KILLER KLOWNS FROM OUTER SPACE (1988) is a one-joke film but the joke works. A necking couple spots a shooting star landing nearby (while I haven’t kept track, this and having something weird briefly appear on radar are staple opening setups). Next thing you know, ET clowns are cocooning the locals with candy-cotton guns, tracking them with balloon-animal bloodhounds, feeding people to shadow puppets, or jumping out of a clown car that you wouldn’t think they could all fit inside. Can the town survive? I got particular pleasure out of one conversation where the characters try to make sense of this (“Maybe they were ancient astronauts and that’s why we have the idea of clowns in our culture.”). Doesn’t give me any deep inside for Alien Visitors but still enjoyable low-budget fun.“I don’t believe in UFOs, but if they exist, we’re inside one.”
K-PAX (2002) aims higher and falls very far short. Kevin Spacey is Prot, the self-proclaimed ET visitor locked up in an asylum where Jeff Bridges tries to restore him to sanity. But Bridges can’t help noticing his patient is rehabilitating the other patients much better than conventional therapy — and while it’s impossible, you don’t suppose he could really be telling the truth, do you? This mix of psychological drama and SF doesn’t work as either, and feels cobbled together from bits of better movies (Fisher King and Equus come to mind). Spacey, as usual, delivers his lines with a Smartest Guy In The Room air, and it doesn’t work here (if he were more frustrated or more — well, anything — there’d be a more interesting conflict). “I have arrived, so my travels are over for the time being.”
COLOSSAL (2016) has an interesting concept (though not one that qualifies for Alien Visitors) but unsatisfying execution. After drunken party girl Anne Hathaway’s boyfriend breaks up with her, she returns to her home town and meets up with her old boyfriend. When a monster goes rampaging through Seoul, Hathaway realizes it’s acting out her inner frustrations; worse, her ex discovers how to do the same trick and threatens to go on a rampage if Hathaway crosses him (“I will crush an entire suburb!”). There’s definitely a good movie buried in this, but it doesn’t come to the surface. It’s also disturbing that the movie seems to care less about the hundreds of dead Koreans than about Hathaway’s personal growth arc. “Who gets a tattoo that says ‘I’m sorry, this won’t happen again.’”
Guillermo del Toro’s THE SHAPE OF WATER (2017) is another one that doesn’t fit the book, though it’s a much superior film. A mute cleaning woman at an early 1960s government lab discovers they’ve captured the Gill Man from Creature from the Black Lagoon and are subjecting him to cruel experiments, plus outright cruelty. Slowly she bonds with the creature, then sets out to help him escape. Despite some jarring brutality in spots, this is very good, particularly in its evocation of 1962. “That’s the password — ‘And the eagle takes the prey.’”
The 2002 SyFy miniseries TAKEN evokes quite a few eras, starting in WW II when a fighter squadron is harassed by foo lights (though they don’t use the term), then following various families across the decades as they’re abducted by ETs and spied on by the government (though one of the families is part of the goverment UFO Watch program). I was initially unimpressed by this but found it picked up near the end; in fairness, that may reflect I wasn’t a little more relaxed for the ending episodes.
The secret behind it all turns out to be that aliens are experimenting in hopes of understanding emotions (“You have so much that we’ve lost.”). The culmination of their work is the human/ET hybrid Allie (Dakota Fanning) who has powers far beyond the aliens. This made me realize how often this happens, for example with super-powered Elizabeth in V. So stuff was learned, even if it was a slog to get there. “Right son — there were no monsters in my generation.”
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