Saturday, 28 February 2015

Invaders from Mars (1986)

Ah the classic 1953 movie revisited and remade in that classic 80's style with wacky special effects. This really is a treasure chest of 80's gold through and through. Directed by Tobe 'Texas Chainsaw Massacre' Hooper, written by Dan 'Alien' O'Bannon and with creature effects by Stan Winston, John 'Star Wars' Dykstra and Alec 'Aliens' Gillis. Doesn't get much better than that folks.

The plot is surprisingly almost identical to the original classic albeit with a few minor changes here and there. One night during a storm a young boy sees a UFO land in an area behind his house (the sandpit?). He tells his parents but of course they don't believe him telling him it was a nightmare. The next day his father investigates and eventually returns with strange marks on the back of his neck, his mannerisms are odd and he seems emotionless and cold. Slowly many townsfolk start acting the same so the young boy tries to alert the authorities but has a hard time making folk believe naturally. Soon enough his school nurse starts to take notice and believe the boy and in time they manage to get the military on board to lay siege to the mysterious sand pit area.

As I already said I was shocked at how faithful this remake is to the source material, it is virtually the same right down to the visual setup. Now this might sound lame (especially with this current horrendous remake trend) but if you've seen the 1953 version its quite cool to see the same stylings revamped (without the use of CGI I might add). The little pathway and hill leading to the sandpit behind the young boys house has been recreated to look just like the original film and it looks splendidly creepy. The alien ship interior is basically along the same kind of lines but obviously much more futuristic (for the time) and of course all the characters are almost identical, although some characters have different job roles here. It was also sweet to see the original lead boy actor from the 1953 version play the police chief in this movie.

The major changes come in the visual effects department for the aliens and obvious things like the spaceship, makeup and a few minor horror moments. You can easily tell the rubbery monster/alien suits are Stan Winston's work, I can tell his creative style a mile away. The main head alien, the brain, was literately that...a fat pink brain that basically looks like Krang from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles franchise. I believe this design did actually surface before the introduction of Krang in the animated TMNT series in 1987, so maybe this movie influenced that cartoon? Anyway this powerful double pupiled alien really looks tremendous if a little motionless.

The other mobile aliens (if you can say that) are quite bizarre, honesty I don't know why they went with this design but they basically look like giant testicles with huge gaping jaws and four legs. Huge lumps of gristle with huge mouths lined with razor sharp teeth and four camel-like legs. Clearly very large and heavy rubber suits with the two front legs being for the performer inside and the rear two probably mainly being stability. Its very clever how they have done it but alas these aliens do look totally cumbersome, not very agile...not very mobile at all really and completely useless in an evolutionary sense. How on earth these aliens managed to build spaceships or develop technology I don't know, there must be other types of alien that helped them.

One thing that does stand out was the bad acting which seemed strange to me seeing as this felt like a biggish production. Yeah sure this is meant to be a science fiction B-movie of course so possibly the cast acted badly on purpose? I kinda doubt it honesty, maybe some did but most I think were just poor, especially the main protagonist, the young boy. This kid really couldn't act, it was quite painful at times. He was also kinda tubby and clearly had trouble running too *giggles*, the amount of times he's running away from someone and its laughable, so slow! I guess when one of the main leads from the first two Return of the Living Dead movies (James Karen) is in the film, you should know to expect some grilled cheese. But honesty no one here is very good, there is lots of hokey shouting, screaming and really obviously slow running away from dangerous things.

Of course the finale won't be much of a surprise if you've seen the original film because this ends the same way. In fact it ends exactly the same accept for the cliffhanger moment before the credits role where all we see is the young boy rushing to his parents room, stopping and screaming in terror. Its a typical 80's finish, the kinda thing you'd see in an 80's horror anthology movie, its left to your imagination...and nightmares.

The tension does seem to have gone from this newer version, I kinda expected it to be a trashy 80's gore fest, the movie poster does lend itself to that. On the other hand I did think it could of been a John Carpenter flick at times, if you didn't know any better it could seem that way, it has those dark comedic tones much like 'They Live'. On the whole its certainly a blast if you're into practical hands-on effects with larger than life creature suits and prosthetics but don't expect many thrills or blood. Considering the director its actually relatively tame.