There comes a moment in a film critics life when you believe you’ve seen it all. That nothing fresh will permeate your battle-weary eyes again, that your boundaries for ‘weird’ have been pushed to their limits. Then comes along Shae Sterling with his film Alien Addiction, a hybrid sci-fi stoner comedy about shit-smoking aliens in rural New Zealand that’s as disgusting as it is hilarious.
So yes, you could say leave your taste levels at the door, but Sterling’s film is bound to attract the very audience it seeks to please, weeding out those not ready for its absurdity early on. For fans of the crude and rude however, Sterling acquaints us with Riko (Jimi Jackson), a cheeky stoner that lives with his Aunt (Veronica Edwards) in the small town of Waikato, where there is nothing much to do other than smoke weed and try to pick up tourists and backpackers at the local bar. He’s aided on these endeavours by friends Rabbit (Harry Summerfield), Hemi (Tane Huata) and Tama (Tukairangi Maxwell), who are all equally silly, tragic and stoned.
It is after one night of playing their favourite D&D-esque card game that Riko hears his Aunt say that there are aliens in the walls, a comment that he quickly puts down to old-lady ramblings. That is until one day he discovers a pipe running from his house to deep in the forest where he discovers a UFO. It is here that he meets Jeff and Gurgus, two squish-faced blue aliens with protruding stomachs and hilarious walks that are out to test specimens on planet earth. To test these specimens, they absorb them into a vaporiser device and inhale it, potentially giving them a buzz. The killer is that the specimen that gets them the highest is human shit. Yes, you read that correctly.
The jokes are the pinnacle of toilet humour – quite literally – as Riko befriends the aliens for their good vibes and all-in attitudes he vows to help them acquire more of ‘the good shit’. In part, it becomes something of a road movie, plenty of scenes of the trio partying, smoking and having a completely great time – and the gag of the aliens’ shuffled walk certainly does not dry up.
In amongst all of this are multiple threads that let the story down; an alien conspiracy theorist on the hunt for extra-terrestrial life, and a love-interest called Jacinta (JoJo Waaka) that is often reduced to nothing more than a fat joke despite her comedic chops. Riko’s friends are also damningly under-used, most of them not even present for most of the film. Their buddy banter and ball-busting would have been a welcome addition to Riko’s alien adventures.
While its banter is crude, it feels like nothing more than silly fun; completely revelling in its rag-tag approach to filmmaking and its ability to pile in as much content as possible into its relatively short runtime. For a first feature, it’s unmistakably confident in its audience and perhaps, with some refinement, its viewpoint could be too. Sterling knows that just about everything he’s put on the screen is in bad taste – so why not be the worst taste possible? It blends a strange mixture of weirdly charming and joyful (Riko’s love for Jeff and Gurgus is wonderful) with content that might well prompt walk-outs if screened at any major festival.
One thing that’s clear is Sterling has tapped into that specific brand of brash New Zealand humour we find in the likes of Taika Waititi and Jermaine Clements and exploited it for all that it’s worth; creating a riotously funny and gross-out sci-fi comedy that has all the makings of a cult hit, like if Half Baked and E.T had a squishy blue baby.
by Chloe Leeson
Chloe Leeson is the founder of Screen Queens. She hails from the north of England (the proper north that people think is actually Scotland but isn’t). Her life source is Harmony Korine’s 90s Letterman interviews and Ezra Miller’s jawline. She is a costume designer for hire who spends way too much time watching bad horror movies. Her favourite films are Into The Wild, Lords of Dogtown, Stand by Me and Pan’s Labyrinth. She rants about cinema screenings @kawaiigoff and logs them on letterboxd here