Invasion of the Alien Snatchers
It seemed like a good idea to watch several Alien rip-offs in one weekend.
There was some amiable peer encouragement to do this, too. Nathan Shumate, who nowadays runs the Cold Fusion Video website, led the charge as moderator of the B-Movie Mailing List. You can see the results of his weekend in his write-ups. We also have a few backstory notes here at B-Notes.
I, like other participants that weekend, selected a different set of movies. I watched them all in one day. Over the course of that day, certain conventions were understandably common among these movies. A glossary became obvious.
So without further ado, on with the shows:
Directed by Steve Latshaw
Let's say someone on a budget wants to do Alien and there's no freely available technical or industrial facility for some human vs. monster hide-and-go-seek. They can't make the movie, right? Wrong.
Plot - While preparing to land a garage sale space shuttle, an astronaut realizes some aliens spores are eating into the equipment and controls. Some of the stuff gets on him. It causes his face to digitally morph into what looks like an angry, bearded crab.
The shuttle dives into swampy Florida. Swamp guy and girl see the passing, flaming shuttle overhead and make a wish on it. Later, they are visited by a team of investigators who say they're on an archeological search. The team leader Ashes the couple, and they've got a couple of Parker/Bretts. They hire swamp guy as their guide.
The searchers find the shuttle. It's covered with some goopy orange stuff that'll turn people into fiddler crabs. Nah, but it has infected an armadillo puppet that munches on one of the team. Later, the victim Pulls a Kane when a Little Lad shaped like a zucchini shoots out of his neck.
Eventually, they run into the Tall Chap and burn down the shack he's in.
Note - Depending on your mood, may fall into the "so bad, it's good" category.
See Also - First Man into Space (1959)
Moral - In Orlando, no one notices if you scream.
Directed by Fred Gallo
OK, now someone wants to do both Alien and Aliens, but they can't afford several actors for marines.
Elsewhere, space hero Krieger (Marc Singer) and his Bishop sidekick beat up what looks like space shoot-'em-up footage from Battle Beyond the Stars (1980) and answer a distress call from Phaebon. When they arrive, some project leaders try to Ash them into leaving. False alarm. The project? They're working on a cure for a disease by creating another disease that will kill it. Unfortunately, what they currently have can be killed by the disease they're trying to cure.
Before he goes, one of the staff leans too close to The Egg and a Jack in the Box jumps down her throat. Later, she Pulls a Kane when a Chest Buster pops out of her abdomen. The resulting Little Lad, which looks like a vicious dragon puppet, jumps into the vents. The search is on, and the Little Lad munches on a Parker/Brett. Later, it turns into a Queen and munches on another Parker/Brett. The Queen gets outside, and Krieger has to chase it around LV426-land.
Finally, the project leader stops Ashing and explains that he has the disease they were trying to cure. Oh, and their plan for a disease-killing cure included several other fatal diseases. So what they got was a single combined personification of every other known fatal disease, and that's what hatched out of The Egg. So they shoot up the Queen with some of the project leader's fatal blood, and it falls down dead. But wait, there's more. The Queen gets a Chest Buster and two Little Lads jump out. The two human survivors inoculate 'em to death.
Notes - The robotic sidekick has the same attitude as Sherman in Millennium (1989). Dead Space was a remake of another Alien rip-off; therefore, this one is a second-generation copy. Also, check out those pistols that make "bang bang" noises when they're not really firing. Thank you, sound effects.
Moral - In space, no one can hear your career scream.
Directed by William Malone
Later, a team lead by an Asher is sent there to find out what happened to another group. They arrive at Titan and find the other ship. Their ship lands gracefully, but the ground under it gives way, disabling their ship when it crashes a few feet lower. They cross LV426-land to the other ship, where the Tall Chap grabs a Parker/Brett and runs off with her.
The expedition returns to their ship and finds the Newtral Hans (Klaus Kinski) lurking about. He explains that the Tall Chap was part of someone's critter collection, and it uses the dead as puppets. And while they're keeping a close watch on Hans, the female Parker/Brett that was grabbed earlier visits a male Parker/Brett. He follows her outside. She jams a Face Hugger into his head.
After a few more messy encounters plus an homage to The Thing from Another World (1951), the Tall Chap grabs one of the crew and makes her a Joneser. Finally, they stick a bomb onto the Tall Chap and blow it up.
Note - Space suits look like they were borrowed from 2001 and Moon Zero Two.
Moral - In space, no one remembers your Nosferatu (1979).
Directed and Written by Glenn Takakjian
OK, how about a guy on our world who turns into a Tall Chap?
Plot - At the high tech Talos Corporation, an alarm sounds, and a security guard gets munched. The head of the group calls a meeting with two pro hitters and one of his scientists. The scientist explains through flashbacks how another scientist was infected with an alien organism. They were going to cure him with a nuclear accelerator when he Pulled a Kane. The resulting Tall Chap can shoot Jack in the Boxes and is on the loose in the facility.
