Last week on BAD MOVIE MONDAY the group and I watched an old favorite of mine. One that I originally saw in 1984 and has been haunting my dreams ever since…

Quick Recap! When COVID shut down everything two years ago, I started an online bad movie night get-together with some friends that we eventually dubbed “Bad Movie Monday”. The premise was simple: We’d torture each other every Monday with the worst trash we could find, tell a few jokes, cheer each other up, and in the process maybe discover some weird obscure cinema that we might never have seen any other way. This series of reviews will feature highlights of those night, so you can all share in the fun and maybe get some ideas for your own movie night.

Today’s soul shocking sewer scum is called STRANGE INVADERS. It’s a 1983 science-fiction/horror movie starring Paul Le Mat, Nancy Allen, Diana Scarwid, Michael Lerner, and Louise Fletcher. It was the second entry in director Michael Laughlin’s loose unconnected “Strange” trilogy (The first one was called Strange Behavior and was about mind controlled teenagers) but the reception for “Invaders” was so tepid that he never made the third one. I don’t think anyone really hated this movie, they just didn’t like it. It was the equivalent farting in a manure plant. No one noticed.

I saw this for the first time when I was eleven and it absolutely terrified me. For months I had nightmares. I can’t even tell you why I had such a strong reaction because in hindsight it’s kind of goofy, to put it gently. It was going for a retro fifties horror vibe, but I think it was achieving more of a fifties diner vibe. Still, I have a fondness for it. It was released just as the home video market began to become popular in Canada and so it was one of the first movies I ever saw on VHS.

So what’s it say on the back of the VHS box?

Striking special effects highlight this highly acclaimed sci-fi thriller, which is both a terrifying tribute to our best loved sci-fi classics, such as THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL and INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS and a subtle humorous story of an alien mission on Earth. NANCY ALLEN (BLOW OUT), Oscar-nominee DIANA SCARWID (INSIDE MOVES), Oscar-winner LOUISE FLETCHER (BRAINSTORM) and PAUL LEMAT (MELVIN AND HOWARD) star.

They came to Middletown, Idaho 25 years ago on a limited mission to earth. Today is the day set for their return. But, something has gone wrong… the only member of the mission to marry a human has set off a disastrous change of events. And now her ex-husband, trailed by a newspaper reporter, has come looking for his ex-wife. When he notices that the “people” of Centerville are still exactly as they were in the 1950s, the secret will be out – a secret too important for humans to know.

Change of events? Don’t they mean Chain of events? Oh, and… Middletown, Idaho??? What the hell is that? In the movie it says the town is called Centerville and that it’s in Illinois. There’s no mention of Middletown OR Idaho. What’s worse is that they get it right four paragraphs later in the same synopsis. That’s some great proofreading there Vestron Video. Who was in charge of your Quality Control? The guy from Memento? I thought I was bad.

Bah, never mind. Other than that, and the rather spoiler-ish nature of it, it’s a fairly accurate synopsis that does give you a good idea about what you’re about to see.

Watching this movie again with friends it occurred to me what was wrong with it. It’s plotted in such a sloppy slapdash way that it doesn’t take advantage of its own story. Normally, this sort of thing should easy to make scary. It’s about a spooky small town in the middle of nowhere with weird, superficially friendly, inhabitants that are hiding a sinister secret. Except, the movie doesn’t do much of anything with this premise or setting. In fact, it can’t wait to get out of that atmospheric small town and into New York City so that Paul Le Mat can flirt with Nancy Allen. At one point having our protagonist drive from Manhattan to Centerville while looking for his missing wife, but then escape back to New York after realizing the town is entirely inhabited by aliens pretending to be human, only to have to sneak back into Centerville later. Don’t yo-yo like that. It takes away all the tension.

That said, there are more eerie bits than you’d expect, but it’s almost accidental. Like the film was trying to be a comedy but the alien makeup was so properly strange and unnerving that the filmmakers didn’t have a choice. Personally, I’m not bothered by the attempts at comedy in a film that would have been far better as a straight up spook fest. I’m also very aware that I can’t truly “review” this film in an impartial way because it’s been a part of my cinematic memory for almost forty years. I watch it every 2-3 years and it still gives me a few nostalgic shivers. I don’t know, it’s an acquired taste I suppose. I think that in certain moments it is quite good, but that it simply falls apart because those moments never quite add up to anything substantial. It is a strange film, which I suppose is appropriate.

Okay, review done! Last not least, my favorite part, a list of ten things about the movie I feel are interesting:

#1  – The opening scene does have a few chilling moments. Not many, but a few. Theremin music always gives me the willies.

#2  – A full 7% of the budget probably went to the Vaseline they smeared on the lens. Holy shit. The Emmanuelle movies didn’t have this much soft focus.

#3  – I legitimately think this movie should have been filmed in 3D. Wouldn’t have helped, but it wouldn’t have hurt either, and what this movie desperately needs is a gimmick.

#4  – I’m glad Nancy Allen and Louise Fletcher are both in this film, but I found myself often wondering WHAT they’re doing in this film. Dressed to Kill and Brainstorm this ain’t.

#5  – The alien and spaceship effects are quite good. I will go to the mat arguing that they’re spooky as hell. They certainly scared the living shit out of me.

#6  – This movie is trying to copy old 1950s horror movies like “Invaders from Mars” or “Invasion of The Body Snatchers” and not doing the greatest job at it. Those movies were the way they were because they were made cheap and quick. This movie isn’t cheap or quick.

#7  – The soundtrack is very neat and retro. I liked it.

#8  – There’s some really great locations in this movie. No matter how much I may bust its balls I still think it’s beautiful.

#9  – Remember when you were a kid and you used your finger to go “Bang Bang!” at people? Yeah, this movie’s ending takes that seriously. Unfortunately.

#10 – Despite the fingerbanging, the ending actually sort of works. There’s some legit creepy moments here.

STRANGE INVADERS is available for free on Tubi if you want to check it out.