Foes is a 1977 “alien encounter” film written and directed by John Coats, who also co-stars in the film. Coats also handled the visual effects for this film. While Foes would prove to be his only directorial effort, Coats (sometimes credited as John Coates) would go on to have a long career as a visual effects artist on a vast array of well known films, such as Weird Al Yankovic’s UHF (one of the funniest movies ever), Wes Craven’s New Nightmare, and 2 of the 3 Austin Powers movies.
As I’ve previously mentioned more than a few times on this site, my love for horror originally started as a love for science fiction. Growing up on a steady diet of Tom Baker’s “Doctor”, Star Trek reruns (long before TNG was a “thing”), and the original Star Wars trilogy, I was enamored and captivated by each new alien species I was introduced to. This, in turn, lead to a fascination with monsters, which lead to….. Well, you can assume the rest.
This new fondness for aliens also created an early obsession with reading as much as I could about UFO sightings, alien encounters, and abductions. Thanks to the box-office successes of Close Encounters of the Third Kind in 1977, Alien in 1979, and E.T. in 1982, extraterrestrials (whether malevolent or benevolent) weren’t leaving the public consciousness any time soon. This provided young, impressionable me (and all of you as well) with endless films and books dealing with the subject to consume.
Foes was one of those films that I had first heard about sometime in the early 1980s. I believe I first discovered the film while digging through the latest issue of TV Guide. I was pretty OCD about reading the ENTIRE TV Guide when we received each new issue, so I knew when EVERYTHING was on and on which station/channel!. So, I feel fairly certain that I saw airings of Foes listed in those pages many times, and 6 or 7-year old me couldn’t wait to watch this film!
Unfortunately, that viewing never happened. I usually didn’t receive whatever station it was airing on or it was showing well after I had been put to bed for the night.
While I can’t sit here and tell you that Foes stayed at the forefront of my thoughts for years to come, it was most certainly a film that would make me say, “Oh, yeah! I remember wanting to watch that when I was a kid.”, whenever I read about it or heard it mentioned, which admittedly wasn’t much. To be very honest, which I try to be with each review, I had pretty much forgotten about the film, which is understandable as it did not receive a release on VHS or DVD, until a blu-ray was released in 2019 by Garagehouse Pictures.
Having finally watched the film, what would 7-year old me have thought of this film? Would he have been terrified? Would he have be mesmerized? Or would he just get bored, go to his bedroom, and read back issues of “ROM”?
In the most basic of terms, Foes deals with an encounter with an alien spacecraft. While that plot description really tells you nothing about Foes, the less that is said about the events of the film, the more enjoyable it may be for first time viewers. However, as this is a review, I guess I’m kinda obligated to give a few more details, as well as my opinions of the finished product.
Two people try to escape from a small island that has become the subject of reconnaissance by a large flying saucer, while also helping the survivor of a violently brutal abduction. Macdonald Carey of Days of Our Lives fame and well-traveled character actor Jerry Hardin (Honkytonk Man, “Deep Throat” on The X-Files) star as the scientist and military general (respectively) who must find answers for what to do about the UFO and how to rescue the people stranded on the island. Making both of these tasks much more difficult is a magnetic field encircling the island which shorts out the engines of any aircraft or sea vessel that attempt to approach it.
Foes was made on a very small budget, which is mostly revealed in the film’s sometimes impressive, sometimes hokey visual effects. Granted, the effects may have been more impressive had I first witnessed them 40+ years ago. In other aspects, the limited budget may actually benefit the film as it is then forced to rely on its use of tone, pacing, landscape photography, and (albeit sparsely used) music.
Foes moves along at a fairly solid pace, although there is still fair argument that not much is happening at any given time. This is because the film is focused on continuously building a sense of anxious dread, making the characters (and hopefully the audience) just as curious to what the alien craft will do next as they are frightened by the possibilities. This means that the characters spend quite a bit of time spectating, naturally intrigued and perplexed by the situation at hand.
While music is generally used quite sparingly in Foes, it may actually be one of the film’s strongest assets. The film features a dark, electro-ambient soundtrack that helps create an atmosphere of cosmic horror, but is used infrequently, so as to truly intensify key moments. Also of note are the sound effects used for the UFO’s various actions, as they feel quite in line with the score.
For me, Foes was an exemplary example of making a lot out of nothing. The film takes a rather thin premise and limited budget and milks it for as much as it will give. It’s insanely ambitious, but smart enough to know its limitations. However, undoubtedly the film’s biggest achievement is that it gives the viewer ample time to use their imagination as to what they would do or how they would react if they found themselves in a similar situation. Unfortunately, the fact that what we imagine is presumably much more fascinating or horrifying than what is actually shown may serve as the film’s ultimate flaw for many.
As mentioned prior, Foes received a blu-ray release courtesy of Garagehouse Pictures in 2019. For many, this release may be a mixed bag. The transfer appears to be sourced from a 35mm print, presumably one of few in existence, although parts of the film were shot in 16mm. As such, the picture quality on the blu-ray tends to fluctuate frequently. Simply put, some scenes look like crap, grain heavy and none too clear. This is due more to the quality of the print and the budgetary issues while shooting. Other times, the image is surprising crisp and detailed. All in all, it’s a safe assumption that this release is still the best the film has ever looked.
It is also worth noting that the film gets quite dark at times. This is due to a lack of lighting on the shoot and not any fault of the transfer. Sure, some additional lighting may have made things easier to see, but the lack thereof also helps ground the film in realism, as most witnesses of unidentified flying saucer encounters generally aren’t carrying lighting rigs with them.
Too many years may have passed to truly be sure of what I would have thought had I watched this film all those years ago, but I like to think that 7-year old me may have had a few nightmares after watching Foes for the first time. However, I assure you, he’d want to watch it again the next night!
Foes (Blu-ray) is, of course, available on Amazon at the following link. https://amzn.to/2wBzaIy (Any purchases made after clicking on the link do help H&S earn a commission, so this way helps support the site!)
That said, you can also find it at www.DiabolikDVD.com
Wow. I never heard of hits. Never. Never seen it UHF TV or on the VHS shelves. I have to seek this out. It reminds me of Ed Hunt’s Starship Invasions, but more accurately, his early film from 1976, Point of No Return, with its UFO conspiracy storyline. Great review.
Great review, that pretty much mirrors my thoughts about the movie.
I was 9 in ’77,and definitely would have watched it if I had known about it, so i’m glad that at 54 years young, I was able to discover it.
Be warned, however: don’t expect ANY questions to be answered by the end of the film. There is no real resolution…but that kind of adds to it’s uniqueness. It leaves you hanging.