The Deadly Spawn aka The Alien’s Deadly Spawn aka Return of the Alien’s Deadly Spawn aka Return of the Aliens: The Deadly Spawn (1983)

written and directed by douglas mckeown
filmline communications

“A real meteorite! It’s red hot!”
What?”
“I gotta get a picture of this!”
“Don’t forget the flash attachment.”

Now, THIS is how ya do the independent lower-budget horror film thing, people. Cheesy, knowing, and with a surprisingly interesting screenplay, this magnificent homage to space-invader creature features of days of yore is a total winner. From the classic gambit of the opening scenes that set the tone by employing characters unrelated to the action that follows, to the legitimately SHOCKING moment at film’s end, this production flirts with excellence throughout. True, the acting skills on display may not show much polish, the monstrous alien marauders are very obviously puppets and rubber props, and some of the fatal injuries inflicted are unconvincing, but the purity of intent delivers with delightful effect.

why did i watch this movie?

I’m not certain, but I think I came across this fetching title when I was randomly browsing through horror compendia, as I periodically do.

should you watch this movie?

With the stipulation that you need to be in the mood for a picture of this type, I do recommend viewing this inspired presentation.


highlight and low point

Truthfully, I greatly admired the lengthy, lively discussions about the scientific method amongst the college students, and the detailed attention paid to the décor of monster aficionado Charles’s bedroom. Too, the fact that the filmmakers did not shy away from exposing – nay, flaunting – their extraterrestrial creation is to their ultimate credit. The only real gripe I have is that the identity of some of the characters is a bit confusing initially, but that’s quickly resolved. Oh, and the camera lingers a little too long on some shots, particularly of Charles, to no discernible purpose.

rating from outer space: A−

The Dark Side of the Moon aka Parasite (1990)

directed by d.J. webster
wildstreet pictures

If you had, like, a minimal straight-to-video budget, one might wonder why “space epic” would be the kind of production you’d attempt. Music video director D.J. Webster ignored these constraints and the results are visually reminiscent of John Carpenter’s debut Dark Star, along with the inspired stagecraft of Plan 9 From Outer Space. This ripoff mashup of Star Trek: Voyager, 2001, The Thing, Aliens et cetera also features shots cribbed directly from Star Wars and some acting laughable enough to compete with the output of its costume department. I haven’t even mentioned the questionable theory advanced, which somehow links “Centrus B-40” (the title location) with the Bermuda Triangle – I’m not an astrophysicist, but that seems dubious to me. It does, however, set up a pretty great ending to this otherwise turgid melodrama. Oh, and lest I forget, Satan.

why did i watch this movie?

The search for ’90s fodder led me here, with the bonus that this picture was completely unknown to me.

should you watch this movie?

Though I have no idea why you’d want to try, one note of interest may be that this script is by Chad and Carey Hayes, who eventually would write The Conjuring, among many other credits. (So, kids, if at first you don’t succeed … )

highlight and low point

For starters, the captain of the spacecraft smokes a lot of cigarettes, and sports a leather baseball cap. The onboard computer is a female … android, I guess, which for some reason is dressed like this:

It’s set in 2022, and its dialogue includes the statement “It looks like the Shuttle … Discovery … from the old NASA probe,” answered with the observation that “NASA hasn’t been flying for 30 years.” And then there’s this graphic:

rating from outer space: d+

 

Prey aka Alien Prey (1977)

directed by norman j. warren
tymar film productions limited

I’ll admit it, I enjoy it a little too much – trotting out the jejune sally that “the REAL horror here is blah blah blah” and so forth – but dig it, man, that foolishness is perfectly suitable for this bonkers English presentation. Oh, don’t get me wrong, this film is for the most part shoddy and boring, but holy cats does it contain some absolutely bizarre goings-on. For one thing, it’s only around 84 minutes long, but it manages to contain a four-minute-plus lesbian scene that is frankly a lot more explicit than I would’ve supposed. For another thing, at a certain point – for no discernible reason – everything goes slo-mo as the soundtrack suddenly becomes extremely psychedelic and discordant. And no kidding, even though the story concerns a space alien who’s on Earth scouting for new “protein sources” (“spoiler”!), heavens to Murgatroyd but that isn’t the REAL horror here. I watched the climactic action of this picture jaws literally agape.

why did i watch this movie?

This is the film Mr. Warren made right after the widely acclaimed cerebral exercise Satan’s Slave.

should you watch this movie?

I don’t think I really have an answer for that question. You’re on your own.

highlight and low point

The makeup and/or “FX” are, uh, minimally invasive, shall we say.

But seriously, one thing I did find laudable about this very strange flick is that it contains all of six actors. This film’s shortcomings are not a result of its minimal casting or financing, though the latter probably doesn’t help. ’Tis a pity they never made the sequel.  ’Tis also a pity some critics have identified all sorts of subtextual sociological signifiers that were almost certainly tangential to this preposterous undertaking. Sure, sure, I get it, “microaggressions,” I hear ya. [Backs away]

rating from outer space: C−

that’s a switchblade, would you believe

A Quiet Place (2018)

directed by john krasinski
platinum dunes/sunday night

This picture boasts one innovative idea, which I anticipated watching unfold. Unfortunately, it didn’t bear quite enough fruit – either the producers didn’t have the nerve to take their conceit far enough or they modulated it a bit in the pursuit of mass consumption. The concept, of course, is a whole lotta silence, the reason being the premise that Earth has been invaded and decimated by aliens that hunt by sound. That’s a pretty great proposition, even with some of the questions it raises, but the filmmakers encounter issues with its execution. Now, I mean the following seriously, given that this is a movie dealing with deadly alien invaders that hunt by sound alone: far too many logical inconsistencies present themselves, disabling any suspension of disbelief. I mean, virtually from the opening scene, I was incredulous. That’s kind of a serious problem. A peculiarly reactionary sociology  in the family structure has been noted elsewhere; it becomes perhaps even more curious when one considers that the director/co-writer and his wife are the lead actors.

why did i watch this movie?

