I remember years back talking to a friend on the phone in my old apartment. We were yacking about creepy things you shouldn’t yack about if you don’t want to get the creeps. Suddenly all the lights went out and I stood in blackness. The phone spit out some garbled non-language that couldn’t be the voice of my friend and then went dead. I couldn’t see a foot in front of me but I could hear loud multiple foot stomps pounding down the staircase outside my door. “This is it,” I thought. They’re coming for me and this is the end.” How did I forget that this was going to happen eventually?
Then the lights went back on. It was just some citywide blackout. Nothing was happening. There was nobody in the hall. What was all that stomping though? There’s only one apartment above me and the floor-quaking racket I heard sounded like a dozen bulls charging down the stairs. It was nothing to worry about. I called back my friend and joked through the sticky paranoia. The thing I couldn’t shake was how my quickly my mind traveled from alpha to omega and the weird sense that the world disappearing beneath my feet was something inevitable that part of me was secretly resigned to or prepared for. I went to bed that night knowing that with the drop of a hat my sense of security could vanish and that Crazy Town was just a curtain drop away. Maybe I can better explain the episode by comparing it to a terrifying dream that when recounted, sounds terrifically lame.
Anyway the above non-incident returned to my brain while I was watching the 1992 alien abduction miniseries INTRUDERS. Anyone who has seen FIRE IN THE SKY (1993) can tell you just how scary alien abduction can be but this movie has something even more unsettling. I’m talking about faceless dudes who disguise themselves as telephone repairmen (!) and have no problem walking through walls. These guys get under my skin because rather than fly in ships, they just skip through dimensions and probably pal around with the likes of THE MOTHMAN.
I’m just saying if I get abducted, I’d prefer a straight forward U.F.O. deal complete with large-eyed, skinny grey beings over that weird reality warping jive where there are no rules or boundaries and you’re likely to find out your whole existence is fake and part of some experiment and you don’t even have a body and are just a brain in a box somewhere being fed nonsense through an electrode. If something like that is going on, I don’t want to know about it. Furthermore if any extraterrestrial shape-shifting shadow creature out there is thinking about enlightening me with trippy COMMUNION-style mind-fuckery in which I have to talk to a doppelganger of myself wearing a magician’s outfit they should stand warned that I will simply cover my ears with my hands and go “la-la-la”.
Let’s change the subject. INTRUDERS is extra special because it was directed by the undisputed super king of wonderfulness, DAN CURTIS, who enriched all of our lives with such delights as DARK SHADOWS, THE NIGHT STRANGLER, TRILOGY OF TERROR and the traumadelic BURNT OFFERINGS to name a few. INTRUDERS was originally a miniseries, so it’s a little on the lengthy side but what are you in such a rush for anyway? Stars? You want stars? How’s about some RICHARD (THE EVIL) CRENNA as a crow eating smarty-pants, MARE “BEST peanut butter and jelly sandwich that I have had in my entire life” WINNINGHAM as a convincing abductee and MONKEY SHINES’ own JASON BEGHE as a guy who is not a quadriplegic and doesn’t have a monkey nurse that’s in love with him. You also get ALAN AUTRY who played a cop in HOUSE and SUSAN BLAKELY of MY MOM’S A WEREWOLF fame. Remember that one? With RUTH BUZZI? It’s practically TEEN WITCH 2- so good.
Because it takes place in the ancient days of 1992, INTRUDERS is chuck full of psychological mumbo jumbo like hypnotic regression therapy and the theory that folks dream up alien abductions to cloak repressed memories of sexual molestation. Remarkably, it tries to get away with switching gears near the end and painting the entities as good natured and kind even after we have witnessed them raping, stealing babies and shoving painful metal objects up people’s noses for three hours. I’m sorry but nice creatures don’t steal you from your bed, drug you, shove who knows what into you and then dump you like trash thirty miles away from your home, forcing you to do a walk of shame in your pajamas.
