The P.A.C.K. (1997)

You know if you get an acronym title, you’re going to have a “good” time. “C.H.U.D.” (Cannibalistic Humanoid Underground Dwellers) and “R.O.T.O.R.” (Robotic Officer Tactical Operations Research) are two of the best; and to this fine group we must add “The P.A.C.K.”

I thought what “P.A.C.K.” stood for was a joke when I saw the poster, but no. David A Prior, as the writer of this gem, does not joke around. Here goes (unless you already looked at the poster, a few inches up). Prefabricated Animalistic Cybernetic Killer. Prefabricated? You might think, with a title like “The Pack”, that there might be more than one of the titular creatures, but this is merely a coincidence. Or a trick to make you more interested in watching the movie. I couldn’t possibly comment.

By the way, you could add this to the list of movies (including Prior’s own “Mutant Species”) where there’s at least a reasonable suspicion of it being a “The Producers” style scam, where the first five minutes is made exciting to get distribution money, then the rest of the movie is made with a fraction of that distribution money and the producers walk off with the rest of the cash, knowing it’ll never make a profit.

The beginning – a thing crashes to Earth from space, and we see a bunch of people in the woods get torn to pieces. One of them is a biker called “Bullet Head”, the last ever performance by ISCFC favourite Douglas “Pappy” Harter. If he’s still around, and anyone reading this knows him, I’d love to tell him how much I enjoyed his performances in the Prior-verse. Anyway, crash bang wallop, a fine start to proceedings, but then everything switches to a rather slower pace and it becomes that sort of thing we know and hate, a People Walking Through The Woods movie!

It’s also an “alien cop hunts bad alien on Earth” movie, which makes it part of two of the most enduring traditions of B-cinema. The creature, which frightens people despite being a bloke in a leather coat and a stupid dime-store alien mask, runs round for a bit, until we see a beam of light bring down…Ted Prior as alien cop T-7043! His face, and that of Harter, indicate there was a considerable amount of time between the filming of this and the other most recent Prior movie (1994’s “Mutant Species”).

There’s also a decent handful of Earth-people in this movie, although the fact the biggest name of the lot is Sandahl Bergman (Prior’s own “Raw Nerve” from 1991, “Hell Comes To Frogtown”) is an indicator the budgets, once so plentiful, are now back down at the levels of AIP’s mid-80s output. The local sheriff, by far the most interesting character in it, is played by Red West (“Road House”, most of Elvis Presley’s early movies); and there’s a weird group of characters who you’ll assume are going to be central to proceedings but aren’t, a group of NSA agents.

Now, if you were in the NSA (which they certainly appear to be) and were going to a new town, what would you do? Would you call ahead, make sure local law enforcement knew who you were? Or would you wait at a road block outside town, refuse to identify yourself, then drive off at high speed through the woods with the sheriff giving chase, making yourselves as suspicious as possible? Their plan sucks from beginning to end, and is so bad I kept wondering if it was deliberate, but it feels like the actors decided to go on strike for better pay after a few days of filming and the producers just fired them on the spot. It feels weird to spend so much time introducing this team only to (SPOILER) kill almost all of them off after ten minutes.

So, the bulk of the movie is the sheriff, an investigative journalist for a UFO magazine, the lady NSA agent (Bergman), and T-7043 walking through the woods trying to find the creature, and the creature killing loads of people off quite easily. T-7043 explains the plot but it’s the same old same old – if movies about evil space creatures being chased by space cops could be considered that way.

It feels shambolic, honestly, like no-one involved in the making of it gave much of a damn how it ended up. Director Bryan Todd is making his debut (and clearly didn’t like directing all that much, as he’s now a “field producer” for a bunch of reality TV shows) so I’ll give him a slight pass, and this represents the entirety of co-writer Michael Evans’ writing career. So it’s on Prior and his regular band of producers, who’d been making movies for 15 years by this point and really should have been trying harder. It’s basically “Predator”, but if the soldiers sent to track down the creature were a bunch of middle aged men and women who can’t do a damn thing but wait to die.

We’ve only got one more (1999’s “Hostile Environment”) to go before the long hiatus which was broken in 2007 – I’m guessing by that point the budgets were virtually nil and we’ll be down in the mire, with even cheaper effects and no actors you’ve ever heard of. But we’re on the home stretch now, dear reader. We can make it.

Rating: thumbs down


The Hidden 2 (1993)

Hey, that guy's only in the first movie!

