Dave takes a look at a cheap and cheerful sci-fi-action hybrid that’s difficult to dislike.
I sometimes find myself thinking how I wish they’d do more with the concept of reanimated soldiers being used as super weapons as part of a secret military project. But, hey, at least we’ll always have STEALTH HUNTERS…
Deep in the heart of the Midwest, a wealthy businessman by the name of J. L. Mitchell (Bill Poague) has created a horde of zombie killers – or, as he likes to term them, “the soldier of the 21st century”. During a round of covert testing, this mutated militia massacre a platoon of regular G.I.’s, except for the dogged Burke (Bruce Walker) who manages to fight his way to temporary safety and into the path of a group of unsuspecting teenagers, heading out on a weekend away. Faced with the impending doom of this genetically twisted army, this newly formed sextet find themselves holed up in a barn in the middle of the Texas countryside, fighting for their lives.
Think Assault on Precinct 13 (1978) meets Universal Soldier (1992), but shot on 16mm with a crew that’s primarily made up of students, and you’re someway to imagining the vibe that Matt Trotter’s enjoyable debut gives off. Infused with a degree of stock footage that would make CineTel and Phoenician nod approvingly, Trotter blends the old and the new more seamlessly than you’d expect from something with a budget this low.
Not that it’s devoid of flaws. The rampaging regiment that’s on their tail look like they’ve wandered out of a bar in Tattooine, sporting a rigid design that impacts their overall level of threat. This stiffness is echoed in the structure of the movie too, as its three acts come across as a little inflexible with not much room for crossover.
Considering its resources, these are nit-picking criticisms as Stealth Hunters’ strengths far outweigh any minor quibbles. Tom Anthony’s script creates a memorable character for each member of the hiding sextuplet, with the weaselly and whiny Cy (Vince Phillip) a lovable irritation and a particular scourge of our ass-kicking black hero, Burke (“This fuckin’ psycho’s gonna talk after a fuckin’ 12-gauge enema”). Meanwhile, Darby Orr’s throbbing synth score ups the tension in the final reel, and a handful of squib-tastic action sequences serve as a reminder that cheap doesn’t have to be nasty in terms of quality.
A lo-fi sci-fi high.
USA ● 1991 ● Sci-Fi, Action ● 90mins
Bruce Walker, Gordon Fox, Brent Hadaway, Bill Poague, Vince Phillip ● Dir. Matt Trotter ● Wri. Tom Anthony