|Image courtesy of VHSWasteland.com and Zach Carter|
Category: Cult Classic
Oh man, what a mess.
I really, really had high hopes for this one, especially with the talent going on behind the camera. But ultimately, it's just a big ol' mess.
Here are a few things you need to know when going into this. It's directed by John McNaughton who had directed Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer before this. It stars Rae Dawn Chong (horribly miscast), Tom Towles, Antonio Fargas and it has special makeup effects by the great Kevin Yagher.
I'm not even sure how to categorize this. It's supposed to be a horror/sci-fi flick, yet it's barely got any horror or science fiction in it. It's not scary, funny, intense, creative or even interesting; and because of the lackluster handling of the effects sequences by director McNaughton, not even cool in a "well the story sucks but the gore and effects were crazy awesome!" kinda way. "That" would have at least saved this thing in some respect. I just don't know what this is or what it was trying to be. How this thing famously got a 3 1/2 star rating by The Chicago Tribune that it so proudly displays on it's cover art is beyond me. And that's the thing I remember about this movie the most, even seeing it in the video store's back in the day, that 3 1/2 star rating so prominently displayed on the cover.
The enormous amount of inconsistencies alone can drive you nuts! This entire film is just strange and bizarre in a way that makes you think that the people who made this had never made a film before. And this is the guy who directed Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer to much critical acclaim!
A bad alien is banished to Earth as punishment because according to the aliens, we are the lowest form of life and banishing it here on Earth to live among us would be the worst punishment they can think of. The alien that sends the bad alien here to Earth warns him though that he must take care of his host body because it can be easily damaged and if it's too damaged, he'll have to find another to occupy. What it immediately realizes is that for some reason, the head doesn't last long; usually exploding after a short time which forces it to find the head of any other body near by and decapitates it to use as it's own.
And that's the story in a nutshell. It's just a series of bizarre sequences of the alien killing people (or dogs in one sequence) for there head to replace it's exploded one. But here's one of this film's biggest problems. The head is supposed to be the only body part that is being replaced. The alien kills someone, rips off there head and puts it on the body it occupied in the beginning of the film when it landed on Earth and is supposed to be the same body it inhabits for the entire film. But amazingly, whenever it takes the head of another being, it's body also changes because the ethnicity of these victims changes throughout the film so it's body switches from white, to black, to hispanic and so on. Did the filmmakers not think we'd notice that????
And when the alien takes someone's head to put on it's body, it's never shown how or why the head miraculously just stays on. It looks like it's been sewn on, but how did the alien do that? But that's only after you're thinking to yourself "wait, if the head is off a black guy, and the body is of a white guy, shouldn't there be a difference in color between the head and the body since each victim seems to be a different ethnicity?".
And, during one sequence where the alien takes the head of a Hispanic doctor, it get's into the doctor's car in the hospital parking lot and drives to the doctor's house. How does it know how to drive a car since the alien has only been on Earth for a day? Or how does it know where the doctor lives?
And there's also a subplot involving Det. Pierce (Chong) and a serial rapist that only seems to serve the purpose of filling out the remainder of the film with filler since there's clearly not enough material of the alien walking around killing people. Only the serial rapist subplot sequences are so boring and pretty much stops the film dead in it's tracks and ultimately never really leads to anywhere, except giving the alien another victim to steal another head at the end.
And the ending leaves much to be desired. It's about as anti-climactic as you could possibly imagine and when it's over you're sitting there waiting and expecting something else to happen until the credits roll up and your left yelling "that's it?!". Director John McNaughton made a splash with depicting such a realism of brutality and horror with Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer but here decided to go the complete opposite direction and unfortunately failed miserably. With the exception of the amazing effects by Kevin Yagher, nothing works here. But even then McNaughton's inept ability to film and edit these sequences properly still leave you somewhat let down. He really needs to stick to more realistic drama themed work and stay clear of trying to work within a genre he doesn't have the ability to handle. Kevin Yagher's effects work are the only thing that stands out here and it's impressive to say the least and clearly shows the guy can do more than Freddy Kruger's makeup or creating the doll and effects for Child's Play. But those sequences are few and far between and when the film get's into the whole serial rapist subplot with Rae Dawn Chong's Det. Pierce character, the film just falls completely flat and unfortunately there's just way too much of that in here. If this had stayed an over the top gorefest with ridiculous sequences of the alien killing people and animals for the heads then that would easily classify this under Trash Cinema and we could have looked past the enormous inconsistencies and weak script. And that's this film's biggest problem, it's incredibly weak script by first time writer and only feature Mason Nage. The guy needs to stick to his day job.