If you’ve seen Ridley Scott’s classic science fiction movie ‘Alien’ then you’ve already seen ‘The Killings at Outpost Zeta,’ only you’ve seen a much better film.
This low-budget ripoff is a typical example of the long list of ‘Alien’ clones that copied the formula of Scott’s sci-fi-horror film with varying degrees of success.
Released just a year after the original came out, I suppose the producers were trying to cash in on the notoriety of ‘Alien,’ but anyone who saw this expecting the same thrills was surely disappointed.
The story is set during the opening scene when a crew is briefed about a pathfinder team that has been lost on Outpost Zeta for two years. Multiple rescue teams have been sent, but none have returned. Command wants that planet ready for colonists so these guys are the next sacrificial lambs to go there to figure out what’s happening.
It’s pretty clear that this is a low-budget film. The set looks like an office furnished with Ikea castoffs and the crew is outfitted in red jumpsuits and white moon boots like the ones that were all the rage when I was in high school in the 1970s.
Upon close examination of the uniforms, they all bear some kind of ‘Starfleet’ insignia that looks like a hand squeezing a planet between the index finger and the thumb. Other viewers insist that it copies a design used at the Tantalus colony in the ‘Star Trek’ episode ‘Dagger of the Mind.’ Maybe this is secretly a story set in the Trek universe.
As the crew is briefed, they are all told to fill out their standard life insurance forms. That sounds ominous. The team consists of six people, four men, one of whom is Black, and two women, one who is significantly more attractive than the other. At this point, I’m trying to predict in which order they will get killed and who will be the last man (or woman) standing. Will it be the Black guy? The women?
When it’s time to head to Outpost Zeta, we get to see the spaceships that will take them there which is usually a good measure of a film’s budget and it’s pretty obvious that the director didn’t have much to work with. It isn’t pie plates and a string level of bad, but not far off for 1980.
Once they arrive on the planet, things look a little better because it’s filmed outdoors and they aren’t relying on cheap sets. The planet is grim with a volcanic landscape filled with hissing geysers of steam. Our crew members now wear breathing helmets, which look an awful lot like motorcycle helmets, but because they are all identical and they’re all wearing the same uniforms, you can’t really make out who is who. To add to the comical effect, each is toting a ridiculous-looking plastic tube gun that looks like a laser tag castoff.
I won’t get into too much detail in case you want to inflict this film on your own eyeballs, but crew members start getting knocked off one by one. After an initial flurry of deaths, the story slows to a crawl as we learn more about the creatures that are stalking them. To say they are a disappointment is an understatement.
At this point, you pretty much hope they all get killed in one horrible accident so the movie can end quicker, but it doesn’t work that way. Instead, I went back to my list of who’s going to get killed in which order, and, for the most part, I got it right, although instead of a single survivor, there were two so I suppose I was only half right.
As the survivors escape into orbit above this God-forsaken place, we get some snogging (spoilers) and a final scene back on the planet of a shrouded body shaking as maybe, just maybe, there’s an alien in the shroud. That would be the perfect setup for a sequel, but fortunately, there was no Killings on Outpost Zeta 2.
I won’t even bother discussing the performances of the actors in this film other than to say they were only just adequate. You probably won’t know any of their names unless you can tell me who played the lead role in the short-lived Shazam! TV series or who contributed the voice of Pepper Pac-Man in the Pac-Man TV show. They are that level of obscure, but when you’re on a low budget, you are going to get what you pay for and the same goes for the scriptwriters who shat out this script.
Unless it’s your life’s mission to watch every ‘Alien’ ripoff movie, then I’d say you should steer clear of this mess, although if you’re a fan of the sort of films hosted here on SciFinds.com, then you’ll probably jump at the chance to watch it or probably already have.
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