Hey, that guy’s only in the first movie!

I loved “The Hidden”, the greatest of the surprisingly durable “alien cop chases bad alien on earth” genre. Kyle MacLachlan and Michael Nouri were excellent in the central roles, the various alien-possessed humans were all good…then, in 1993, they decided to make a straight-to-video sequel, featuring no returning cast members. But I’ll reserve judgement!

No good movie, though, has ever started by spending its first 15 minutes recapping the events of its prequel. It doesn’t even bother doing all the best bits! Anyway, after the alien exploded at the end of the first film, a dog just strolled into the middle of a crime scene, picked up a piece of alien flesh and strolled out. Luckily, that piece was an egg or something, because it takes over the dog, get itself to a disused factory, lays eggs and then goes into sort-of-hibernation for 15 years.


If you’ve seen any low-budget movie, you’ll know that this factory will be the location for a good half of what’s to come. The alien cop from the first one realises the alien didn’t properly die (and has conveniently mutated him to the point he can be played by a different actor), but he dies and then backup from his home planet turns up, to meet with Nouri’s daughter, now all grown up. He does half a bad Kyle MacLachlan impression, they fall in love (given their first meeting nearly results in one of them getting shot, she warms to him incredibly quickly), etc.

It’s all fairly standard. The problem is, they almost deliberately ignore the rules they set up in the first movie, and they were good rules! Both the alien cop and the daughter could sense whether people were aliens or not just by looking at them, now, not so much; and the alien which would have been an egg at the time, remembers stuff which went on in the first movie. That any tiny fragment of alien could become a new alien just seems a stupid “what’s the best way to make a sequel?” 4am writers’ room decision. Why didn’t the good aliens send like a thousand agents to kill the bad guy alien? Why just one, if it’s so important?


Because the first movie used the city so well, this sequel is a bit like making “Titanic 2” and setting it on a liferaft. But even saying that, it’s not terrible – the two central performances are okay, some of the action is fun…it just feels so pointless. I’d rate this below “Alien Space Avenger”, to be honest. That had slightly less people sat around talking.

Rating: thumbs down

The Hidden (1987)


After a few alien-cops-on-earth movies (“Endangered Species”, “Alien Space Avenger”) we come to perhaps the best known of them all, a fun film which dispenses with anything remotely approaching backstory and just gives us full alien vs. other aliens (with a human assist) action.

A previously law-abiding chap robs a bank, kills a bunch of people, takes multiple gunshots and doesn’t go down, until eventually his car blows up and he’s taken, unconscious, to hospital. Early on, no messing, he’s got a weird alien parasite inside him, and the alien hops out of him and into the guy in the next bed. At the same time, head local cop Thomas Beck (Michael Nouri) is investigating what went on, and is joined by Seattle FBI agent Lloyd Gallagher (Kyle MacLachlan), who’s got an odd look about him. There’s plenty of other cops around too, and the whole department feels real, lots of believable-looking cops (and they must have filmed in a real police station, no way a set dresser could have made it look that authentic).


Gallagher, of course, keeps the truth from Beck, to the point he’s arrested and they figure out he’s not actually an FBI agent. Meanwhile, the alien is jumping from body to body, killing, stealing cars and stereos to play his sweet 80s metal tapes on. Included in this run of alien hosts is a 22-year-old Claudia Christian, who’d go on to genre fame in “Babylon 5” and then every trashy sci-fi movie ever, it seems like.

I really enjoyed this! Tense, well-made, visually interesting, some lovely light moments, with a couple of great central performances (McLachlan is really good, with his little oddities played down rather than broad, for laughs) and a pace which starts off fast and doesn’t really let up. Apart from the music, which sounded hideous – all weird irritating sounds that felt like they were trying to be gunshots – there’s really nothing much to criticise about this movie. Plus, it’s got perhaps the largest number of “That Guy” (and Gal) actors of any movie ever. I’ll list the names, and I guarantee you won’t have heard of any of them, but if you saw their faces you’d recognise them all instantly. Clarence Felder, Clu Gulager, Ed O’Ross, Lin Shaye, Chris Mulkey and Richard Brooks – all completely solid, dependable actors, and all doing fine work in this movie.



If you’re reading this site, chances are you’ve seen this movie before, but if you haven’t, I highly recommend checking it out. One of the classics of 80s sci-fi cinema.

Rating: thumbs up