Mauro Borrelli’s The Recall has the look of a SyFy original movie and the self-seriousness of Ridley Scott’s recent Alien films. While the I.R.S. makes for a more compelling villain opposite Wesley Snipes than the aliens in this film do, the actor is at least cognizant of the ridiculousness at play. He injects much-needed doses of humor and a low-key sense of self-awareness into his corny one-liners, but that’s the extent of the campy fun to be had here, as the film’s false sense of grandiosity turns it into a joke that it’s clearly not in on.
Snipes stars as an unnamed hunter forced to team up with a group of teens during an alien invasion. After an early appearance during which he comically growls at Brendan (RJ Mitte), the hunter inexplicably fades into the background, yielding the stage to Brendan and his two buds, slack-jawed sad sack Charlie (Jedidiah Goodacre) and perpetually horny Rob (Niko Pepaj). As the young men and their female companions, Kara (Hannah Rose May) and Annie (Laura Bilgeri), become wise to the nature of the mysterious presence that slowly besieges them, Borrelli pumps in a maudlin drama surrounding Charlie’s struggles to cope with the death of his girlfriend the year before.
As with most low-budget sci-fi films, The Recall keeps the aliens and their ship out of sight for as much of the running time as possible. But with Snipes also sidelined, or simply silent, for a majority of the film, we’re subjected to little more than dull confessionals between Charlie and Annie as their relationship blooms and the whipping-up of an alpha-male bro-down between Charlie and Rob. The promise of schlocky sci-fi entertainment is continuously delayed or interrupted by dramatic drivel straight out of a Lifetime movie and toothless scares predictable from many a cabin-in-the-woods film before this one. When the hunter returns to take center stage, The Recall again hints at something more light-hearted before quickly shifting gears yet again toward weighty high-concept sci-fi driven by unimaginative twists involving alien testing, memory erasure, and government intervention.
As the film steadfastly moves toward more baroque horror/sci-fi imagery, Borrelli increasingly asks too much of his audience, expecting us to take the bland aesthetics and half-baked notions of man’s place in the universe more seriously than Snipes appears to take the film itself. Unlike other disposable yet enjoyable sci-fi one-offs, The Recall rarely seems aware of the type of film it even wants to be, transitioning clunkily from hard or jokey sci-fi and action to horror and teen romance. This crisis of identity results in a plodding, disjointed mess that makes it impossible to even appreciate the Z-grade effects and wooden performances as enjoyable trash.