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31 films: #30 Invaders from Mars-1986- Review

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On some levels, you could argue that this is not a horror film, more so a sci fi instead. For me though, it was a source of trauma, after viewing it in 1987, when I was only 9 years old. It was the source of nightmares for a long time during my childhood, the ending having a massive impact on me. So how does it hold up to me now, at 35 and completely desensitized?

This was Tobe Hooper’s entry into the late 1980s sci fi and horror remakes, around same time frame as the Blob and the Fly, but slightly after The Thing. The original was a 1950s classic, and had pretty good effects for it’s time.

The story is pretty standard, a kid sees a UFO land and no one believes him, people around him begin acting out of character but still no one else seems to notice and no one believes him yet again. People keep going for a walk, over the hill, and then the changes start. It’s not hard to figure out why of course.

This film retains a fair bit of the dreamy, 1950’s quality, with an almost nostalgic type of look, although was taking place within the same timeframe in which it was made. There is a certain innocence to the feel of it initially, which evolves into almost paranoia. It definitely shows a lot of respect to it’s source, and makes a decent hybrid of sorts out of it. It feels very much like a kids horror movie, and nicely draws you into it, especially during the scene when the kids mother is taken to the hill by his father.

Another thing that really appealed to me was the nostalgic value of the 1980s household, but that can’t count, since it is unintentional. For me though, it was nice again, being taken back to better places and times. The lead is about the same age as I was when this was made too, so I can see why this effected me so badly.
Since I already knew the ending, it lost some impact, but it still works good for this film. Karen Black is good as always, as a sympathetic, school nurse, whom tries her best to help the boy and actually listens to him, unlike anyone else. The aliens are aware they are on to them and pursue them, until they meet up with the army.

Effects wise, they are honestly a little dated, but for the time, were pretty impressive. The alien layer is vast and impressive in scale, and filled with great atmosphere. Some of the creature designs are laughable, but it’s a remake of a 50s B movie, so what do you expect. There are some great military effects, and the climatic battle is great.

Sure, in terms of it’s ilk, The 1978 remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers is far superior, but this is a less intense, more fun substitute. For the record, the Body Snatchers remakes ending, is one of very few things that ever spoke me on film, since I matured. Again, though, although I recently bought it, I have not seen it since my mid teens.

RATING: B+(75%)

PROS: A great surreal almost dream like quality to it, has a decent pace, respects it’s source, some good bits of tension.

CONS: Some creature design is really silly, some moments are slightly cartoonish.


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