TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: STRANGE BEHAVIOR (1981)

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STRANGE BEHAVIOR (1981)

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1981 slasher flick has the youth of Galesburg, Illinois being murdered by their peers for no apparent reason. Cop and widower John Brady (Michael Murphy) thinks it has something to do with experiments being conducted at Galesburg Univesity and might link back to a man he’s investigated before, Dr. Le Sange (Arthur Dignam). Not only has Le Sange been dead for years though, but Brady blames him for the death of his wife. Now with his own son, Pete (Dan Shor) in danger, Brady must solve the mystery of why some of his young citizens are being murdered and by their own classmates.

Flick is the directorial debut from Michael Laughlin from a script by Bill Condon. it is atmospheric and has some spooky scenes and while advertising pushed the slasher element, it is equal parts sci-fi as it does deal with mind control experiments years before Disturbing Behavior. There are some gory moments and the kills have impact, but if there is anything that holds this chiller back is it’s pace. Laughlin guides the proceedings with a dreadfully slow pace and it really doesn’t help as, much like his Strange Invaders two years later, it makes this 90+ minute flick feel much longer. That and once we get our big reveal, it’s not really anything we weren’t expecting. Still, it tries to be something a bit different than the slasher flicks of the time and the cinematography by Louis Horvath and music by Tangerine Dream do add a lot of atmosphere.

The cast are fine. Murphy isn’t really all that convincing as the cop type, but he is a suitable working class hero. Dan Shor is likable as Pete, who is lured into the sinister experiments by the need for quick cash. Fiona Lewis makes a fine femme fatale villainess as Dr. Gwen Parkinson, who was Le Sange’s protegeé and is now continuing the experiments. Arthur Dignam is suitably creepy as Le Sange who appears in recorded lectures and Dey Young is feisty and cute as Pete’s love interest and our heroine. Louise Fletcher also appears as a local waitress with eyes for Murphy’s widower cop, who gets pulled into his obsessive investigation.

Overall this is an OK flick that could have been better with a healthier pace and maybe a few red herrings to throw us off the trail we eventually find ourselves on. Obviously there is a reason these experiments are leading to murder and we can pretty much see what is coming before it does. There are some effective moments, the plot is a bit more involved than the slashers of this era and there is some nice atmosphere to make it worth a look. Laughlin would use quite a few cast members again in his Strange Invaders.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1/2 knives.

 

 

 

 

 

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: STRANGE INVADERS (1983)

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STRANGE INVADERS (1983)

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In 1958 a ship from another world lands in Centerville, Illinois and the entire town’s population disappears. Twenty-five years later, entomologist Charles Bigelow (Paul Le Mat) travels to Centerville to find his ex-wife Margaret (Diana Scarwid) who traveled there for the funeral of her mother. When Charles gets there, he finds the citizens don’t seem to like strangers, they’ve never heard of his ex-wife or her mother and he is chased out of town by something that can only be described as otherworldly. But whatever inhabits Centerville has followed him back to NYC and has targeted his young daughter, Elizabeth (Lulu Sylbert). Now Charles teams with a tabloid reporter (Nancy Allen) to try to save his daughter from these beings from another world and whatever purpose they have in store for her.

Fifties alien invasion movie homage is written and directed by Michael Laughlin and does have the feel of an old school sci-fi flick, though is also still very eighties. It’s a bit goofy at times, though that seems deliberate and the FX are delightfully cheesy, which gives it a certain charm. There are some amusing sequences of otherworldly action and Laughlin does capture the flavor of what he is paying homage to. If the film falters in any respect it is in that, much like his Strange Behavior, the flick is very slow paced and feels much longer than it’s 90+ minute running time. Strange Invaders could have used a bit more steam in it’s stride, though wisely plays it straight and doesn’t make an outright joke out of the proceedings, which fondly evokes camp classics like Invaders From Mars and Invasion of the Saucer Men. A fun enough movie that doesn’t quite hit the mark straight on but gets enough of the target to be an entertaining time.

The cast all perform in that fifties sci-fi flick dramatic monotone, on purpose of course. Le Mat makes a fine every-man hero and plays the nerdy scientist type well. Nancy Allen makes a spunky, sexy leading lady as the tabloid reporter who at first scoffs at Bigelow’s tale, but slowly starts to believe him…and fall for him as is tradition with these flicks. Louise Fletcher is fine as a government official that knows more than she’s letting on, though Scarwid is a little unconvincing in her role as ex-wife and extraterrestrial. Maybe she didn’t get the material. There are also appearances by Michael Lerner as a man who years ago encountered the invaders and femme fatale Fiona Lewis and fifties sci-fi flick legend Kenneth Tobey are appropriately campy as aliens in human form.

This homage to the great alien invasion movies of the fifties may not have fired on all cylinders, but did connect enough to be a fun time. It’s both delightfully fifties and nostalgically eighties and is enjoyable even if it does move a little too slowly for it’s own good. Sadly this film flopped at the box office and Michael Laughlin directed one more movie before leaving the director’s chair to focus on writing.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 strange invaders.

 

 

 

 

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