Hello again, Brothers and Sisters of the Pyschotronic Video World! Congratulations are in order for our founder, Wes, and his wife Ash, who have brought a tiny, squirming loaf of bologna sausage into the world, a daughter by the name of Roxie. In wanting to commemorate the occasion, I asked Wes if it’d be alright for me to write this article — most horror sites would run a list of killer kid flicks, but we’re not most horror sites and Wes and I agreed that a list of movies involving slime-drenched extraterrestrial sexual assault and claustrophobic last stands was way, way more appropriate.
Following in the wake of 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY and STAR WARS, ALIEN was one of the films that revitalized science fiction at the box office, and with JAWS, revitalized creature-horror. To say it was influential is like saying that orgasms are pretty fun. As such, it did not take long for filmmakers to begin cashing in on the success of ALIEN. Some of the following films are great; some are terrible; some are well-known; some are obscure even for me. Let’s take a look, shall we?
10) THE TERROR WITHIN (1989)
A very late entry in the subgenre of “ALIEN Ripoffs” this film from Roger Corman’s New World Pictures is…lackluster, at best. Welcome to the Post-Apocalypse, viewers, in this instance brought about by a chemical experiment gone awry. 99% of humanity died instantly; 99% of the survivors turned into bulky, rotten-fleshed, ape-faced ghouls referred to as “Gargoyles” by the tiny handful of unaffected surviving humans. The men are in danger of being mauled by the Gargoyles; women will be raped by the ultra-fertile Gargoyles, resulting in an immediate pregnancy that comes to term in about three days, ending with the snaggle-toothed fetuses clawing their way out of their mothers. Once a Gargoyle gets in to the base and starts stalking the darkened halls, it’s every man, woman and mutant for himself. That’s right, readers, it’s ALIEN meets THE DAY THE WORLD ENDED as only Roger Corman could provide.
9) CONTAMINATION (aka ALIEN CONTAMINATION; 1980)
This one may ring a bell, Brothers and Sisters, as I reviewed it at the very beginning of our series on Video Nasties. Italian director Luigi Cozzi was shown the poster art for ALIEN and told to make a film capitalizing on it. He came back with a film about explosive extraterrestrial eggs being smuggled around the world, drawing more inspiration from Fulci’s ZOMBI 2 than the actual film ALIEN. The eggs, of course, are being laid by a gigantic proboscidean cyclops from Mars that was (get this) smuggled to Earth from Mars by a disillusioned astronaut, and it’s up to that astronaut’s alcoholic ex-crewmate to save the day. Multiple slow-motion shots of exploding torsos (and one detonating rat) landed this flick on the Video Nasties list.
8) LEVIATHAN (1989)
While more immediately inspired by THE ABYSS, LEVIATHAN’s cramped, claustrophobic set design and “monster-via-corruption-of-the-human-body” creature clearly harken back to ALIEN. Peter “Robocop” Weller, Daniel “the crook that wasn’t Joe Pesci in Home Alone” Stern, Ernie “Ghostbusters” Hudson and Richard “Rambo I-III” Crenna all appear in this film, in which an undersea mining survey team stumbles across a scuttled Soviet ship. A flask of vodka from the ship makes its way into a miner’s possession, but wouldn’t you know it? The vodka is contaminated with a genetic experiment of the Soviets, who scuttled the ship when the experiment got out of control. Once the vodka gets drunk, people start mutating and people start dying. A film that cements Weller’s status as a stone-cold badass when he wants to be.
7) Zeiram (1991)
Drawing inspiration from ALIEN, THE TERMINATOR, THE THING, and classic Japanese samurai films, ZEIRAM is a bizarre little film from Japan, in which an indestructible biomechanical alien war machine escapes from captivity and is faced down by a woman with a big damn gun. She tracks Zeiram to Earth and, with the help of two bumbling handy-men, traps Zeiram in a virtual reality world where he can’t bring his full powers to bear. ALIEN’s influence on this film is often overlooked, but some aspects of Zeiram’s design very clearly harken back to Giger’s original design — including a secondary face on the end of a long tentacle, extended to eat its victims with.
