Back in the early 1990s, a young auteur set out to make a low-budget, feature length SF film. Negotiations with a backer to fund the film fell through, so she decided to shoot it on her own, with a budget of $250.00, borrowed and donated equipment (she worked for a local cable station), and friends and family as volunteer actors.
In the era before Youtube, it picked up its cult following through local cable broadcasts and SF Cons. It finally found its way to an actual theatre in 2016, and in 2017, a remastered version made it onto DVD.
Phobe proves surprisingly watchable.
Title: Phobe: The Xenophobic Experiments (1995)
Released on DVD in 2017.
Cast and Crew
Directed and written by Erica Benedikty
John Rubick as Sgt. Gregory Dapp
Tina Dumoulin as Jennifer
Lyon Tenbroeck as Rob
Jerry Dumoulin as Jerry
Kelly Ewtuchovich as Tolkien
Richard Ewtuchovich as Commander
Dan Shugan as Tim
Merv Wrighton as the Phobe
A human-seeming but alien bounty hunter named “Greg Dapp* tracks a “Phobe,” a militarized alien creature, to earth. Can he capture his prey with the help of two overaged high school students? And do the people who sent him have a darker purpose?
*From an alien planet where everyone looks and dresses like us, but they come equipped with Radio Shack’s best tech.
High Point? The fact that they made this thing and that, technically, it’s not that bad. Yes, it’s filmed on the fly using low-budget equipment and effects, and you can tell. You can really tell. But the direction and camera-work are pretty good, and the fact that it got made at all? Outstanding. That it’s charmingly watchable? Incredible.
The opening sequence gives us a glimpse of something that might have been even better.
The goofball final credits, meanwhile, favorably recall Monty Python and the Holy Grail and Bambi Meets Godzilla.
Even amateur actors should be better than this.
Why are Jennifer and Rob teenagers? The actors look about thirty, and there’s no reason for them to be teenagers, except that the original script envisions them this way. The teen dialogue in the school sequence sounds awful– as in, Riverdale actually delivers more plausible teen dialogue–, and Cheerleader Jennifer’s supposed age adds an awkward (let us say) element to the relationship that develops with Dapp.
Originality: 1/6 Nearly everything in this film has been taken from elsewhere—including, of course the light sabres.
Effects: 2/6 The spaceships consist of obvious, early-generation CGI and a high-school-project model. The titular Phobe is a guy in a ghillie suit with a home-made mask and helmet. However, the raygun battles rank with anything on the original Star Trek series, and the pyrotechnics look pretty good.
Cut Benedikty and company some slack. They were working on a really limited budget.
Story: 4/6 Elements get introduced and then ignored. What happens to the egg? What happened when the police arrived? Why does the film waste so much time transitioning from one point to another? People walking is not intrinsically interesting.
Granted, nobody here thought they were making an epic. They had a fun SF idea concept and, working in their spare time, they brought it to a conclusion.
Emotional Response: 4/6 You know, this is kind of a fun film to watch.
Overall: 4/6 Phobe receives the lowest rating of anything that I’m actually encouraging you to watch.
Seek out Phobe. You won’t regret it.
In total, Phobe: The Xenophobic Experiments receives 19/42