Directed by Deran Sarafian
Trans World Entertainment VHS
“In 1973, NASA launches Skylab Space Station into orbit. The objective: To perform a series of highly classified experiments that could not take place on Earth. In 1979, Skylab re-enters Earth’s atmosphere.”
And it lands in Duarte, Spain, where a wild dog gets sucked into the belly of a writhing, bloody cow carcass. There are aggressive gurgling noises and an other worldly scream.
Meanwhile, Damon and Michael vie for the affection of Sam, played by Lynn-Holly Johnson of Ice Castles fame. True story: I learned how to play the Ice Castles theme song on the piano in second grade. It’s a horrible song, but I thought by playing it I could win the heart of Dominic Barcelona (it didn’t work). Our three heroes drive an RV across the open highway. It’s the Great American Road Trip, only in Spain. Damon air-conducts to Eine Kleine Nachtmusik—which is not only dreadful driving music, but also the lowest common denominator of classical music. It’s the equivalent of playing “We are Family” at a wedding—and air-conducting to it.
While Damon and Michael try to one-up each other to woo Sam, two scientists in astronaut suits enter Skylab, which, despite its crash landing, is in perfect working condition. Dr. Tracer explains that alien microbes have been released. Once victims are infected, they only have 48 hours to live.
“It’s not a disease…it’s an alien.”
If Werner Herzog and Arnold Schwarzenegger had a baby in Spain who learned English by watching TV, it’d be Dr. Tracer. His matter-of-fact delivery and measured pronunciation soften the crushing blow of his wooden acting. He is a genuine pleasure to listen to, but not watch.
At some point, a man’s face oozes an alien.
With the help of Dr. Tracer, Damon, Michael, and Sam must retrieve the antidote to the infection and escape the town, which will be napalmed in order to contain the aliens. But the larger question is not about aliens or government cover-ups or the existence of life in the universe, but it is this: Who will Sam choose—outgoing prankster Damon or sensitive Michael, who is also a racecar driver?
Clearly Alien Predators was meant to capitalize on the success of Alien—and in fact the creature effects veer deliciously close to a lawsuit. There are plenty of other obvious influences too, including 2001: A Space Odyssey and any movie that features a creepy doll. The gore is squishy, bubbly, and entertainingly gruesome, and the movie could’ve benefited from more of it. Really, there can never be enough gore or aliens. But, director Deran Sarafian didn’t understand this (Alien Predators was his first movie and he eventually went on to direct very successful television shows). Instead, the movie feels more like a hokey rom-com masquerading as a sci-fi horror movie. The dialogue is comatose and trite (“I don’t know what I’d do without him”) and there are goofy scenes that include a ghastly Rod Sterling impression, an even ghastlier Elmer Fudd impression, and a scene where Damon mimes James Cagney’s famous death scene in White Heat. Alien Predators is less Alien and more Some Kind of Wonderful, which doesn’t sound so bad now that I think about it. But in the end, what we really want is actual alien predators doing what alien predators do best—burrowing into a skull and coming out through the mouth. This does not happen in this movie. Still, Alien Predators has its moments and an overall sense of fun.
In high school, we were forced to write 12-page papers and what I’d do is write an 8-page paper and then change the font to Courier New, which is the Hummer of fonts. It is an obvious cheat to lengthen a report about the use of foils in Pride and Prejudice, and Ms. McEvoy called me out on it. Alien Predators knows how to cheat—violence happens off camera, and aliens attack under dim light and heavy stage fog so money could be saved on creature effects and gore clean-up. So essentially what you get is a scene where a guy screams at something on the floor.
For the record, I hated Pride and Prejudice.