Last week I pointed out that reviewers who describe Brother John as an angel may not have seen the film. But I made the same mistake writing about THE GIFTED ONE (1989) in my first film book — though to be fair, it wasn’t as easy to find a movie back then as in the age of streaming.
I’d described the leading character as half-ET but when I finally watched the film for Alien Visitors it turns out I was wrong: we don’t learn anything definite about lead character Michael’s (Peter Kowanko) origins. What we know is that after one woman’s baby was born dead, a single mother gave Michael up so the doctor (G.W. Bailey) swapped the two infants out. Michael grew up tormented by the incredible burden of being different — superhumanly smart, also possessing healing psi-powers. In the film, scientist John Rhys-Davies discovers Michael is millions of years evolved beyond modern man but by TV science standards that doesn’t rule out mom being an ET. This is an amazingly bland pilot, both in the script and in its leading man; Khyrstine Haje plays Michael’s childhood sweetheart. “I bet you can’t even play baseball.”
Stories of Earth under alien occupation are a small subset of alien invasion films; V (1982) which I’ll get to reviewing soon, is probably the best-known (and best) example. CAPTIVE STATE (2019) has aliens shutting down all of Earth’s electricity until we surrender, then setting up an authoritarian regime with implants for monitoring and tracking and drone strikes for dissenters. The plot concerns two black men, siblings who saw their parents butchered years earlier by the aliens; has the time come for the resistance to counter-attack? John Goodman plays a cop struggling to convince his superiors the threat is real, but does he have his own agenda in play? Interesting ideas but so murky and vague about everyone’s motivation, including the aliens, that it becomes Talking Lamp material fast. “What if the plan was to fail?”
MONSTERS (2010) is set in a world where a crashed probe has once again brought doom down upon us, in this case eggs that have grown into giant tentacled monsters whose territory spreads across the Southwest US and into Mexico. A photographer down south of the border for some monster shots gets ordered to escort his employer’s vacationing daughter safely back to the US, which of course proves harder than expected. Part of the filmmaker’s inspiration was to create a world where, like the zombie movie Fido things have been normalized: nobody’s rushing to nuke the monsters, they’re simply a dangerous invasive species we have to control. The drawback is, this could be a road movie in 1990s Bosnia and have much the same plot; overall I liked it though. “What do you mean —all the trees are infected?”
MONARCH OF THE MOON (2004) is a movie serial pastiche in which the parodic superhero Yellowjacket discover the Axis’ access to superweapons is due to their alliance with the eponymous tyrant, who plans to invade the United States and use our women for breeding stock. This falls kind of between the stools — not an outright parody, but too tongue in cheek to work as a tribute either. And having the female lead completely ineffective is annoying because several serials, such as Manhunt on Mystery Island, had perfectly competent women in them (as I complained over at Atomic Junkshop recently). “Let’s hope we can stop those Nazis before they destroy our entire navy!”
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