I think I was the exact wrong age to appreciate INVADERS FROM MARS when it crashed into theaters. I was too old to take it seriously and too young to take it humorously. Now that I’m in my introspective, open-minded post-prime you’d think I ‘d be able to rediscover it as a diamond in the rough but nah, same as ever, my patented me-likey meter still reads “not so much.” Yep, I’m saying my TOBE HOOPER love train jumps a smidge off the track with INVADERS FROM MARS but that’s O.K. What’s a romance without a splash of apathy?
On paper we’re made for each other, INVADERS, based on the 1953 classic of the same title, is basically a kid’s eye view of INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS (the original INVADERS actually predates SNATCHERS.) The material can’t help but capture a specific and crucial time in any adolescent’s life when they begin questioning the motives of their parents and start forming their own perceptions of the world. If you can find a decent copy of it (good luck with that) the original is a trippy mind-bending maze of forced perspectives that functions like a pint-sized, paranoid WIZARD OF OZ. There may be some movies that shouldn’t be remade but this isn’t one of them. Every generation deserves their very own INVADERS FROM MARS.
HOOPER gets some important things right in his re-do. He’s able to modernize the tale without completely evaporating the previous take’s naiveté and who knows better how to collide the everyday with the bizarre? We’re invited into a picturesque home with a cartoon picket fence and doesn’t that hilly pathway in the backyard look like it leads directly to Munchkin land? It’s a hokey patchwork paradise but no worries, we’re dealing with a remake of a fifties film so the cardboard ideal makes sense. Some of the visuals really do chime and reverberate. I love how HOOPER transforms a simple window in a child’s bedroom into a portal into another world, that’s some good stuff. So where does the crystal ball get dropped?
What I like about the HOOPER is his looseness but yep, that’s his downfall too. The second half of INVADERS is as slack as a wet noodle. Plus, I can’t believe I’m saying this about the guy who directed THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE, but I think he can be too lenient with his performers. Was he afraid to ask for a second take from this bunch?
TIMOTHY BOTTOMS and LOUISE FLETCHER get it right the first time but some of the other apparently on the D.L. thespians here need discipline! I appreciate that HUNTER CARSON is not your typical precocious Hollywood imp but sometimes he sounds like he’s reading the back of a cereal box. Furthermore, like any self-respecting horror fan I’ve saved room for KAREN BLACK in my last will and testament but in my opinion she is miscast here. She’s too transtasticly fierce to pull off a fumbling schoolmarm/nurse. Is it too late for her and LARAINE NEWMAN who plays the kid’s mom to switch roles?
What’s that you say Aunt John? It IS too late for that? 24 years too late in fact? Fine, it was just a suggestion. A suggestion that made absolute sense considering BLACK is CARSON’s real life mommy and that she can play creepy better than nearly anyone but hey, who listens to me? What do I know?
All right, enough with the negative. I didn’t start writing because I needed to find a new way to bitch (…or did I?) INVADERS FROM MARS is fun. Not terribly fun but fun enough. My eyes glaze over a bit when the military gets involved but that’s not exclusive to this movie. I only enjoy the military in movies when they are fighting giant ants. I think this movie is worthwhile just for LOUISE FLETCHER really. She doesn’t need to steal scenes, people just hand them over to her and then thank her for the privilege of being robbed.
I’m thinking there’s plenty out there who get warm fuzzy nostalgia vapors over INVADERS and I don’t begrudge them that in the slightest. Its got its fair share of fumbled opportunities and foul balls but it’s a kid’s movie that’s willing to get dark and twisted and that is always welcome here. I might suggest watching RETURN TO OZ instead but I used to make my Han Solo and Princess Leia action figures get married (with Chewie as the best man) so you might want to ask somebody cooler than me.
Wait, wait, in the words of CURT COBAIN, I have a new complaint. Nice job on the Martian monsters recently departed and forever will be missed STAN WINSTON, but it’s painfully obvious that you made exactly and only two (not counting the leader-brain). They keep dying and reappearing but you only ever see two at a time! You and TOBE couldn’t get together and figure out something with split screens or blue screens or miniatures or something? How about a mirror? A simple mirror would have worked. Two does not seem like very many monster costumes to me. I think there were at least three Sleestak suits in LAND OF THE LOST. I guess that’s probably the least of INVADERS problems but I’m just saying…
You know what? The sand whirlpool thing works better in the original and that’s not really acceptable either…
So, INVADERS FROM MARS is not my favorite HOOPER movie by a long shot but it’ll do in a pinch. Like a pop-tent without a pole I suppose you can squirm in there to get out of the rain if you have to, but a little more ingenuity and whip cracking would have made a universe of difference. It’s starts well and I admire its intentions, but I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I went from happy to nappy before the end and I mean the FINAL end because there are like, three endings. Yes, this movie has more endings than it does monster costumes and that’s never a good idea. Still, LOUISE FLETCHER, she undeniably owns.