Donald Sutherland seems to revel in seed pods landing on Earth and turning the Earthlings into finger-pointing, screaming, personality changing psychos. Or maybe HE is just finger-pointing, screaming personality changing psycho, whatever!
This little ditty is based in Ambrose, Iowa, with a sweet little meteor falling from the sky and tossing lovely little creatures that look similar to a stingray with a proboscis that embeds itself in your brainstem, resulting in a slight personality change, among other things. Im fairly ambivalent about most brainstem burrowing creatures, but in this particular case the parasite remains attached to your body. I would think, especially in the silky form-fitting blouse that the NASA scientist Julie Warner wears, this new extremity would be somewhat obvious.
However, crack OSI investigative team Sutherland and his son Eric Thai, come to Ambrose to delve into the mystery of the parasitic organisms and the fallen spacecraft, teaming up with the darling Julie and fellow pro Richard Belzer. Belzer has a short appearance in this movie, saying I believe only about 5 words, because he is the first outsider to be inhabited by the creatures and soon bites the dust. Eventually, we discover one of the reasons for this particular interplanetary conspiracy, the President (Tom Mason) is making a visit to good old Ambrose and they want to suck his brain out and replace it with their own special powers.
Thai falls victim to the aliens but for some reason the powers that be are able to extract the evil from him, even at risk of his life. Perhaps they explained this and I missed the theory, Im not sure. All I know is that he is miraculously saved and joins forces with Sutherland and Warner to try and combat the proboscis burrowing stingrays. The story plods on with creature attachment and creature disattachment, lives are threatened and lives are lost, on and on . Fairly boring and repetitive.
This movie had all the potential of being a decent monster grab-bag but fell a little short on story and long on script. The monsters themselves looked somewhat familiar and Ive been trying to place what movie they originate from. Perhaps it is simply the fact that they interact like the creatures from Aliens but definitely look like an oceanic stingray with an attitude that triggers a memory but I really believe they have been used before in another production.
The Thai/Warner thing is very reminiscent of X-Files (Im not sure who came first here, the chicken or the egg). In fact, I think Eric Thai bears some resemblance to Duchovny and Warner kinda has that Scully look. At times both their acting seemed a little stilted, like they werent really into their parts and unfortunately the purported love connection between them didnt come off as creditable. They just didnt seem comfortable with either their roles or with each other and it came across on the screen.
Sutherland stumbles along in his usual role sometimes friend/sometimes foe and always in the same movie. You are just never sure where you stand with him in a part, but I enjoy his quirky style of acting so I always make an effort to see his movies. I really enjoyed him as the undercover type of character in JFK. Unfortunately, once you have seen Invasion of the Body Snatchers with Sutherland, that is all that comes across in this movie. I kept waiting for him to stand pointing his finger and letting out that screech!
The story, originally released in 1958 as The Brain Eaters, and then used again for It Conquered the World in 1956, was written by Robert Heinlein. The basic element of the story is fine, obviously since it has been used time and time again <sigh> but I felt director Stuart Orme didnt do it justice this time around. The creatures, released in 1994 as opposed to the 50s genre, are much creepier and snazzier but, like this review, the story ran too long.
Other stars: the great Yaphet Kotto (joining Belzer from Homicide fame) plays an Army General as he usually does (perhaps a thwarted career?) and Will Patton as the scientist that for once does not try to capture the creatures for study, instead finds a solution to the problem (hell never make it as a standard monster movie scientist!). Keith David plays the part as Thais sidekick, that takes a kick himself, but does a decent delivery of his part. I can only give this production a mediocre 3 stars because I thought the storyline has been played to death but the monsters are darn cute.
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Susi Dawson (SusiDee34)
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In this chilling sci-fi tale, slightly updated from author Robert A. Heinlein's book, government officials are sent to Iowa to investigate an alien landing. They discover alien beings are taking over the brains of their human hosts. Their task: devise a way to stop the invaders before they spread too far, without killing the innocent humans.