This particular review series has been dormant for so long that I forgot about it when I was writing about our long-dormant review series the other day! But, much like my dog keeps going back to the spot he found a cheese sandwich once, so the ISCFC will keep going back to Charles Band and Full Moon (although this was produced under his “Empire Pictures” name, when they were getting major studio distribution).
This is very much Charles Band and his crew – in this case, his dad Albert as producer, brother Richard as composer, and regular director Ted Nicolaou – in their classic mode. What is “classic” Full Moon, I hear you ask? Well, there are a couple of criteria that need to be matched.
- Strong cast, top to bottom (kids don’t count)
- Monster of some sort, created using practical effects
- Very light tone, a whisker away from being a full-blown comedy
- Great use of sets for what I presume is a limited budget
- The poster was designed first, the movie later
When you think of 80s B-movies, chances are at least some of what you think about will be Full Moon-related. And you can watch em all for a low monthly price these days! Go to www.fullmoonstreaming.com and knock yourself out. But never mind that, on with the review!
The Putterman family are just your average, wholesome, good old fashioned American family. Mum and Dad (Mary Woronov and Gerrit Graham, B-movie royalty) are swingers and have decorated their home in spectacularly hideous 80s pornographic “art” fashion, complete with gaudy lighting, a massive indoor Jacuzzi, and so on. Daughter Suzy (Diane Franklin, “Better Off Dead”) is a punk with a boyfriend called OD (Jon Gries, super “That Guy” actor). Grandpa (Bert Remsen) is a survivalist who’s built a bomb shelter underneath the house, and happily watches gory horror movies with his grandson. You know, like all families!
Dad installs a satellite dish in the back yard – perhaps the fakest looking “outside” set ever – to get tons of bootleg TV, but it has an unfortunate extra bonus. On the far side of the galaxy is an alien race who’s figured out an easy way to get rid of their rubbish, and it’s to turn it into energy and just fire it out into the universe. Two problems manifest themselves, and the first is that a garbage monster was accidentally beamed away with the rest of it. Second, of course, is that a slight miscalculation leads the energy beam to find the Putterman’s satellite dish, and materialise in their back yard (it has the power to beam itself in and out of TVs, because of course it does).
The Grampa and grandson see the alien first – well, the satellite repair guy really sees it first, but he gets eaten immediately afterwards – and then it’s sort of a cat-and-mouse game, with time spent trying to convince the rest of the cast that the alien is real, including a Medusa-dressed local midnight movie TV host, and the swinging couple that the parents bring back. OD even briefly pacifies the alien, a nice touch. The alien garbage man who made the mistake even beams himself to Earth to try and help the humans, and his story arc is hilarious.
So, there’s lots of fun little touches in this movie (including the information that the director and production designer did a tour of swingers’ homes to get some visual ideas. I wish I could have seen those photos) and the central performances from Graham, Woronov and Gries are all hilarious. Band and co know how to make a tight, light monster movie, and if I’d seen this at the time I’d have loved it even more. But…there’s that problem again, where Full Moon seem unable to fill the middle part of their movies with anything particularly exciting. The swingers were given an enormous amount of screen time, considering their fate and how central they were to the plot, and it felt like Grampa chased that damn alien round the house for about three hours. The beginning – fantastic; the ending – stupid and very good fun; that middle bit – *shrug*.
Still, if you see Charles Band’s name attached to anything before about 1997, you can watch it, safe in the knowledge you’ll get some good cheap gory fun.
Rating: thumbs in the middle