Director – Tobe Hooper
Cast – Karen Black, Hunter Carson, Timothy Bottoms, Laraine Newman, James Karen, Bud Cort, Louise Fletcher, Eric Pierpoint, Christopher Allport
Release Year – 1986
Reviewed by John of the Dead
Famed genre director Tobe Hooper is known for several classics, including The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Poltergeist, and Salem’s Lot, as well as lesser-known cult favorites like The Funhouse. One film of his that has gone mostly under the radar is his 1986 film Invaders From Mars, which is a remake of the highly rated 1953 film of the same name. This marks my first time seeing the film, and I can say that I enjoyed it. In the 1980s John Carpenter struck gold remaking a 50s film (The Thing), and while Hooper’s redo failed to receive the same notoriety it still gave me what I wanted to see from one of the genre’s most notable directors.
With his town under siege by alien invaders who have taken over the minds of his parents and others in authority over him, a young boy enlists the help of a school nurse and the U.S. Marines to send the enemy back where they came from.
As a fan of 80s horror there was little that could go wrong to keep me from digging this. I have not seen the original film so I cannot compare the two, and in a way that allows me to give a better, objective review. I say this because I have seen many reviews saying that it does not do justice to the original and should be skipped at all cost. If you are in my shoes and have not seen the original then pay them no attention. If you have, well, check it out anyway and form your own conclusion.
The writers behind Hooper’s previous film, Lifeforce, adapted the screenplay and gave us plenty to enjoy. Co-writer Dan O’Bannon is also known for writing Alien and The Return of the Living Dead, so there is talent in this writing duo. The story begins quickly, enveloping us into David’s childhood world. Six minutes into the film the alien spaceship lands nearby his home, and before you know it he has lost both of his parents – well, their minds have been lost. Slowly but surely those around him are also falling victim, forcing the young boy to do what he can to verify who is uninfected / who he can trust. There are a few scenes of horror here and there, but the film doesn’t get really good until the 39 minute mark where the alien creatures make their screen debut. Naturally things slow down during the second act, but the final 30 minutes are action-packed. With the military involved, things get crazy and those of you looking for some alien ass-kicking will get what you have been waiting for.
Tobe Hooper, very well in his prime, did a good job with his direction of the film. You don’t really notice it too much until the goods, AKA the aliens, show up on screen. He introduces them in epic fashion, creating good shock value that I was not expecting. I liked the comical look to them as well, and from what I understand the aliens in the original film were comical as well. Hooper relies on live-action effects for the creatures and the hilarious deaths they cause, but naturally don’t expect a gorefest in this PG film. Every other element was well-done, from the sets and atmosphere to the slightly cheesy acting performances, just keep in mind it is the aliens that seal the deal here.
Overall, Invaders From Mars is a fun experience that delivered the goods when it mattered most. I recommend that fans of Hooper’s work give this a watch, as well as those who enjoy alien invasion films.