An 80’s remake of the 1953 b-movie sci-fi of the same name which was directed by William Cameron Menzies, Invaders from Mars, this time directed by Tobe Hooper (Texas Chain Saw Massacre) is based on a story by Richard Blake, with a screenplay penned by Don Jakoby (Evolution) and Dan O’Bannon (Alien 3, Return of the Living Dead), a three-man team responsible for Hooper’s excellent space-vampire classic, Lifeforce. Now, I’m a huge Lifeforce and Texas Chain Saw Massacre fan, so I was happy to finally sit down and watch Hooper’s homage to 50’s b-movie science fiction. What I got was a flawed, but easy-to-watch slice of 80’s light-hearted sci-fi, something that doesn’t exist in today’s film landscape, and something I always get a kick out of seeing.
The film opens with a happy family, George and Ellen Gardner, and their young son, David. David likes to study the stars from his telescope, and one night he sees a spaceship come from the sky and settle “over the hill” at the back of his house. He screams, yells and protests, but nobody else seems to have seen it. When he wakes in the morning, his father seems a little different, and he has a wound on the back of his neck. It isn’t long until David begins to see other people acting strangely, from the police to school teachers and even his mother, all of them with a strange mark on the back of their necks. David finds a protector and someone to help him in his trustworthy and kind-hearted school nurse, Linda, and David proves his outlandish story to her. Eventually contacting the U.S Marines about the issue, David, and those who believe his tale, set out to save the world that is being taken over by invaders from, erm, Mars.
Now, this is your typical invasion of the body snatchers type of film, with alien life forms taking over the bodies of human beings. It’s been done plenty of times prior to this, and many times since, but it can be a very enjoyable premise if it’s done in the right way, and this, in some ways, was done well. The creature designs from Stan Winston are excellent, the aliens themselves are so weird and slimy and freaky, and they hold up almost thirty years later. Karen Black (Five Easy Pieces), as Linda, was decent in her role and saved the protagonist side of the story. Hunter Carson (Paris Texas), who played David, was wooden at times, though he was only a young boy, and his reactions were often stunted when they should have been filled with fear and energy. He did, for much of the film, have a blank expression on his face, not reacting like I felt he should have to the intense and bizarre situations he found himself in. This was one of the main things that let the film down, for me, as well as the fact that the aliens, as awesome as they look in design, weren’t that intimidating, but I still got a kick out of how good they looked. In a film with a pretty cool story and strong writing and direction, it is predominantly the acting that causes it to falter. Not all the acting is sub-par though, Louise Fletcher (One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest) as Mrs. McKeltch, the alien-possessed and mean-spirited teacher, was a hoot, and stole the show with her angry and demented approach to her role.
I don’t know how this remake compares to the original from the fifties because I am yet to see that one, so as far as a comparison, I am unable to make one. I did enjoy the 1980’s feel to the film which is something that I always get the warm-and-fuzzies for, and the set and creature effects were excellent, and though the performances were sometimes pretty naff, it was still a fun sci-fi flick that didn’t drag on, and kept me entertained for an hour and a half. It is, in no way, one of Hooper’s best, but it is still worth watching if you get the chance.
Invaders from Mars is on Netflix (US), now.