Invaders from Mars (1986)
Director: Tobe Hooper
Starring: Karen Black, Hunter Carson, Timothy Bottoms, Louise Fletcher & James Karen
Released by: Scream Factory
Reviewed by Mike Kenny
From Director Tobe Hooper (The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, The Funhouse) Invaders from Mars centers on space obsessed David Gardener (Hunter Carson, Paris, Texas) who witnesses the landing of alien beings in his backyard. As the invaders begin taking control of his parents and schoolmates, David must find a way to convince those unaffected of the truth before the entire human race is doomed. Karen Black (House of 1,000 Corpses), Timothy Bottoms (The Last Picture Show), Laraine Newman (Problem Child 2), Louise Fletcher (One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest) and James Karen (The Return of the Living Dead) co-star.
Sandwiched between his two other Cannon Films collaborations, Lifeforce and The Texas Chain Saw Massacre 2, Director Tobe Hooper’s contemporary remake of the 1953 sci-fi favorite takes full advantage of modern movie magic while, sticking closely to its predecessors blueprints. Once again told from a child’s point of a view, David Gardener (Carson) is startled to discover the arrival of martians over the hill from his house. Overwhelmed with fear, David can hardly make sense of what he’s witnessed until his parents fall under the control of the invaders. Recognizing a scar on the neck’s of those infected, David finds little help at school where his strict teacher Mrs. McKeltch (Fletcher) and fellow classmates have also fallen prey. By chance, David finds solace in the school nurse, Linda Magnusson (played by Carson’s real-life mother, Karen Black), who finds David’s story horrifyingly true, leading the unlikely duo to seek help. Relying on the U.S. Marines, headed by General Climet Wilson (James Karen), David and Linda find themselves in the threshold of an underground nightmare where the martians reside. With time wearing thin and various creatures in their way, the military must use all their might to withstand a worldwide takeover.
Relying too strongly on the original’s plot and set pieces, Invaders from Mars suffers from never reveling in its 1980s environment therefore, losing a strong sense of personal identity. In addition, although littered with Academy Award-winning talent and cult icons, the performances fail to leave a lasting impression on the viewer. Produced in the heyday of special effects wizardry, Invaders from Mars excels with effective visual effects by John Dykstra (Star Wars) and exceptional creature designs by the late Stan Winston (Aliens, Terminator 2: Judgement Day). A box-office disappointment better appreciated decades later, Invaders from Mars redresses a mediocre film while, not faring much better due to its lack of risks. With standout special effects and inherent campiness, Invaders from Mars has its moments but, never manages to fully brainwash earthlings as one would hope.
Scream Factory presents Invaders from Mars with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 2.35:1 aspect ratio. Relaying generally warm, if not slightly soft, skin tones, Director Tobe Hooper’s sci-fi remake satisfies with bold colors in wardrobe choices and gooey detail captured in the various creature designs. Instances of flakes and speckles occur during more dimly lit sequences including, but not limited to, David and Linda evading the martians in the school boiler room. Generally strong looking, Invaders from Mars makes a satisfying leap to high-definition. Equipped with DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, Invaders from Mars relays audible dialogue levels but, registers lower than anticipated prompting several increases in volume. More climatic sequences of explosions and gunfire fare better but, never overly impress. An optional DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix has also been included for your listening pleasure. Accompanied with a generous supply of supplements, Scream Factory presents a newly recorded Audio Commentary with Director Tobe Hooper while, Red Shirt Pictures delivers The Martians Are Coming!: The Making of Invaders of Mars (36:33) with in-depth interviews from Director Tobe Hooper, Actor Hunter Carson, Special Effects Artists Alec Gillis & Gino Crognale and Composer Christopher Young with Gillis and Crognale’s onset memories heavily focused on. In addition, a Theatrical Trailer (1:28), TV Spot (0:32), Original Production Illustration Gallery with Commentary from Artist William Stout (14:03), Original Storyboards (4:16), Still Gallery (24 in total) and reversible cover art round out the special features.
Intended for children but failing to capture a box-office audience, Invaders from Mars would be heavily digested on subsequent television airings and home entertainment to carve out its cult appeal. Laced with a conscience campiness and some marvelous effects work, Director Tobe Hooper’s homage to a childhood favorite feels far too familiar to be overly praised. Meanwhile, Scream Factory’s Blu-ray stats easily trump previous releases with its assortment of special features being the disc highlight. While it may be Hooper’s weakest entry in his unofficial Cannon Films trilogy, Invaders from Mars will most assuredly charm viewers who grew up with this B-movie effort from another planet.
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