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Wavelength is a cool and unique little sci-fi thriller that sadly has faded into obscurity and never gotten a proper DVD, much less Blu-Ray release. It’s atmospheric soundtrack by Tangerine Dream is easier to come by than the movie and hopefully someday this entertaining little flick gets its proper due!
The film tells the story of down-on-his-luck guitarist Bobby (Robert Carradine), who lives in the Hollywood Hills near an abandoned military facility. Bobby’s dog starts acting strangely, barking in the direction of the government owned building and his new artist girlfriend Iris (Cherie Currie), claims to be getting some sort of voices in her head emanating from that very structure. Bobby decides to take Iris and check the old building out with the help of a neighbor (Keenan Wynn) who worked on its construction back in the 40s. Once inside, Bobby and Iris discover, to their horror, that not only is the place filled with personal, but there are three alien visitors being held inside. Apprehended by the military, Bobby is imprisoned, and Iris is used to communicate with the extraterrestrial beings. As much prisoners as the innocent alien travelers, Bobby and Iris plan a daring rescue and escape that makes them and their alien companions, fugitives from a military determined to cover-up their mistakes.
Written and directed by Mark Gray, this low budget film isn’t perfect, but it is a little movie that could, and succeeds far more than it fails…and its failures are small. What makes the story work, years before the similar Starman or The X-Files made them popular, is that it takes two ordinary people we can identify with and thrusts them into a situation in which they’re up against a government conspiracy that the very knowledge of, makes their lives forfeit. The military are totally the bad guys here as they shot down and now have imprisoned these innocent travelers and their ignorant paranoia and fear keeps the conspiracy going. They plan to eventually make sure Bobby and Iris never see daylight again for what they’ve seen…and they have no intention of ever letting the alien beings go, either. Once they escape, we are there rooting for them to get away, every step. Gray works in subtlety here. He gets some nice tension and suspense simply because we feel for the couple and the aliens and are angry at the ignorant jack-booted mentality of their military captors. He never beats us over the head with any aspect of the story and everything from the action to the FX are all simple and subtle and it’s the emotions from within his tale that make the biggest impact. Never trying to make his small film more than it is, is its greatest strength and helps it overcome some of its flaws. Those flaws being some weak dialog, some cliché characters and a few instances of having a boom appear in his shots. Other than that, this is a quiet, but very effective little sci-fi thriller that never seems to have gotten the attention it deserves. It’s not a great movie, but it’s a darn good movie that proves you don’t need a massive budget to do entertaining and thought-provoking science fiction… and The X-Files wasn’t the first to present this type of situation of alien visitation and sinister cover-ups.
The cast is most noteworthy for having ex-Runaway Cherie Currie as one of its leads. Currie seems a bit wooden early on, but as the story gets more intense and requires more of her, she seems to rise to the occasion a bit and does fine enough. The same can be said of Carradine as the guitarist trying to get his career going. A veteran actor already at this point, he doesn’t seem quite comfortable in the role at times, but overall is fine, as his Bobby takes a backseat to Iris as the story progresses. Keenan Wynn does his crotchety old man routine that he can do in his sleep and the rest of the cast are adequate as assorted scientists and villainous military types.
I really like this movie. Sure, it’s pretty low budget and there are no event level scenes or FX, but It’s not that kind of movie. It’s a small and subtle movie about intergalactic travelers who arrive at this planet only to be treated horribly by the inhabitants and two innocent humans who make the mistake of getting in the middle of it. Together they bond to escape the same fate from the same ignorant enemy. It’s the type of story we’ve seen before and have seen many times again, but there is something about the quiet but atmospheric style with which Mark Grey tells his story that makes it work on an emotional level. No better example than a scene where our fugitives take shelter in a church. It’s an effecting scene with minimal dialog. A very enjoyable low budget film that needs a proper release.
Rated 3 (out of 4) alien visitor occupied containment tubes.