The fear of artificial intelligence gaining sentience and rebelling against humankind is not a new concept and as the world moves forward with technological advancements, we seem to be moving closer towards the future that The Alpha Test presents. A future where there are self-driving cars and newly minted AI home assistants who act and learn as humans do, retaining everything and developing emotional reactions...
...It’s a fascinating look into the ideas that have filled so many pages of science fiction stories and films. In a world where 70% of Americans have an Alexa or similar device in their households, it’s impossible not to see the inevitable not so distant period in time this film so boldly displays.
Aaron Mirtes’s The Alpha Test is about a suburban family whose son JD (Brad Belemjian) wins a weekend contest to test one of the new Alpha models. This new addition to the home is met by fear from JD’s mother (Alice Raver) and treated poorly by his father (Wynn Reichert). This leads Alpha to bond with the daughter Lily (played brilliantly by Bella Martin) and their connection leads Alpha to focus on how poorly she is treated by her family. Through their connection, Lily learns and experiences friendship, love, and care, as well as negative feelings like jealousy, anger, and revenge. All of these add up to deadly results for Lily’s family. The connection between Lily and Alpha is strong and it is a major selling point on both actors’ strengths and ability to work with the somewhat limiting material they have been given and elevate the film as a whole.
Sadly, most of the other actors’ performances don’t quite match the strength of these two and it is one of the biggest flaws of the production. One can envision a stronger movie that would stick with audiences way past its runtime because the messaging is there, it just becomes a bit inconsistent as the story plays out. Still, nothing takes the viewer out of the story as it transpires and if one commits to take the ride, there are more than enough highlights to keep you entertained.
Indeed, there are many things this film does right and the first one is Alpha’s design. It is quite unsettling because Alpha appears very human but still carries an otherworldly presence. It’s appearance is structured very much like that of a horror villain and Alpha’s voice is deployed perfectly by actress Rae Hunt. The tone is disarmingly soothing, reminiscent of Siri, or Alexa, but with added human emotion. As more and more anger goes into the memory of Alpha, their voice becomes more and more displeasing and it adds to the tension as the film moves along.
Another feature that sets this film a bit above its peers is its sound design. Noises linger in the background while everything else is clearly focused. This ingenuity helps soften some of the actors’ less than stellar performances. The sound design coupled with the score pulls a lot of weight in keeping the viewer engaged sonically.
The best suggestion one can make for this film is to not watch the trailer. Not for fear of having the plot given away, but because it makes The Alpha Test seem like a much worse film than the end product ends up delivering. Especially when you consider the acting, the trailer’s performances feel flat and not nearly as strong as they are in the film.
Besides the very minor complaints described above, The Alpha Test is a film of purpose and guided by the right hands, attempts to tell a cautionary tale that is both fun and engaging - one that will have some viewers thinking long after the credits roll.
The Alpha Test is now available on DVD/Digital from High Octane Pictures.
By Justin Drabek
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