Anti-Life (2021) Review
For an already cheap and cheerless sci-fi horror, ANTI-LIFE sure hit the anti-jackpot when it came to its casting. There are few movie stars who can chart a trajectory to the depths of abysmal like Bruce Willis. Oh, sure, people may decry Robert De Niro’s recent output or mock Nicholas Cage’s tendency to film anything and everything offered to him to pay his bills but, in their defence, Cage and De Niro still turn it on when they turn up. Willis? He ran out of fucks to give round about the same time he made a movie about travelling back in time to tell his younger self not to make the same mistakes he has. He can still summon a little of the threadbare Bruno charm for the odd cameo here and there but ask him to shoulder any significant portion of a movie and you’d be better off spending whatever budget he’s rinsing you for on actual wooden posts which will at least hold the scenery up and, just possibly, emote more.
Following an unspecified extinction-level event, 300,000 survivors are selected to board a spaceship called the Ark, commanded by Admiral Adams (Thomas Jane) that will take them to a planetary colony called New Earth. Noah (Cody Kearsley) stows away on the Ark impersonating a junior janitor to be with his pregnant girlfriend – and daughter of Admiral Adams – Hayley (Kassandra Clementi) and is taken under the wing of ship’s janitor Clay (Willis) but before too long it becomes clear that a parasitic force is infecting the crew.
The hints of an extinction-level event and the saving of only 300,000 people tease some cataclysmic social politics but ANTI-LIFE is short on details and it quickly becomes clear it’s an economic imperative, a narrative excuse to get everyone onto the spaceship set and release the contaminant. And what a set it is. Looking like it was filmed on the same soundstage during one of RED DWARF’s hiatuses, it’s a frugal and painfully dull attempt to evoke ALIEN except with zombies instead of xenomorphs – and zombies which wandered in from the set of DOCTOR WHO’s WATERS OF MARS to boot.
With undeserved serendipity, Bruce Willis’ latter-day disengaged “acting” style actually works quite well here because there’s precious little to engage with. Poor effects and poorer lighting continually let the movie down, perhaps to obscure the desperately clunky script which bumbles its way to a finale that hews a little closer to the movie it ANTI-LIFE obviously wanted to be. Wiser (or perhaps less greedy) than Willis, Thomas Jane manages to remain in hibernation for the vast majority of the run time while the rest of the cast do their best to grimace through their terrible dialogue and try to make sure they’re at least in the same shot as Willis to use for their portfolio.
Unable to find a suitable space-bound ending for its turgid adventure, it ends up reaching for a grandiose, stupid and utterly beyond its budget OUTER LIMITS-style ironic twist which falls as flat as the bargain-basement special effects. ANTI-LIFE may have a tagline of “We are not alone” but, if you find yourself enjoying this, you might very well find you are.