Directed by David Schmoller (Tourist Trap, Puppet Master, Crawlspace), The Unwelcomed is a 1991 sci-fi thriller that isn’t overly heavy with its sci-fi elements, nor is it particularly “thrilling”. You may also find this film under its alternate title of The Arrival, not to be confused with 1996’s The Arrival, which starred Charlie Sheen. Now, while I had never heard of The Unwelcomed before purchasing a copy for review, I was aware of The Arrival, although I do admit to having never watched it under that release title either. If I had watched it, it obviously didn’t leave much of an impression, something that didn’t change much with this viewing.
FUN FACT: The film was also released in some regions as Alienator 2, although it has nothing whatsoever to do with the first Alienator film. Damned alternate titles!
Re-Animator‘s Robert Sampson stars as Max Page, a frail 73-year old man in declining health. After a meteor crashes in the family yard, Max and his grandson watch from a distance as NASA scientists and government agents inspect the debris. When his grandson steps away, an unseen presence burrows through the ground much like one of Tremors‘ Graboids, only smaller, towards the old man. The entity seemingly “gets” him, and he’s soon spasming on the ground as foam drips from his mouth.
He is rushed to the hospital and pronounced dead… only to revive minutes later. Max is brought back to health by a young nurse named Connie (Puppet Master‘s Robin Frates), for whom he quickly develops strong feelings of love. As Max is about to be released back to his family, he is heartbroken to learn that Connie will soon be moving across the country to California in order to start a new job.
Back with his family, Max now appears to be in much better health than before his incident, enough so that he no longer requires the use of a walker. He even looks a little younger than he did before. However, his newfound health comes with the side effect of temporary memory loss, as well as the onset of disturbing violent dreams. One particular dream features images of Max attacking another young woman on a highway late at night, a dream he soon believes to be reality when he hears of the woman’s “disappearance” on the local news broadcast.
After finding the woman’s body hidden on a road near his family’s house, Max is convinced that he has murdered her. He tries to tell his son of what he believes has happened, as well as his fears that he may possibly hurt his family, but the son believes his father to just be exhausted from his recent medical issues. Despite his son’s faith, Max remains convinced.
The next scene opens in a dusty trailer park where police cars have now gathered. We’re informed that 6 months have passed before being introduced to an FBI agent, played by John Saxon (A Nightmare of Elm St., Tenebrae), on the trail of a serial killer targeting younger women. A witness, played by Michael J Pollard (Bonnie and Clyde, Sleepaway Camp III), informs Saxon that a middle-aged man had recently been staying with the victim. He shows Saxon a picture of the man, who just happens to resemble Max, only 20 years younger.
In truth, Max has become something of a “vampire”, draining women of their blood. The women are each chosen for one particular reason that I will choose not to reveal in this review. I will say that it is an element that I do wish had been explored further.
With each new victim, Max grows younger and younger, until the point that he is young enough that another actor (Joseph Culp – Corman’s Fantastic Four, Dream Lover 1986) is forced to take over the role. While Max’s motives are unknown to the FBI (and arguably unknown to Max), his trail of bodies is leading him straight to Connie, the woman that he now loves.
The 1st hour of the film plays more like a suspenseful thriller than a true horror or sci-fi film. Even then, there is still enough going on here to make this somewhat engaging, if not particularly thrilling. However, once Max finally reaches California at around the 1 hour mark, and somehow manages to find Connie with the minimalist of efforts, the film careens headlong in to a sappy, sugary sweet love story. Seriously, I’m getting diabetes just talking about it.
The Unwelcomed completely runs out of steam by the time it reaches its inevitable conclusion, throwing out one last saccharine soaked final moment between our ill-fated intergalactic lovers, before finally ending on a tacked-on attempt to leave the film open for a sequel. Granted, it’s a sequel that never came and that (presumably) nobody asked for.
Despite a number of cameo appearances from the likes of Stuart and Carolyn Purdy-Gordon, as well as a few other directors best known for their work with Charlie Band, (as well as music from Charlie’s brother, Richard) there just isn’t really much to get hyped up about with The Unwelcomed. The film plays it very safe when it comes to scares, gore, or sexuality. Except for a few expletives, which were noticeably edited out in the version that I watched, there isn’t much overly “adult” about The Unwelcomed, which makes it safe for older kids and teens whom will probably be bored by the film.
The Unwelcomed isn’t a “bad” film by any means. While not a “great” film by any means, the second half feels unfocused and even a little rushed, which will probably cause most of the target audience to lose interest.