Review: Hunters 1×1 (US: Syfy)

Alien terrorists with OMDs

In the US: Mondays, 10/9c, Syfy
In the UK: Not yet acquired

Although there seems to be terrorism in virtually every TV show these days, producers still face a quandry when including it in their shows. On the one hand, having a small group of people as antagonists makes it quite handy to use in drama. And there aren’t that many people out there who think that attacking and killing civilians is a good thing, so terrorists can usually be portrayed as the bad guys without anyone objecting.

On the other hand, terrorism is complicated. Terrorists’ motivations are complicated, usually informed by centuries of history and culture. Avoid the necessary level of depth needed to show that and your drama suddenly looks shallow and naive. Indeed, because of terrorism’s ubiquity in TV shows, you also have to be careful not to feed into racism and stereotypes by having, for example, YA bunch of Arab muslims suicide-bombing their way around the US while a plucky bunch of usually white, straight, American men save the day.

Hunters thinks its hit on a way out of this dilemma. A drama about terrorism that no one can be offended by because the terrorists are aliens. Probably. They’re not human anyway. So if they go around doing terrorist things, who cares if we kill them or don’t think too hard about their motivations? No one can complain that we’re insensitive to their culture, either, because their culture is whatever we’ve said it is.


Well, no, because ‘alien terrorists’ already sounds like complete bobbins. Alien terrorists? If they can make it to Earth, they can probably nuke it from a light year away, too. Why are they just trying to frighten people?

But even beyond that base coat of daftness, Hunters seems entirely determined to be as generic as possible. Within the first five minutes, the show has already plundered Alien, Aliens and Predator for visual style, set-ups for scenes and even sound effects, and that’s before we even get introduced to the ultra-generic idea for the show: there’s a top team of anti-terrorism soldiers armed with special anti-alien weapons and they go around secretly trying to stop the aliens like they’re in some kind of first-person shooter. There’s naturally a whole big bunch of white guys doing most of the heavy lifting, but just to make it less obvious, there’s two black people and a woman, although cunningly, one of the two black people is the woman, so that’s good quota work.

At the same time, because it’s still not quite square-jawed and manly enough already, there’s a former soldier turned FBI agent (Nathan Phillips), whose wife is kidnapped by the chief alien (Julian McMahon) and spends most of the episode trussed up and naked in a cage while Phillips tracks her down. How much do you want a bet he ends up joining the team?

In case McMahon’s presence doesn’t give you a clue, since there’s nothing quite like saying “science fiction” and “filmed in Australia” to summon him like some antipodean Candyman, Hunters is one of the new breed of Syfy shows filmed in Australia, rather than Canada like everything else before mid-2015. Indeed, the show is so replete with Australian actors with only semi-convincing US accents, it feels like the cast of Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries is having a theme party. Seriously, they’ve all been in it at some point. The only exception is Mark Coles Smith (The Gods of Wheat Street, Old School) – not total exception, since he’s been in Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, too, but he’s “on loan from Australian special forces” so doesn’t even have to bother trying to fake a US accent.

The show desperately wants to be dark and gritty and adult, with gore, horror, sex, nudity and swearing. Unfortunately, it’s also the kind of show that has Julian McMahan as an alien DJ with dreadlocks who leaps from tree to tree using bad wirework and sends messages to fellow aliens using OMD’s “Maid of Orleans”. I kid you not. I kid you not again when I tell you that’s the best thing about Hunters, too.

Did the producers mishear WMD, do you think? “The terrorists have OMDs.”

On top of all this, there are all sorts of mysteries that are supposed to grab our attentions. Who is the alien among them? Why do the aliens want Phillips’ wife? What do the aliens want? Are they even aliens or are they mutated humans or something even odder?

I’m not sure it matters, since it’ll just involve our inept secret team of cipherous secret soldiers who like to go around deserted warehouses at nights by themselves, rather than as a unit, shooting aliens and getting fake blood everywhere, all without any intelligent thoughts between them. So I’m giving Hunters a miss.

UPDATE: Apparently, they’re not stopping at OMD


  • Rob Buckley

    I’m Rob Buckley, a journalist who writes for UK media magazines that most people have never heard of although you might have heard me on the podcast Lockdown Land or Radio 5 Live’s Saturday Edition or Afternoon Edition. I’ve edited Dreamwatch, Sprocket and Cambridge Film Festival Daily; been technical editor for TV producers magazine Televisual; reviewed films for the short-lived newspaper Cambridge Insider; written features for the even shorter-lived newspaper Soho Independent; and was regularly sarcastic about television on the blink-and-you-missed-it “web site for urban hedonists” The Tribe. Since going freelance, I've contributed to the likes of Broadcast, Total Content + Media, Action TV, Off The Telly, Action Network, TV Scoop and The Custard TV.

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