Meanwhile, the security guard's two daughters and one of their boyfriends figure the company has been Ashing them. They sneak into the Talos building and are trapped when the automated security system shuts off sections of the building. Now the youngsters must avoid the pro hitters and the free roaming Tall Chap.
Note - Monsterwise, it's more like John Carpenter's The Thing. This is in no way a great film, but Takakjian has fun with this. Surprisingly entertaining.
Moral - In labs, no one can hear you mutate.
Directed by D. J. Webster
How about if the Tall Chap was the Devil?
Plot - Spacecore 1 (not the more likely Spacecorps 1) is en route to find and repair an orbital nuclear missile launcher when it takes several major malfunctions in its electronics. While the crew tries to isolate and repair the damage, an obsolete space shuttle pulls up along side them. And while investigating the shuttle, they find a dead crewman that looks like he's had a triangular Chest Buster. Oh, and this old space shuttle was last seen going to the dark side of the Moon.
While other weird things happen, the dead crewman uses his Chest Buster to grab another crewman. Someone uses the onboard Mother to deduce (1) the spot on the moon where the old space shuttle had previously vanished was in an upward extrapolation from the Bermuda Triangle, (2) Spacecore 1 is currently inside this extrapolation, and (3) they are about to become disappearance number six hundred, three score, and six. Since they have problems getting away, the eventual lone survivor chooses death over damnation and blows up the ship.
Notes - Some of the worst science. Contemporary (back then) space shuttle to the moon? Won't work. An area on the moon's dark side faces Earth? Forget it. There's more, but why bother?
See Also - Satan's Triangle (1975)
Moral - In space, no one can hear you curse.
Directed by David DeCoteau
Maybe the Tall Chap would be more comfortable at the end of civilization.
Plot - In the post apocalyptic world of 1998, a group of military deserters enter an abandoned research facility to escape an acid rainstorm (and the resulting LV426-land). While making themselves at home, one of them meets a Tall Chap with mandibles, but doesn't tell the others. The next morning at breakfast, he starts to Pull a Kane, but just dies instead. The rest of the group tries to solve the mystery of the death and run into some plush toy giant rats and the Tall Chap. In the big showdown, the last surviving member kills the Tall Chap, but it gets a Chest Buster. The resultant Little Lad looks like the baby from It's Alive (1974).
Notes - Not even a shower scene with Linnea Quigley (who was also the executive producer) is going to save this one. Naming the female characters Kate and Bianca does not make this The Taming of the Shrew (although a few Killer Shrews might've helped).
Moral - In the future, no one's around to notice you screaming.
Directed and Written by J. S. Cardone
Perhaps the Tall Chap is just a bad dream.
Plot - An investigator for NASA arrives at the Jackass Flats Proving Grounds, which is somewhere in the middle of nowhere. Deep underground, researchers are experimenting with electronically induced deep sleep, which might be useful on very long missions. The research team, including Dr. Erhardt (Louise Fletcher), tries to Ash the investigator. He sticks around and learns the researchers have discovered that extended deep sleep can open passages to other dimensions.
Unfortunately, a shape-shifting Tall Chap has come through one of these openings, and the exits from the facility have been sealed shut by an automated mechanism. (C.f. The Andromeda Strain (1971).) After one of the lab monkeys goes Joneser, the occasional Parker/Brett gets munched.
Notes - Sufficiently unlike Alien to escape most of the weaknesses assumed by most of the comparisons. Besides, it's nice to see Louise Fletcher in clothes that don't make her look like a giant egg roll.
See Also - From Beyond (1986)
Moral - In sleep, no one can hear you dream.
Directed by George Elanjian Jr.
Finally, let's shift our attention away from the fodder of the field to the corporate types that tend to put them there.
Plot - At Norton Cyberdyne, a corporate bad guy lets loose a Sleestack lookin' Tall Chap to kill both the director of public relations and a scientist. The scientist's daughter and a writer try to find out what happened, but they are Ashed.
Elsewhere, it's revealed that the Tall Chap is a synthetic genetic organism (Syngenor). A prototype for a non-human soldier, it uses a light show variation on the Tongue Lashing to drain spinal fluid for food, and it lays the occasional Egg. Also, the corporate bad guy set up the attacks to discredit the head of Norton Cyberdyne.
The writer and the girl must infiltrate the facility for these answers and the proof. Meanwhile, several Tall Chaps are milling about in the basement, and the head of Norton Cyberdyne (who's played like a berserk Dennis Hopper clone) goes way over the edge. By the end, everyone except the writer and the girl gets munched, or "terminated" by the boss, or zapped by a funky ray gun that just happened to be lying around, or drenched with water. (Did I forget to mention that Syngenors are allergic to water? Silly me….)
Notes - The monsters weren't the only ones to lay an egg. Slow, plodding unheralded sequel to Scared to Death (1980). Aside from the monster story, the subplot about infighting among the corporate weenies also makes this a long-winded variant of RoboCop and Max Headroom.
Moral - In the boardroom, no one can hear you scheme.
Based on material originally submitted to the B-Movie Mailing List
on 6 September 1999.