Monday, September 3, 2012
Invaders from Mars (1986)
Tobe Hooper is without a doubt one of the few directors who can be called underrated, just because he directed The Texas Chain Saw Massacre and after that tried to do everything but copying his first hit movie. Eaten Alive is of course just a spin on TCM, a great spin to, and the sequel with Dennis Hopper is a witty black comedy - but that's about it. He obviously wanted to do other kinds of genre movies. His most interesting period was during the eighties with masterpieces like Lifeforce and TCM2 and close-to-masterpiece. Invaders fromMars was one of three movies he made for Yoram Globus and Menahem Golan, all flops - if I've got the correct information - but also highly personal and original. Invaders from Mars is also an alien invasion film but the total opposite to Lifeforce, which seems like a very conscious move from Hooper.
In something that looks like a dream world, an idyllic parody of the American lifestyle, an alien spaceship lands behind a hill and digs itself down into the soil. A boy, David, sees it - but his parents thinks it's a dream. The next morning his father is changed and has a weird scar on his neck. He's taken, controlled by the aliens and soon everyone is controlled by a device deeply injected into their neck. David finds a friend in the school nurse Linda and together they decides to strike back and try to stop the aliens taking over their friends, families and the whole earth...
It's easy to blame Invaders from Mars to be a strictly special effects-driven flick. Maybe it is, in on way, but it's also a full-blown adventure and has some of the most ambitious visuals I've seen in one of these trashier, more exploitative, big budget films from the time. The effects is actually excellent. From the visuals stuff to the AWESOME rubber monsters stumbling around in the underground spaceship. This is very creative puppeteering and it took me a while to figure out how the creatures were constructed. Hooper goes for a big look, with big sets and wide angles - and it fits the style of the film perfectly. Many other directors would have done it more claustrophobic, but here it's just big and wide and lots of colours.
Karen Black is one of my favourite actresses and while I can agree that her look got odder and odder over the years, I must say she looks beautiful and sharp here as the nurse being the sidekick to our boy-hero David (Hunter Carson, which also is her son in real life). Poor Timothy Bottoms, a wonderful actor with extreme bad luck in his career, gets another flat character to play, even if he seems to enjoy himself when he's going bad than when he's playing a normal father. James Karen, a welcome face in eighties horror, has a smaller but cool part as the military leading the operations against the aliens. Gotta love that guy. Oh, lets not forget Louise Fletcher, who plays one of her classic psycho-ladies - and she's great as usual. Very few actresses can give the audience that empty shark-eyed look and it's still damn scary.
Where Lifeforce is dark and moody, with a low-key emotional atmosphere, Invaders from Mars is big, bold and colourful with a weird addition of almost sadistic pleasure - but in a toned down way, almost, to make it fit a younger audience. The slightly disappointing final twist that echoes both the sentimental values of Wizard of Oz and the demented charming stupidity of Umberto Lenzi's
leaves us on the edge of the seat.
What did he just see? What the fuck is going on? But Hooper is cruel, he's not
gonna let us know the final-final twist, instead we can imagine all the horrors
meeting the young eyes of Karen Black's son when he opens the door to his
parents bedroom. Nightmare City
Invaders from Mars is another very fine film from the fucked-up mind of Tobe Hooper and the juicy wallets of Golan and Globus. Without those two many interesting genre flicks couldn't have been made. Bless them - in a non-religious way.