Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Alien Zone (1978)

A special treat, perhaps, for those eager to see what a low-budget horror anthology produced in Oklahoma might look like, the nonsensically titled Alien Zone—which has also been exhibited under the more appropriate moniker House of the Dead—features a number of bottom-rung Hollywood actors as well as various deservedly anonymous local performers. Basically an anemic example of the portmanteau style associated with the UK’s Amicus Productions, Alien Zone begins with a man arriving at a remote building one night while searching for a hotel. He's greeted by The Mortician (Ivor Francis), who introduces the newcomer to some of his “clients.” As The Mortician describes the circumstances under which each individual died, the movie presents extended flashbacks that play out like gruesome short stories. With the exception of a sequence involving dueling detectives, each of the stories ends with a violent shock instead of proper narrative twist, which reflects how feeble the movie is overall. The pace is slow, the performances are never better than adequate, the suspense is mostly nonexistent, and the takeaway is that Alien Zone should have been taken away from viewers. This is far from the worst horror picture ever made, but it’s certainly among the most forgettable. Francis has an enjoyably droll quality as The Magician, and the actors in the dueling-detectives vignette (Brit Bernard Fox and Yank Charles Aidman) bring florid style to their delivery of overwrought dialogue. As for the fright factor, one lady gets bitten to death by children wearing ridiculous-looking fangs, a dude falls down an elevator shaft, and a ladykiller offs his victims by using stockings as strangulation devices. Is there any aesthetic or logical reason for these very different types of stories to coexist? Not really. But then again, is there any reason whatsoever for Alien Zone to exist? Not really.

Alien Zone: LAME

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