Thursday, May 28, 2015

The Alien Factor (1978)



Exactly the sort of amateurish, boring, derivative, insipid junk that high-school sci-fi fans might throw together over the course of a weekend—and yet billed as legitimate work by grown-ups and given a tiny theatrical release, as well as an afterlife on home video—The Alien Factor lacks any recognizable redeeming values, except perhaps for the can-do spirit of incompetent Maryland filmmaker Don Dohler. Cobbling together family and friends, some of whom had gained meager skills in the realm of old-school special effects, Dohler managed to accrue enough terrible footage to assemble 90 minutes of sci-fi pabulum. Most of the familiar clich├ęs are here. A monster makes its first appearance by interrupting young lovers who are making out in a car that’s parked out in the boonies. Police investigate bloody crimes, little suspecting that an alien from outer space is the culprit. A dogged reporter is the only person who figures out the truth. All the while, a short-sighted city official prevents the issuance of public warnings about the deadly menace, because he’s afraid that panic will impede his plans for commercial development. Employing visual tricks that already felt dated 20 years before The Alien Factor was made, Dohler and his collaborators depict monsters with cheap costumes, shoddy superimpositions, and stop-motion animation. Are the movie’s acting, dialogue, direction, and storytelling completely abysmal? Yes on all four counts. And does the movie conclude with an alien giving an endless speech about its motivations before the inevitable oh-the-humanity tragic ending? Once, again, the answer is yes. As to the question of whether The Alien Factor is worth anyone’s time, the response is the opposite.

The Alien Factor: SQUARE

2 comments:

William Blake Hall said...

Oh dear gawd, I remember this one! Peter, it's your call, but I'm for going pure spoiler alert on this offender, to help people savor its full groan-worthiness. It made for a real-life Mystery Science Theater 3000 experience -- only by relentlessly jeering at it could my friends and I survive it. It's bad enough we have a "clue." "Isn't it obvious that Ben Zachary is an alien in disguise? His last name begins with Z!" Next, we learn that a ship passing Earth just happened to have dangerous zoo specimens which got out. Don't you hate it when that happens? It's about as silly as "Frankenstein Meets the Space Monster" -- "We're going to Earth to abduct nubile Earth girls, but aw gee, let's bring along that Space Monster." Next, Zack has to give warning that he had to hide his awful terrible horrible hideousness because surely no mere human could possibly withstand it. Next, we see his hideousness anyway, and he's ... just pathetic, really, precisely as unconvincing as any of the monsters. Next, a hysterical Earth girl sees Zack and just screams and screams and screams and screams and screams. (Advice ripped off from the story of Eden: Blame the woman.) Next, a sheriff shoots Zack and the movie ends, before he can even splutter "Well, dolgurn it, she was screamin' so much, dadgummit." As a Pittsburgher, I resent the queasy-making coincidence that a hero named Ben getting shot by stupid law enforcement even remotely recalls the truly tragic and jolting death of Duane Jones as Ben at the end of "Night of the Living Dead." Oh, the humanity. Oh, the deep commentary. Oh, the ridiculous scenarios movies like this oblige us to suffer through.

Andrew Curtis said...

'Are the movie’s acting, dialogue, direction, and storytelling completely abysmal? Yes on all four counts. And does the movie conclude with an alien giving an endless speech about its motivations before the inevitable oh-the-humanity tragic ending? Once, again, the answer is yes. As to the question of whether The Alien Factor is worth anyone’s time, the response is the opposite.' Brilliant.