Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Terror Within

It seems like almost every week I sit here and prepare myself to tell you about the latest Alien ripoff I’ve seen, and now here’s another one for me to share with you all. This is another of Shout! Factory’s recent Roger Corman releases, on a double bill DVD with Dead Space (which I guess I’ll be reviewing tomorrow), and it’s almost eerie how little effort was involved in its creation.

We’re in the future and most of the world has been wiped out by some man-made plague. We center on a small group of survivors led by George Kennedy that live in an underground bunker out in the desert somewhere (ideal for a post-apocalyptic film, as it greatly reduces the chance of a car driving by and wrecking the shot), as they venture out of their lair in search of food, finding both some monsters (called gargoyles) and a pregnant woman that’s somehow survived the plague without the vaccine those in the bunker had taken. Of course, as anyone who’s seen Alien can expect, it’s actually a gargoyle baby, and when it comes time for her to give birth, it tears its way out of her belly (spraying blood all over the medical staff) and skeedaddles into the air vents. After that, it’s just a matter of hunting and being hunted, and preparing various weapons (including, yes, a flamethrower) to take down the abruptly adult gargoyle that’s now in there with them.

So let’s see: we’ve got a monster that impregnates other species with its young (though these monsters admittedly eschew the facehugger-style monsters in favor of just raping the women), a tiny crew of people in a confined, dingy metallic area with poor lighting, a monster that goes from being infant-sized to full adult in about an hour, lots of hiding in air vents, and a black guy trying and failing to stop it with a flamethrower. Does this sound at all familiar to anyone else? I didn’t think so, because this is the most original film I’ve seen since Snakes on a Train.

Of course, a lack of imagination isn’t always enough to kill a movie, so let’s get to the other problems. First, there’s the rubber suit design of the gargoyles themselves, which look like the creature on the cover of the Neon Maniacs DVD but with a crocodile snout (I haven‘t actually seen Neon Maniacs, so I can‘t really say if the monsters in that look like they do on the cover or not -- though given that it came out three years before this film, I have to assume it‘s more than coincidence). We also have the sheer delightfulness of how director Thierry Notz seemingly decided to disguise his inability to make an exciting action scene by shrouding the film in so much darkness that you can barely make out what’s going on half the time (this was a frequent occurrence back in the 80s, particularly among first time filmmakers like Notz who apparently didn’t realize just how much lighting they needed in order for their scenes to actually be visible). The bare bones lighting is kind of like today’s shaky cam action movies in how it renders the film impossible to follow at times. This means a good deal of the money shots of the gargoyle killing people are also buried in shadow, though the ones that we can see easily tend to be pretty lazy and uninspired, so I guess it evens out.

I’d also try to criticize the acting, but I have an unwarranted amount of love for George Kennedy due to a misspent youth involving constantly rewatching all the Naked Gun movies and Police Squad! You’ll never get me to find fault with him, so don’t even try. I can’t even criticize the male lead, played by Andrew Stevens of Night Eyes 3 fame, as he spends the whole movie trying his hardest to look like Michael Biehn did in The Terminator, for no discernable reason, and so I assume it was done specifically to confuse us and make us think the movie couldn’t possibly be ripping off Alien when it’s clearly ripping off Terminator instead.

This is not the kind of movie one watches by themselves unless they either have a very masochistic streak in them, or they are concerned the average ratings on their movie blog are skewed too high. It’s bad in just about every way possible, and is perhaps the worst Alien clone I’ve yet seen. I trust Dead Space will turn out better, but I’ll keep you posted either way.

Rating: *

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