were getting too expensive for him to utilize anymore and what have you. As always, the day-to-day practicalities of micro-budget moviemaking take precedence over all other considerations in Dohler’s work.
Alien Factor 2 : The Alien Rampage is available on DVD from Image Entertainment and actually features a smattering of honest-to-goodness extras including a “making-of” featurette and a cast-and-crew commentary. It’s presented full frame with 2.0 stereo (yes, you read that correctly) sound. It’s probably of interest only to hard-core (or pathetically sad, depending on how you look at these things) Dohler completists, but I still consider it 75 minutes of my life well-enough spent.
And that’s probably going to do it for our little Don Dohler wrap-up here at TFG for the time being. I’ve got several grindhouse goodies I’ve been meaning to review for ages now and I’ll start in with those in earnest shortly after the new year arrives. In the meantime, to anyone and everyone reading this, have a happy and safe New Year’s holiday, and I’ll see you again either a couple or a few days on the other side of the turn of the calendar.