The Alpha Test Movie Review
Written by Chris Shamburger
Released by High Octane Pictures
Written and directed by Aaron Mirtes
2020, 87 minutes, Not Rated
Released on March 20th, 2020
Rae Hunt as Alpha
Bella Martin as Lily
Brad Belemjian as JD
Deborah Seidel as Mom
Wynn Reichert as Dad
Alice Raver as Mimi
Alexa, write this review for me.
In Aaron Mirtes' The Alpha Test, an upper-class American family becomes host to a new android home assistant named Alpha (Rae Hunt). She looks, walks, and talks like any ordinary person, but what Alpha shares with humans in appearance, she lacks in moral compass; Alpha needs to learn how to feel and empathize with her human counterparts, which teenage daughter Lily (Bella Martin) takes it upon herself to teach her.
But in making Alpha more aware of her emotions, Lily has unintentionally triggered the android's ability to think independently. So when Alpha recognizes the abuse she endures from the family's uptight mother (Deborah Seidel); cold father (Wynn Reichert); unbothered son (Brad Belemjian); and bitter housekeeper (Alice Raver), it's only a matter of time before Alpha is pushed to a breaking point.
Written, directed, produced, shot, AND edited by Aaron Mirtes, The Alpha Test is an ambitious undertaking for a low-budget independent film. There are a lot of working parts here, but Mirtes smartly keeps the story contained to the house and its occupants, letting the interactions between humans and artificial intelligence drive the story. The writing is often very good, especially in the first half, with conversations between Alpha and each member of the family providing equal amounts of insight and tension.
It's once Alpha learns how to stand up for herself that the film loses some traction. For the most part, her revenge against the family works, and while we understand Alpha's need to clean up the bloody mess afterwards (cleaning is one of her primary purposes, after all), it's not clear how or why Alpha understands the logistics behind creating alibis to cover her tracks. It doesn't feel organic to what we've come to know about the android.
And that's the biggest problem with the story in the end. By limiting our knowledge of the android to what the family knows (which often times isn't much), we lack an overall understanding for why the inventors of Alpha would ever allow her to be taught anger, resentment, and independent thought in the first place. What benefit would these things serve in a home assistant?
Performances across the board are generally underwhelming, and because the characters are so unlikable, we don't really feel one way or the other about anything that happens to them. The standout performance comes from Rae Hunt as Alpha, who successfully conveys curiosity and intrigue in every scene, effectively portraying a character still figuring out who (and what) she is. Toss in a fantastically eerie character design, and it's a real treat just watching her on the screen.
But is a single performance worth seeing the movie?
I don't know. I think there's a lot of good here, and it's clear a genuine effort was made. But in the end, the film isn't very successful in giving you much to think about. And for a movie that focuses on independent thought, that probably isn't the best thing.
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