Purchase Alien Predators [VHS] on VHS from Amazon
(Purchase Falling, The on DVD from Amazon)
That’s right. On VHS!!
I frequented quite a few different video stores in my many moves as a kid. If I stayed in one place long enough, sometimes the staff would remember my name. And I don’t mean “the weird kid that spends an hour looking at every case on the shelves, but only rents one movie”. Just as often, I’ve forgotten the name of the store. That would be the case for the store where I first rented Alien Predators.
This was not some movie that I remembered fondly. As a matter of fact, I barely remembered it at all. I knew that I liked the poster, but that wasn’t what made Alien Predators stand out. What made it memorable was that I NEVER saw it again. Anywhere. Not at other video stores. Not on cable. Nowhere. If I’m correct, this film has still never seen a US DVD release. Can’t speak for the rest of the world. (Update: 2 months to the day after this 1st posted, the movie was released via DVD-R by MGM under the alternate title of “The Falling“.)
The film was written, produced, & directed by Deran Sarafian. Sarafian has had a fairly successful career directing and producing quite a few popular television series. He also directed the films Interzone, To Die For, Terminal Velocity, & Death Warrant (starring JCVD). However, he may be best known to horror fans as the star of Lucio Fulci’s Zombi 3. Really, it’s okay if you didn’t know that.
Sarafian in Zombi 3. He’s the one driving.
Filmed in 1984 as “The Falling“, the film was released to video in 1987 under its new title. This was obviously a “cash-in” on the popularity of the 2 biggest horror/sci-fi releases of the time. I do not know if it was a successful strategy, but they had to recoup what they could as the production was reported to have gone significantly over budget.
In 1973, NASA launched the space station Skylab. It’s objective: to house classified experiments that could not be performed on Earth. No, that’s doesn’t sound sketchy at all. In 1979, Skylab’s orbit decayed and it crashed back to Earth. At least that’s what the words on the screen tell me.
The film opens on the remains of Skylab, somewhere in a desert near Madrid. The crash has left a fiery trench cut through the ground, the wreckage still burning at the end. The music starts turning ominous as a helicopter lands. 4 men in contamination suits get out and approach the wreckage. (In actuality, Skylab landed in Australia.)
Things get a little confusing here with time. Skylab crashed in 1979. While the film never says when it is set, it appears to be the early/mid eighties (when the film was made). If this is indeed the case, I am curious as to why it took so long to find the wreckage. I would think that classified experiments are something you wouldn’t want getting into in the wrong hands. Or heads. However, I’m more curious as to why the wreckage is still on fire after all these years. Maybe this is that “Eternal Flame” that the Bangles were talking about.
In a nearby field, a cow wanders off into the sunset, finally arriving in a city at night. It dies in the middle of a road. 2 dogs approach and start eating it. It’s actually a pretty nasty little scene with the mutts ripping and tearing at what appears to be a real carcass. The sound of the chewing and the flesh tearing makes the scene a little more gruesome. Something living inside the cow lashes out, grabbing one of the dogs. It pulls the dog into the cow’s body and we can hear it being eaten.
It’s time to meet our characters, a group of friends driving an RV through the countryside of Madrid. Michael (Martin Hewitt – Killer Party, Out of Control) is falling asleep at the wheel, while Damon (Dennis Christopher – Fade To Black, Stephen King’s It) is rocking out to classical music, air-conducting and errthang. Along for the ride is their friend, and Michael’s future love interest, Sam (Lynn-Holly Johnson – For Your Eyes Only, The Watcher In The Woods). It’s also worth noting that they are towing a dune buggy. Unnecessary additions such as this MAY have a played a part in the film’s budget issues. Possibly.
They drive up on the dead cow and surviving dog, losing control of the vehicle as they swerve to miss the animals. Sam talks Michael into walking back to check on the dog. Seems that none of them saw the much larger dead cow in the road. Michael doesn’t find either dog or cow. Instead, he finds a gooey puddle that used to be “cow”. Michael slips and falls in it after hearing a noise that the audience now knows to be the creature. He’s scared again a few seconds later when Damon grabs him from behind. They both hear the noise again and, after some screaming, run back to the RV and drive off.
They drive into town. Sam carries on about how quaint the town is, and how she’s so happy to be here. Just then, someone throws a beer bottle at the RV’s windshield. This will be a running gag throughout the movie. Not a particularly funny one, but there nevertheless. This is one of the film’s attempts at setting itself up as your standard 80’s horror/comedy, but none of these attempts really work.
They stop and spend the night at a campground. The next morning, they meet an Indian couple and their young daughter. In another of the film’s “meh” attempts at humor, the husband tries to relate to the group by rattling off some American clichés and slogans. The scene comes off feeling a little racially insensitive, but it’s not that funny as far as racist humor goes.
The film cuts to a small restaurant. A waitress carries a plate containing 2 Tylenols and a pack of Alka-Seltzer to a bearded man sitting at a table. I don’t know what kind of restaurant this is, but I hope they serve a Robitussin smoothie. An older man carrying a metal case enters. We’ll just call him “the Doctor”. We’ll call the other guy “the Captain” (minus Tennille). The Captain blames the Doctor for some experiment that’s gone wrong. I wonder what that could be.
