Alien Apocalypse (2005)

A few years ago, Pete Atkins and I were on a panel at the Manchester Festival of Fantastic Films where we talked through the making of a hypothetical rubbish movie, Shirley and the Bugs, about an astronaut who returns to Earth and finds it dominated by giant insects. And here it is, done as a SciFi Channel 'original' on a ridiculously low budget, with Bruce Campbell as an osteopath whose space probe returns after forty years to find the world devastated and the remains of humanity enslaved by giant termites who work them to death in sawmills because wood is valuable (and tasty) to them. Of course, the hero ends up leading a rag-tag band of revolutionaries, including a jungle bikini chick (Rosi Chernogorova) and the last President of the US (Peter Jason) against the aliens.

The President's name is Demsky, in homage to Kirk Douglas (real name – Issur Danielovich Demsky), cuing a Spartacus scene in which all the captured rebels claim to be the leader. Renee O'Connor is underused as the lady astronaut and the rest of the crew are dubbed Eastern Europeans. The head-chomping bugs supposedly dominate the Earth after destroying all the cities, but are fairly easily bested with spears and bows and arrows. Campbell is lightly amusing, but the film isn't clever enough to pass as a spoof. Josh Becker directs, swiftly, from a script co-written with Rob Tapert. It has the feel of something that was once more gruesome or violent than it has turned out to be – it has the tamest 'rape' scene ever shot, and O'Connor loses a finger (punishment for an escape attempt) in between scenes.

First published in this form here.

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