ALIEN meets FORBIDDEN PLANET in this offering from Roger Corman’s New World Pictures. A rescue ship full of heavily-armed individuals is dispatched to the phantom planet Morganthus in search of a missing survey ship. They find the missing ship on the dark, windswept planet, as well as a pyramid of obviously-alien construction. Before long, the alien pyramid is manifesting the crew’s worst fears in the flesh with lethal results. Among the cast members are a young Robert Englund, Sid Haig (who plays the role almost mute since he hated the character’s dialogue), Ray Walston and Zalman King. James Cameron did the set-design, and clearly his work here influenced his efforts for 1986’s ALIENS. High point of the film? A woman getting sexed to death by a 2-ton slime-spewing maggot.
5) FORBIDDEN WORLD (aka MUTANT; 1982)
I’m sick of movies entitled simply CREATURE or MUTANT; there’s too many of them, and it makes it hard for me to keep track of. This film, again from Roger Corman’s New World Pictures, was a result of Corman deciding to save some money and reuse some sets from GALAXY OF TERROR. On Planet Xarbia, a genetic experiment has gone out of control and morphed into an eyeless, slobbering, insectile creature covered in a thick black exoskeleton. The ostensible hero of the film, played by Jesse Vint, is less than effective against the monster, which is defeated when one of the scientists trick it into eating a sample of cancer cells. The film frequently segues away from the “rampaging monster” plot to focus on women taking barely-restrained sapphic showers together.
ALIEN meets E.T.: THE EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL this time around, Brothers and Sister, in the meandering British sci-fi horror flick XTRO. A man named Sam disappears one night, abducted by extraterrestrials. Three years later, he’s returned to Earth to reconnect with his son Tony…and pump the babysitter full of jellied alien DNA. Sam’s presence sets off a great deal of familial drama and conflict, and triggers some sort of telepathic revolution in Tony, who begins bringing his toys to life and sending them on missions of murder. The film ends with Sam sloughing off his human skin and escorting Tony, who has begun to slough as well, into space. It spawned two unrelated sequels.
3) INSEMINOID (aka HORROR PLANET; 1981)
An archaeological expedition on a barren, distant planet, excavating the buried remains of a long-dead alien civilization, is marred when Sandy is raped by an alien monster and pumped full of ET Baby Batter. She’s not just knocked up — she’s going to have a twin pair of bouncing bug-eyed monsterlings, which establish a psychic (and psychotic) link with their mother. This link grants Sandy superhuman strength, an overwhelming desire to protect her unborn children at any cost, and a raging taste for tasty, tasty human flesh. Her former colleagues are forced to decide between trying to save her and trying to save themselves.
2) PREDATOR (1987)
Say it with me now: “GET TO DA CHOPPA!” Largely a blend of 1985’s COMMANDO and a joking idea to pit Rambo against an alien boxer for RAMBO IV, PREDATOR nevertheless follows a familiar formula: A group of individuals in an isolated location (in this case, the Central American jungle) are beset by an alien creature that picks them off one at a time and which their weapons are effectively useless against. The twist here is that the extraterrestrial is a sentient being, representative of a technologically-advanced culture, instead of an instinct-driven animal creature. Cast includes Ahnuhld, Bill Duke, Carl Weathers, Jesse Ventura and Kevin Peter Hall as the titular Predator. Stan Winston handled the Predator suit design.
Ah, John Carpenter’s THE THING. One of the few movies I’ll describe as “perfect.” While, yes, a remake of 1951’s THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD and an adaptation of John W. Campbell’s 1938 novella “Who Goes There?”, you cannot deny that the success of ALIEN helped this film find financing, and again, it’s a story of a group of humans in an isolated, claustrophobic, cut-off environment forced to contend with an indestructible alien presence. While the film largely focuses on the paranoia inherent in a shape-shifting alien and the inability to tell who’s been replaced, the film is also noteworthy for its chunkblower special effects courtesy Rob Bottin, who was only 22 at the time he did this film. Makes me feel like I’m wasting my life, that’s for damn sure…
Alright readers, that’s it for me this time around. Please be sure to send your congratulations and well-wishes to Wes and Ash on their expanded family, either in the comments, on the Facebook page, or via email. Until next time, Brothers and Sisters of the Psychotronic Video World!
Tags: alien, arnold schwarzenegger, Contamination, Forbidden Zone, Galaxy of Terror, Horror Planet, Inseminoid, James Cameron, John Carpenter, Kurt Russell, Leviathan, Luigi Cozzi, Peter Weller, Predator, Rob Bottin, roger corman, Stan Winston, The Blood Sprayer, The Terror Within, The Thing, Xtro, Zeiram