INTRUDERS is kind of all over the place but CURTIS knows how to create a dark creep-tastic off-kilter scene when he wants to. There’s one bit that finds MARE’s character remembering an early encounter from her youth. It’s all gauzy and dream like and ends shockingly with a scowling mutant alien hybrid kid turning to face her. It’s alarming as only CURTIS could pull it off (sort of like the ending of the “Bobby” segment of DEAD OF NIGHT) and I stand shocked that nobody has ever sent in a Traumafession for it. No, I wasn’t bowled over by the entire affair, as there’s one too many cliché ridden “open your mind” diatribes but there are at least a half dozen successful scenes that will make your house seem darker than you remember.
Not soon after INVADERS was done I realized that I had to re-watch 1998’s PROGENY. This is a movie directed by the sometimes brilliant BRIAN YUZNA (SOCIETY) and written by his frequent cohort STUART GORDON (RE-ANIMATOR). It seems like most folks hate or dismiss this flick but I can’t resist saluting its colorful freak flag. Due to its subject matter it’s easy to poke fun of but its never not entertaining and that’s good enough for me. I realize normal genre fans will not be equally over the moon over the idea of COMMUNION’s LINDSY CROUSE (!) playing a psychiatrist or THE MUMMY’s ARNOLD VOSLOO rampaging against invisible people in his boxers but certainly THE THING’s WILFRED BRIMLEY as a gynecologist and CHILD’S PLAY’s BRAD DORIF as a nerdy U.F.O expert sweeten the deal.
PROGENY is an alien abduction version of ROSEMARY’S BABY that is a perfect mate to INVADERS as it touches many of the same bases including forced impregnation, baby swiping and shoving metallic objects up people’s noses that self destruct when you remove and attempt to analyze them. It’s far-fetched, cartoony and histrionic (VOSLOO is like RAY MILAND on steroids and that’s a compliment) but let’s give it credit for braving toward gooey uncomfortable places that many a dry alien flick avoids. This is no way as thought provoking as YUZNA’s SOCIETY yet it’s somehow more consistent and feels a little more complete.
Like YUZNA’s INITIATION (aka SNDN 4), it sort of plays like CRONENBERG for dummies and yay on that. YUZNA returns to collaborate with wildly creative make up effects artist SCREAMING MAD GEORGE and that’s good news too. The alien beings depicted here have translucent, white flesh that reminds me of spring rolls and twisty tubular forms that are like ugly balloon animals made from condoms. At one point there is an abduction flashback that contains an awesome giant LOVECRAFT-ian super monster and it’s wonderfully laughable and horrifying at the same time. This may be the sillier side of abduction but its sweet lunacy tastes great after INVADERS.
Let’s do one more! How about a LIFETIME movie called VISITORS OF THE NIGHT from 1995? This one stars everybody’s dream date MARKIE “the mullet” POST, PET SEMATARY’s trustworthy DALE MIDKIFF, PONTYPOOL’s scarecrow- faced STEPHEN McHATTIE and singer of the international smash hit “lollipops & gummy bears” CANDACE CAMERON. This was a semi-facetious watch for me that totally paid off in that it features an evil Christmas tree with impeccably placed glowing eyes and worse, a devious grin (perhaps only myself and anyone crazy enough to trip on acid while watching a MARKIE POST movie will catch this subtle feature).
This is an evil Christmas tree! Please tell me you see the face!
This last slice might be my favorite but only because I watched it the most recently. It’s noteworthy because it concerns not only man vs. alien but mom vs. teen! Sadly it gets super duper schmaltzy toward the end and acts like a LIFETIME dog whistle howling about a mother’s love knowing no bounds. In doing so though, it kind of reveals the key to all three movies and how they’re all really about people feeling powerless and worrying about the fact that they have zero ability to insure the safety of those they love. I’m not saying I don’t believe in U.F.O stuff, just that after watching these three flicks back-to-back ,I wonder if the real fear trying to be expressed is the fear of doctors, hospitals, operations and faceless authoritarians that can snatch you away at any time. I’m going to have to look further into that. Suffice to say all three of these movies involved childhood trauma, lost time and elusive memories of some sort so they are ever so welcome here.
If you’ve been abducted recently or simply like watching other people being abducted while sitting safely on your couch this triple feature is for you! Check ‘em out before they disappear like an alien implant under investigation!