Alien Avengers (1997)


When a movie can be described as “one-joke”, it had better be a funny joke or you’re going to be in for a bad time. You know the sort of thing – what if there were a 40 year old virgin? What if a kid had the superpower of being able to fart a lot? So, as this movie progressed and I expected to get bored, I was pretty pleased that it handled its one joke remarkably well. In this instance, it’s “what if there were super-friendly aliens from a peaceful planet, who came down to earth to brutally murder criminals and lowlife scumbags?”


A rather unusually quiet opening, where Joseph, a young black guy, has to deal with the pull of the local drug kingpin but keep on the straight and narrow, then his mother dies and he inherits her large, run-down old boarding house, is a little more understandable when you see Roger Corman’s name on the credits. Corman is one of my heroes, a titan of low-budget cinema who’s retained a strong social conscience throughout his life, taking on the KKK in 1962’s “The Intruder”, capitalism in 1975’s “Death Race 2000”…okay, and producing the “Sharktopus” series of movies. But he’s one of the greats, and has given a ton of huge names their breaks in the business (Jack Nicholson and Ron Howard, to name but two).

Roger Corman

Roger Corman

The film really kicks off, though, when Charlie and Ronda turn up. Played by “Cheers” legend (and former “House” co-star) George Wendt and TV star Shanna Reed, they’re a colourful bright parody of a 1950s couple and want to rent the top floor of Joseph’s house, despite it still being full of junk, with a leaky roof, etc. They’re clearly hiding something (not-particularly-a-spoiler: they’re aliens) but Joseph lets them stay thanks to their daughter, Daphne (Anastasia Sakelaris) fluttering her eyelashes at him. They renovate the house overnight, serve rather unusual food (a beans sandwich, for one) and the excuse they give for wanting to rent a house in the blackest, most run-down area of LA is to expose Daphne to other cultures.


Of course, the actual reason is Charlie and Ronda want to hunt. Their planet is crime and violence-free, so they take a vacation in the scummiest places possible and hunt other planets’ lowlifes, like parading through a back alley with a large gold watch and hoping someone tries to rob them for it. They treat this ultra-violence as a bit of sport, and it is pretty violent – at one point, they tear off a potential rapist’s leg and beat him to death with it. A lot of the humour comes from this way out-of-place couple in the ghetto, and it’s great.


Joseph and Daphne’s budding relationship, and her parents’ completely non-human response to them having sex, is a really well-done B story; slightly less interesting is the “I suppose we’d better have a normal plot” plot, about a couple of cops who just don’t like Joseph very much. They’re investigating Charlie and Ronda’s killings, and due to their odd values (despite liking Joseph, they’re happy to let him take the fall for them) they leave a gun with his fingerprints at a crime scene…


A problem with movies that sound great described like this – “a couple of aliens straight out of the 50s come to earth to kill criminals” – is that they’re never quite as OTT as you want them to be. There’s always a boring normal subplot, or a valuable lesson to be learned, or something along those lines. This is no different, although it comes pretty close to just ignoring normal movie morality and going all out; it’s still an absolute ton of fun though.


Wendt and Reed are both brilliant, giving it their all, and while Christopher M Brown as Joseph is a bit of a wet blanket (as are the cops, and the rest of the humans), Sakelaris is wonderful as well. Her career went absolutely nowhere after this and its sequel – bit parts and one-off TV appearances, then nothing after 2007. It’s a damn shame, as she’s both crazily beautiful and gifted at comedy.


It’s listed as a TV movie, although I can’t imagine this sort of movie playing on any TV channel in the late 90s (maybe HBO? The writer, Michael McDonald, has acted in tons of TV comedy, although I don’t suppose that information helps). Anyway, we’ve got a sequel to look forward to, with most of the cast and crew returning (Reed is replaced by Julie Brown, which is a shame although I like Brown just fine).


It’s a surprisingly great movie, chock full of fun and gore, and I enthusiastically recommend it, should you be able to track it down.


Rating: thumbs up


House (1986)


There are certain things that only really happen in the movies, and although we’ve been fooled by their regular appearance into thinking they’re just normal, thinking about certain things for more than a few seconds will have you scratching your head. House’s entry into that category is the thing where a guy thinks a woman is talking about going on a date with him, but actually wants him to babysit her kid, and keeps interrupting him when he says “I really don’t want to”; the man being a virtual stranger to the woman is just the icing on the cake.


But that’s a small scene in what is one of the 80s great horror comedies. Fronted by people better known for TV comedy (William Katt from “Greatest American Hero”, and George Wendt from “Cheers”, with a supporting turn by Richard Moll from “Night Court”), this is the story of Roger Cobb (Katt). He’s a Stephen King-like author who moves back into his Aunt’s house after she apparently commits suicide, so he can have some peace and quiet to get his head straight and finish his latest book, a personal memoir about Vietnam. But, he’s plagued by memories of the disappearance of his son, and of the war, plus the house appears to be really haunted.


The film this reminded me of the most was “Evil Dead 2”, which came out the year after this. I’m not saying there’s any borrowing, it’s more a compliment about the quality of “House”. As he appears to slowly lose his mind, Harold (Wendt), his neighbour gets drawn in and it’s the both of them seeing the same things which helps him realise he’s not crazy, and he tries to keep an air of calmness as he’s plagued with visions of his son and the death of his best friend in the jungle (which adds a very strange air to certain sections). Portals to “somewhere” open, and while huge Cthulhu-esque monsters try and force their way through, Roger realises he can go the other way, and a faint childlike scream spurs him on…


The comedy in this film doesn’t really come from the things people say, it’s all from action. Katt is dragged and thrown by all manner of evil entities, and has to cover for what he realises looks a lot like mental illness when the police, his estranged wife and the neighbours come to visit. Like an evil Calvin & Hobbes, we’re never quite sure if what we’re seeing is real or a figment of Roger’s grief, and his reaction to things like a dog digging up a demon’s hand that he buried in his back garden is pretty damn funny. When animated tools pursue him through the house, and respond to him closing a door on them by politely knocking, I was in stitches.


Also worth mentioning  (apart from the amazing deep v-neck that Roger sports at the beginning of the film) is the definitive ending. No messing about, no “did the monster survive?”, none of it. Well done, “House”! Also of interest is the way this film series is designed like “Halloween 3” was, to be deliberately unquels, so we’ve got three different stories to come. Well done again, “House”!



Director Steve Miner is already a friend of the ISCFC, directing the best of the Halloween sequels (H20) and we’ll be meeting him again soon when we go through the Friday the 13th movies (he did parts 2 and 3). He did a great job with “House”, filling it with memorable characters, really decent special effects and the sort of horror-comedy that very few people seem to be able to manage.


Rating: thumbs up