As the 2 men walk out of the restaurant, the three friends are walking in. The Captain bumps into Sam, knocking her down. He continues walking on, without apologizing. Damon makes some threats to kick the Captain’s ass before speeding off in the dune buggy. I personally had difficulty believing Christopher in this role. I can see him as the smart ass, but not as the tough guy. That would probably explain why he’s generally type-cast as the opposite.
The Captain takes the Doctor back to a very shady looking motel. There, he shows the Doctor the body of a Lieutenant Greene. The Lt. was sent here to discover why communications with Skylab had stopped. I would assume that smashing into the ground after falling from outer-friggin-space would play a part, but there are procedures and stuff. Meanwhile, the Captain was sent here to see what had happened after communication had stopped with Greene.
The side of Greene’s head is now swollen and distorted. Something is moving in the massive growth on the side of Greene’s throat. Doc slices it opens with a scalpel and blood spurts out onto the Captain. The wound continues to ooze and bubble while the Captain sarcastically remarks about the Doctor having this situation “under control”.
Back at the restaurant, Sam & Michael deal with rude service from the creepy waitress. Michael tries to tell Sam about his feelings for her, but is interrupted when Damon returns. Damon tells them about a weird occurrence he had at an auto shop in town. The waitress returns. Her hair is now frizzed out and blood is trickling from her nose.
The Doctor and the Captain enter an old secluded fort, now used as a secret NASA facility. The facility appears to have been deserted in a hurry. They take the elevator to the bottom floor and there enter another bizarre looking structure. Here they find a hatch door that has been left open. They climb down the ladder into some sort of mist-covered containment unit. A canister is found opened on the ground. It’s then explained that microbes were taken from the moon during the Apollo 14 mission. These microbes were then injected into animals placed on Skylab. This resulted in an alien species growing inside of the animals.
Greene was exposed to these microbes, resulting in his current condition. The Captain was also exposed to the microbes when Greene’s neck gravy splattered on him. He gives the Doctor a speech about not knowing what he’s caused, and then blows his brains out. The Doctor leaves, but does not close the hatch behind him. The creature growing inside of the Captain can be heard bursting from the body below.
Back at the RV, Sam takes offense at Damon’s blowjob joke and storms out. While she’s out driving around, the Doctor pulls up along side of her. He tells her that she may be in danger and asks how long she’s been in town. Sam thinks it’s a pick-up line and drives off. Moments later, the Doctor is rear-ended by another vehicle, pushing him through a clay fence into someone’s yard.
Sam drives to a small market, empty of people. There she is cornered by someone wearing a fairly creepy mask. She tries to run outside, but a truck is waiting just outside the door, revving its engine at her. The truck tries to run her down, but she makes it back to the buggy. However, the Doctor is there waiting for her. He pulls out a gun and orders her to drive. He tells Sam that everyone in the town (including her and her friends) is now infected, but that there’s still time to find a cure. First, he needs to find a phone in order to contact NASA. Somehow, the guys are able to hear the entire conversation on the CB radio in the RV. An explanation for “how?” is given, but I’m not buying it.
Damon attempts to get help from the Indian family, but returns puking. We get a nicely done scene when Michael goes to look for himself. The camera slowly zooms in on a tricycle and the daughter’s doll. The bike wheel turns by itself and the doll introduces itself as Talking Tina, a Twilight Zone reference. Suddenly, the body of the young girl falls into the shot, her face blown open.
The guys arrive at the hotel. The Doctor informs them that the alien will grow in size, eventually bursting out of their bodies after 48 hours of incubation. The creature can also control thoughts and actions before freeing itself, which is why the citizens of the town have barricaded the bridges to prevent our heroes from leaving town and warning others. He can indeed make an antivirus. He’ll just need the canister that held the microbes. Ya know, the same canister that he left at the NASA facility that he was at earlier? The one that he should have taken with him from the beginning since he knew that people wouldn’t have much time once infected?
Michael volunteers to return to the facility for the canister. Meanwhile, the Doctor will use the RV as his lab to start the process of making the antivirus. For whatever reason, the RV has been crashed through the side of a house. I’m not sure this has any real advantages as they aren’t exactly hidden. Sam and Damon just kinda sit around.
From this point on, you get a sappy love story, car chases, explosions, more car chases, and some more “ho-hum” attempts at humor. What you don’t get is much “alien”. Or “predator”. When you finally do get a face-bursting alien at the end of the film, the “burst” is edited too quickly to give you much of a look at the effect. The bloody, gaping hole left behind is pretty impressive though. However, it’s all overshadowed by the fact that the creature is just not well conceived, coming off looking like some blood-splattered spider puppet.
Alien Predators isn’t a bad movie. Well, it is, but it’s not THAT bad. It’s better than Alien Vs Predator, even if that isn’t much of a compliment. However, it’s just too riddled with massive gaps in reason. As in, “what was the reason we wasted time on a yawner car chase involving a Fiat?”. It’s biggest crime, however, is making you wait till the very end to reveal its creature, only to deliver a lackluster payoff.