The notion of a horror film based on a dearth of sound and largely lacking in dialogue intrigued me.

should you watch this movie?

Possibly, if you are in dire need of a fix for your craving for yet another derivation of H.R. Giger’s Alien archetype.

highlight and low point

Ironically enough, though overall kudos must be granted for having an original thought in a genre often lacking in such, as hinted above the intruders are Giger’s “Alien,” AGAIN. But don’t limit yourself to the creatures when searching for absurdities in this one. Among my personal favorites are the large signs the patriarch has set up in his workshop that conveniently provide the viewing audience with crucial information, and which cannot possibly serve any real purpose for him or his family.

rating from outer space: C−

Pod (2015)

directed by mickey keating
Alexander groupe/high window films/illium pictures

The second feature from director Keating following 2013’s Ritual, this science-fiction hybrid feels like a more fully realized affair. Though it seems to borrow heavily from various sources, it’s as homage rather than imitation – albeit as noted, the ultimate effect is somewhat to resemble The X-Files. Getting all the way to that point, however, is more than half the fun here, as the story’s slow buildup focuses on some familial dynamics, and only in exploiting the well-meaning dismissiveness exhibited toward one sibling by his brother and sister are the realities of their situation revealed. One thing this watcher found exemplary – which other reviewers seem to think a major drawback – is the novel approach taken to fleshing out the details behind the discoveries: None. No explanation is given, no tidy synopsis offered; it’s up to the audience. Personally, I thought this gambit worked perfectly, given the subject matter. The denouement unspools in stages, some of which are surprising (not SHOCKING) and some of which are business as usual. (The makers of Antibirth must have been taking notes, however.)

why did i watch this movie?

I thought 2013’s Ritual was interesting enough an attempt to investigate the director’s successive offerings.

should you watch this movie?

With the understanding that it’s not going to blow the doors off with originality, it’s a good time, replete with suspense, enough frights, and plenty to nettle the squeamish.

highlight and low point

The moments when it dawns on the brother-and-sister tandem that their other brother wasn’t dissembling, delusional or dipsomaniacal are perhaps a tad de rigueur for this type of picture, but it’s a carefully controlled exposition and the payoff is welcome. The ending feels a bit shopworn.

rating from outer space: B−

Life (2017)

directed by daniel espinosa
skydance media/columbia pictures

Whee! Hee hee! Yee-haw! This giddy space-station extravaganza is an FX-rich disaster film that shamelessly reminds one of numerous other similarly themed flicks (and actually is reminding this guy of 2011’s Apollo 18 right now as he’s thinking about it). You know the drill:

space vehicle needs rescued / look something’s alive in there whoops shouldna done that / oh no there goes Tokio                    next verse, same as the first

What recommends this version of that movie is the vicious perseverance demonstrated by the organism in question, and the increasing desperation of the dwindling crew attempting to thwart its advances. The ominous possibility that all of Planet Earth could be endangered is a nice touch. Race against time: undertaken! Noble acts: attempted! Predictable conclusion: delivered!

why did i watch this movie?

Had it been a while since I’d been reminded that in space, no one can hear you scream, that is the question. Unfortunately, I have no answers.

should you watch this movie?

It’s a good time. No, it’s not terribly original, but the inexorable alien malevolence is impressive.

highlight and low point

The situation aboard the space station gets seriously out of hand, and the escalating insanity of the at first preventative and then preemptive steps taken against the marauding extraterrestrial thing is fairly captivating. A lot of what occurs is standard actioner boilerplate, however, and spoiler alert but I rather doubt one would utilize a flamethrower aboard a space station regardless of threat level. I mean, just as an example.

rating from outer space: c-

Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017)

directed by rian johnson
lucasfilm ltd.

While technically not a horror movie, the moaning and wailing that greeted Episode VIII from its bereaved fanboys (and -girls) could have convinced one otherwise. Which, okay, I can dig where they’re coming from, as this installment plays for laughs more often than one might expect, obscures the franchise’s hoary catchphrase, and – heaven forfend! – introduces some new Ewoks porgs (and another animal species, which, uh, sparkles, besides). Honestly, I thought it had worse problems than that, but I’m endlessly fascinated by the Star Wars Universe, much the way I am by, say, the rock band KISS: No matter what they do, what they did was so epochal that I’ll keep reading about it and revisiting it. Disney, I think, knows this about its audience, which is why I have a hard time believing they’ll be wrapping this epic up after Episode IX, especially because that seems a difficult prospect at best given where The Reboot Strikes Back leaves us.

why did i watch this movie?

That cannot be a serious question.

should you watch this movie?

Well, if you’re a “Star Wars” type, you most likely already have, and if you are not, you probably won’t, and if you are new to this whole “Star Wars” thing, you should maybe start with “Episode VII.” So … you tell me.

highlight and low point

Jedi manages to stay entertaining for two-and-a-half hours, and this despite neglecting a few key characters just introduced in the last canonical segment. Luke’s divisive portrayal is an oddball key, a koan in action. Several scenes defy any and all acceptable logic, even given the disclaimer that they are occurring a long time ago in a nonliteral galaxy. With a magical spirit power.

rating from outer space: C