Thursday, March 19, 2015

INVADERS FROM MARS (1986)

INVADERS FROM MARS (1986) 

Label: Scream Factory
Release Date: April 7th 2015
Region Code: A
Duration: 99 Minutes
Rating: PG
Audio: English DTS-HD MA 2.0, 5.1
Video: HD Widescreen (2.35:1)
Director: Tobe Hooper

Cast: Laraine Newman, Louise Fletcher, James Karen, Bud Cort, Timothy Bottoms, Hunter Carson, Karen Black

I remember watching the original Invaders from Mars (1953) during one of those Saturday afternoon chiller matinees that aired back in the '80s and it scared the crap right out of me before, for weeks afterward I had recurring nightmares of my family and neighbors becoming alien drones, I'd wake up in a cold sweat scared to death, those were some frightening nightmares. I tell you that between watching this and the original Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956) I was convinced that some insidious alien menace would conquer my small town before spreading out into the surrounding areas before conquering the world.



Tobe Hooper's remake of Invaders from Mars (1986) begins with young David Gardner (Hunter Carson) watching a meteor shower with his father out in the yard, afterward he lays down to sleep when a bright light in the sky catches his attention,. Peering through the bedroom window he sees an alien spacecraft landing in the sand quarry just beyond the hill behind his house. David freaks out at the eerie sight, but of course when his parents have a look out the window the UFO is nowhere to be found and they assume it must have been a bad dream. The next morning his father (Timothy Bottoms) doesn't seem quite himself... hmm, could he maybe be and emotionless drone controlled by an invaders from Mars?

As happens with most of these kids films from the '80s no one believes young David when he tells them that the aliens have landed and have begun to take over the town, no one except the school nurse, played by horror great Karen Black (Burn Offerings). David's science teacher Mrs. McKeltch (Louise Fletcher, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest) seems to have been assimilated along with his father and has her eye on David and the rest of the children, she's even organizing a science trip out the sand quarry. The scene of David discovering that Mrs. McKeltch is under the control of the alien force is pretty creepy and somewhat humorous watching it as an adult, she scarfs down a frog specimen from the science lab head first with the legs protruding from her mouth, scary stuff. 


Most of the adults in town seem to have fallen under the control of the alien invaders, David and the nurse are not sure who they can trust anymore and are left to seek the only help left in the area, the damn Marines.In a way that can only work in a film designed for children General Wilson (James Karen, Return of the Living Dead) believes the wild story and launches an all out assault on the aliens out at the sand quarry without much proof or questioning, and this is when the film loses a bit of steam. It does creepy and paranoid quite nicely from the start, the pure terror of knowing your parents are not your parents and no one believes you, that you are a shrinking minority of free-thinkers is scary stuff, especially for a kids film from the '80s, but once the action is amped up during the finale it just feels a bit bloated. 

Onto the look of the alien menace we are given choice of two distinct creatures, the four--legged worker drones and the veiny supreme martian intelligence, both designs are pretty cool and were designed by artist William Stout and realized by John Dykstra and Stan Winston to great effect. A lot of the effects didn't have the same sway on me that they did when I was younger but on a purely nostalgic level this was a lot of fun. The alien spacecraft is a massive ship buried under the sand which can suck people down into the sand where they are implanted with device thereby losing their free will and becoming one of the worker drones for the martians. The interiors set design for the spacecraft has a cool organic feel about it and are drenched in colored lighting and fog machines, very '80s and a lot of fun. 



Not surprisingly the movie had more of an impact on me in my youth, but I can say that about most of the stuff I watched at that magical age. Watching it now as an adult with my own kids it made for a fun watch laced with a fair amount of nostalgia and some '80s camp, it definitely feels more goofy science-fiction than kiddie horror to me  watching now but that didn't make it any less fun of a watch, I still love this movie. 

Blu-ray: Invaders from Mars arrives on Blu-ray from Scream Factory presented in the original widescreen aspect ratio (2.35:1) and the results are very pleasing. There's some print damage evident by way of vertical lines and speckling throughout but overall this is a solid hi-def presentation. Color saturation is strong with nicely managed film grain and some decent depth and clarity, a definite upgrade from the MGM Midnite Movies presentation. 


The English language DTS-HD MA 2.0 or DTS-HD MA 5.1 both sound great, crisp and clean without any distortions. The surround mix is pleasing with eerie sound effects and Christopher Young's at times over-the-top score bleeding into the surrounds - though most of the action is front and center. 


Onto the extras we have quite a some really great stuff beginning with a brand new audio commentary from director Tobe Hooper moderated by Michael Felsher of Red shirt Pictures. Hooper is not the most active commentator so having Felsher there to prod him along is a good thing. They touch on Hooper's three-picture deal with Cannon Films which spawned this film plus TCM2 (1986) and Lifeforce (1985), it tends not to be scene specific but has some great anecdotes about the making of the film.  


Speaking of Red Shirt Pictures they created a new 37- minute making of doc with new interviews from Director Tobe Hooper, Actor Hunter Carson, Special Creature Effects Artists Alec Gillis and Gino Crognale, and Composer Christopher Young, some great insights and a look into creating the creatures for the film. Bonus content on the disc is buttoned-up with a production illustration gallery with commentary from artist William Stout, a still gallery, the theatrical trailer and a TV spot for the film. A nice touch is a reversible art option which 

Special Features
- Audio Commentary with Director Tobe Hooper
- The Martians Are Coming! (37 Minutes) - The Making of "Invaders From Mars", an all-new retrospective featuring interviews with Director Tobe Hooper, Actor Hunter Carson, Special Creature Effects Artists Alec Gillis and Gino Crognale, and Composer Christopher Young 

- Theatrical Trailer (1 Mins) HD
- TV Spot (1 Mins) SD
- Original Storyboards (4 Mins) HD
- Original Production Illustration Gallery from Artist William Stout with Commentary by Stout (14 Mins)
- Still Gallery (27 Images) 



Verdict: Hooper seemed to be going for a straight-up homage to the original film and other schlocky b-movie science fiction films from the '50s with a addition of a thin veneer of '80s cheesiness and is largely successful. The movie has a great cast and enough kiddie creepiness and sci-fi goofiness to make this an easy recommend, particularly if you're looking for something not-too-scary to watch with your own kiddies. They just don't make 'em like this anymore, there was something special about these dark kiddie fantasy and science fiction films from the  '80s that cannot be duplicated, more '80's awesomeness on Blu-ray is a good thing. 

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