Director – Jason Connery, Screenplay – Kenny Yakkel, Story – Lucy Mukerjee, Producers – Yoram Barzilai, Moshe Diamant & Courtney Solomon, Photography – Yaron Levy, Music – Ian Honeyman, Visual Effects Supervisor – D.J. Shea, Visual Effects – Cinemotion (Bulgaria), Special Effects Supervisor – Ron Keller, Makeup Effects Supervisor– Vincent Guastini, Creature Effects Supervisor – George Frangadakis, Production Design – Nate Jones. Production Company – After Dark Films/Signature Entertainment.
Bruce Boxleitner (Colonel Robert Martin), Vanessa Branch (Clair Fellon), Rachel Miner (Sergeant Hanna), Jason London (‘Shoes’ Schumacher), John Shea (Sam Whitaker), Julius Washington (Lieutenant Kamecki), Damon Lipari (Kevin), Jed Mahev (Patient Zero), Rod Steinberg (Voice of J Rod), Andrew Sensening (Dr. Keane), Lena Clark (Mindy), Billy Slaughter (Dr Haven), Jillian Batherson (Gomez), J.D. Evermore (Smith), Tammi Arender (Sharon Solomon)
It is decided that Area 51 will be opened up to journalists so that the government can prove it is not hiding anything. As newspaper journalist Clair Fellon and tv newsman Sam Whitaker arrive, the base’s commanding officer Colonel Robert Martin carefully stage manages the tour. He directs them through the top level and allows them to see some of the technological marvels, while hiding the secrets in the lower levels. Down in the lower levels, Patient Zero, an alien prisoner that is capable of assuming the form of anyone it touches, manages to break free. It then frees the other aliens held there. Soon the base is overrun by monstrous aliens that begin slaughtering military and journalists alike.
Area 51 is a key part of UFO mythology. Area 51 does exist, a US Air Force testing facility at Groom Lake, Nevada that has been around since the 1950s. Officially, it is where test flights for the U2 plane and Stealth Bomber were conducted. Unofficially, there is the widespread belief among conspiracy theorists that it is the area is where the US military houses downed UFOs and/or holds aliens prisoner, along with more exotic theories involving secret transcontinental railways and weather control and time travel experiments.
As far as I am aware, the first film to depict Area 51 was Hangar 18 (1980), although it was never specifically referred to as such. (Hangar 18 does make an appearance here). Area 51 mythology took off in a big way with the mega-success of tv’s The X Files (1993-2002) and during this period there were a host of films and tv series about Area 51, Roswell, UFO conspiracies and abductions.
Area 51 – sometimes called just 51 – should not be confused with Oren Peli’s later Found Footage film Area 51 (2015) about a group of filmmakers that attempt to break in to Area 51. You almost feel that this Area 51 should have been made as Found Footage too – it seems made for it with the scenes of a group of journalists wandering around the facility with tv cameras.
51/Area 51 was made by Jason Connery, the son of Sean Connery. Jason gained fame as the second Robin Hood on the tv series Robin of Sherwood (1984-6). His career took off after that but has not exactly been high-profile, certainly nowhere near the presence of his father. He has done voice work for animation and appeared in assorted action and genre films. He has directed several B movies, including the genre likes of The Devil’s Tomb (2009) and Pandemic (2009), as well as the non-genre The Philly Kid (2012) and Tommy’s Honor (2016). Area 51 was produced by After Dark Films (see below) and premiered on the Syfy Channel.
The film has a not uninteresting premise in which the military seek to dispel rumours about Area 51 by taking journalists on a guided tour of the facility. Unfortunately, it is not long into the film when everything becomes predictable. Essentially, the film only exists to unleash monsters and then have them hunt the cast members through the darkened corridors of the facility. All of this runs by the playbook established by Alien (1979). The film even appropriates a variation of the blood test scene from The Thing (1982) at one point.
I was disappointed by Jason Connery’s handling of the film. His scares and monster appearances are routine. The CGI alien effects look like cheap opticals – fairly standard fare for the Syfy Channel. The film does boast the always charismatic Bruce Boxleitner as the military commander who delivers an okay performance.
After Dark Films, the production company of Courtney Solomon, has been prolific with genre material, including other efforts such as Dungeons & Dragons: Wrath of the Dragon God (2005), Captivity (2007), The Butterfly Effect 3: Revelations (2009), Perkins 14 (2009), Slaughter (2009), Universal Soldier: Regeneration (2009), Prowl (2010), Fertile Ground (2011), Husk (2011), Re-Kill (2015), Scream of the Banshee (2011), Seconds Apart (2011), The Task (2011), Children of Sorrow (2012), Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning (2012), Dark Circles (2013), Ritual (2013), Bastard (2015), Wind Walkers (2015), The Wicked Within (2015), Phoenix Forgotten (2017) and Nightmare Cinema (2018).