By Richard Winters
My Rating: 3 out of 10
4-Word Review: Kid fights off aliens.
In this remake of the 1953 original Hunter Carson plays David an 11-year-old boy who witnesses a giant spaceship landing just over the hill from his backyard. Initially no one believes him, but then his parents, teacher, and classmates start acting strangely and have weird marks on the back of their necks. The only one who believes him is Linda (Karen Black) the school counselor. Together they try to save the rest of the town and blow up the alien ship with the help of General Climet Wilson (James Karen) and the rest of the U.S. Marines.
Director Tobe Hooper crafts a loving tribute to Americana by creating a house on a soundstage and a picturesque hill where the aliens land that seems to pay tribute to the 50’s. Jimmy Hunt who played the kid in the original appears here as a policeman. The musical score by Christopher Young has a nice variety of tempos and beats. It’s loud and intense during certain segments and then almost like a lullaby over the closing credits. The special effects aren’t exactly impressive, but I did like the segment showing how the aliens surgically insert the device into the backs of people’s necks in order to turn them into zombie-like creatures. I also got a kick out of the aliens especially their leader who was made to look like a brain with eyes and a mouth, connected to something that looked like an umbilical cord that shot out of what appeared to me like a giant rectum.
The eclectic cast is fun. Louise Fletcher hams it up in another parody of her famous Nurse Ratched role this time as the overbearing teacher Mrs. McKeltch. The part where she swallows a frog whole with its green blood trickling down the sides of her mouth is a highlight. It is also great seeing Laraine Newman playing David’s mother. The part isn’t all that exciting, but I always thought she was unfairly overlooked and underappreciated as one of the original cast members of ‘Saturday Night Live’ and her talents has never been used to their full potential.
Black is always interesting and here even more so because she plays the only normal person for a change instead of a kooky eccentric like she usually does. The only issue I had with the character is that she believed David’s story much too quickly and even showed him the back of her neck without asking why. It seemed to me that with kids and their wild imagination that she would be more hesitant and take more time in convincing.
To some extent casting Carson in the lead is interesting simply because he is Black’s son in real-life although he resembles his actor/writer father L.M. Kit Carson much more. However, the kid really couldn’t act and tries much too hard to show any type of emotion. I also thought that a normal child would have been so curious after having seen the spaceship land that he would have wanted to go to where it was beyond the hill and take a look at it and the fact that he immediately doesn’t seemed unrealistic.
The introduction of the Marines during the film’s second half backfires as it becomes too chaotic. The charm at the beginning is lost and it turns into just another campy action flick. The ‘double-ending’ is formulaic, ill-advised and ridiculous and comes very close to ruining the whole thing.
My Rating: 3 out of 10
Released: June 6, 1986
Runtime: 1Hour 40Minutes
Director: Tobe Hooper
Studio: Cannon Film Distributors
Available: VHS, DVD, YouTube