Julian McMahon stars as Lionel McCarthy in Syfy's "Hunters." (Ben King/Syfy)

‘Hunters’ review: Sound and terror

Hunters sets a disturbing tone right from the start that burrows into the ear like a Ceti eel from “Star Trek.” Unfortunately, that dissonance doesn’t work completely in favor of Syfy’s new aliens-among-us drama.

Inspired by Whitley Strieber’s “Alien Hunter” novel, “Hunters” counts Gale Anne Hurd (“The Walking Dead”) and show runner Natalie Chaidez (“12 Monkeys”) as co-producers. With that impressive pedigree, one would expect a less ham-fisted attempt to tell a terrorism allegory.

The dreary sci-fi procedural debuts at 10/9c April 11.

“Hunters” opens with the view of a lovely farmhouse, but that’s about the last we see of sunlight in the first two episodes made available for review. Inside the house, a naked woman shivers in a dog cage as a dread-locked villain sits nearby playing Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark’s “Maid of New Orleans.”

We learn that villain is Lionel McCarthy (Julian McMahon), one of many alien sleeper agents—called hunters—apparently bent on terrorizing humans through violent attacks, kidnappings and bombings. The woman he torments is Abby (Laura Gordon), the wife of PTSD-suffering FBI agent Flynn Carroll (Nathan Phillips).

As Flynn investigates Abby’s kidnapping, he stumbles upon a secret government agency known as the ETU, or Exo-Terrorism Unit. (Sounds a bit like CTU from “24,” no?)

Despite the obvious issues allowing a crime victim’s husband to investigate said crime, the unit’s leader recruits Flynn. He pairs with Allison Regan (Britne Oldford), an agent who despite her hyper powerful abilities manages to be bested during every confrontation with an alien-terrorist.

“Hunters” hammers home its aliens/terrorists metaphor. “We do not negotiate with terrorists,” the ETU’s leader says. One of his agents describes the aliens’ leader as “the Bin Laden of little green men.” They record threatening videos reminiscent of what real-world terrorists do.

Still, the series doesn’t make clear why McCarthy and the aliens—who can run through the treetops like the vampires of “Twilight”—are terrorizing rather than conquering humanity. Not even McCarthy seems able to articulate his purpose—spouting only fear-mongering platitudes among his threats.

“For years we have remained hidden amongst you, watching, waiting,” he says in a warning. “We take nothing without reason. What we want is good and right. Our cause is just. The end justifies the means. … You will bleed. You will cry. You will die. …”

While “Hunters” falls short in its storytelling, its use of sound and music feels fresh and inventive. McCarthy communicates with his alien terrorist army by using sonar signals embedded in music.  The repeated use of OMD’s “Maid of Orleans” lends an eeriness to the proceedings.

The clicking sounds the aliens make, while similar to those in the “Predator” movies, only adds to the aural discomfort.

“Hunters” borrows many familiar beats like those clicks from other shows and films. Too bad it doesn’t weave those samples into a wholly original or inspiring new tune.

“Hunters” cast, from left: Gareth Davies, Mark Coles Smith, Nathan Phillips, Lewis Fitz-Gerald and Britne Oldford. (Peter Brew-Bevan/Syfy)
Hunters: More at Syfy