Outstanding sets and expert-level special effects costumes are a far cry from Hooper’s earlier DIY filmmaking and a ton of fun.
It’s Martians versus a young boy as they invade a small town and control its inhabitants. Let’s dig into 1986’s INVADERS FROM MARS, directed by Tobe Hooper!
As I See It
Perhaps a late-eighties Tobe Hooper had added a bunch of whimsy to his repertoire to balance out the scales of his earlier, macabre, brutal body of work. Released the same year and by the same production company (Cannon Films) as The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, there is tons of sense of humor evident throughout the movie.
I didn’t look up much about the film before I watched it. As we got deeper and the creatures got bigger and gooier, I had to stop and see who did the special effects work. None other than Stan Winston. Reportedly he was working on this film at the same time as James Cameron’s follow-up to the Ridley Scott classic, Aliens.
The puppetry is somewhere between Jim Henson’s Dark Crystal and Greg Beeman’s Mom and Dad Save the World. The big bad Martian looks strikingly identical to a supervillain who would make an animated appearance just a couple of short years later, Krang from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. It’s an undeniable carbon copy.
It’s easy to see why this was a bomb in its time, but it aged like fine wine. And I don’t mean that in an ironic or contrarian way. It’s a really fun and light film.
The late Karen Black (Linda) will always be my Mother Firefly (House of 1000 Corpses).
Laraine Newman’s (Ellen Gardner) standout role in my eyes is as John Ritter’s potential suitor, Lawanda, in Problem Child 2.
Timothy Bottoms (George Gardner) was a darling of seventies action and drama films and most recently starred in Frank Sabatella’s vampire flick The Shed.
James Karen (General Wilson) played Frank in my favorite film of all time, Return of the Living Dead.
Louise Fletcher (Mrs. McKeltch) played the iconic Nurse Ratched in Milos Forman’s film adaptation of the Ken Kesey novel, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.
Of Gratuitous Nature
Making a seasoned actor like Louise Fletcher swallow a frog, or pretend to, was probably nerve-wracking. But she took it like a champ, and it’s one of the best parts of the film.
The sets, lighting, special effects makeup, and creature performances are all worth the price of admission.
Ripe for a Remake
You’d never catch the whimsy without seeming pretentious.
No progeny to report.
Where to Watch
Shout Factory released a Blu-Ray in 2015. You can stream it on Tubi and Pluto TV.