Star Hunter (1996)

A group of teenagers are being driven home from a losing football game by their assistant principal when their van breaks down in a rough part of town. Looking for help, they come across Reicher, a blind man who claims to be a hunter & collector. Reicher, as it turns out, is actually an alien who has come to Earth in order to continue hunting other life forms as some kind of game. The teenagers try to escape, but find themselves sealed in by a force field that covers a few blocks. Reicher unleashes his hunting tool, the Star Hunter, an armoured robot. Faced with overwhelming odds, the teenagers attempt to fight back.

Film Review: In 1924, Richard Connell wrote a short story called The Most Dangerous Game, which was about a man who was forced to rely on his bare hands & wits while being hunted across an island by a Russian aristocrat who considered hunting humans as the ultimate thrill. The story has since been filmed a large number of times, beginning in 1932. Star Hunter, a cheap science fiction / horror hybrid made in the mid-1990s, takes the story & transplants it into a sci-fi setting (although that was already done by the much superior PREDATOR eight years earlier).

Unlike Predator, which was a combination of The Most Dangerous Game & the classic poem Beowulf, Star Hunter has clearly been construed as a cheap genre flick. The script does have some good ideas, most notable being Roddy McDowall’s blind alien who has a collection of human heads in his hideout, as well as a robot which hunts by sensing movement. For a low-budget genre film, Star Hunter is awfully ambitious.

But while it has the occasional good idea, the film suffers from a script that has been written by amateurs. There is no reason why a blind person should take up hunting (the alien’s ‘blindness’ is also suspect since we see him pressing buttons on a hand-held communicator), even an alien (although he could be like the Daredevil). There are plenty of flatly staged shootouts & some painfully poor acting – Roddy McDowall plays his villain’s role with as much campiness as he can muster. The robot, when it appears, looks cheap & has only a shotgun for a weapon (the script tries to pass this inadequacy off, by having the alien preferring the native weapons of its prey for a real challenge). There is some comic relief with a pair of cops who are drawn into the game, something that has obviously been inserted into the film to pad out its running time, as well as a couple of scenes involving the parents of one of the teenagers.

As for the action scenes, Star Hunter drops the ball by having the shootouts poorly staged – how can a blind robot use a shotgun? The creature also has a weakness that seems like lazy writing – surely the robot’s regeneration system ought to be placed in the robot’s body? The film makes a mistake by killing off Zach Ward’s stoner – although it makes up for this by having Ward possessed by an alien.