All this month we’ve been celebrating All Hallow’s Eve with our 31 Days of Halloween and this final week we’re really going to kick it into overdrive. The site has been totally converted for the spooktacular event and we’re going to hit a ton of Halloween goodies in the days and nights ahead. Oh yes, I said nights because it wouldn’t be Halloween if things didn’t go BUMP in the night.
Halloween isn’t quite as popular as Christmas in terms of Halloween movie classics. Sure, there is the Halloween series from John Carpenter and plenty of other horror movies but there really isn’t a list of “Certified Must Watch Halloween Movies” that people trot out each year. It’s mostly just an excuse to watch horror flicks. However there are a few movies that are true “Halloween” movies that aren’t just slasher movies. There’s Charlie Brown and of course the movie we’re taking a look at today, 1990’s SPACED INVADERS!
Spaced Invaders isn’t exactly a classic, but it’s a movie I enjoy watching around Halloween. For starters the movie is a play off of Orsen Welles version of War Of The Worlds. As I wrote back in September about the fear that gripped the nation that Halloween night, so too did it inspire this film.
Essentially it’s Halloween in the little town of Big Bean, where the new Sheriff is dealing with his young daughter (Mom is dead) and this crazy old guy who’s battling the evil mortgage man who wants to build a strip mall in place of the farm.
Everything is going good, but across the galaxy the Martians are planning to invade the Arcturus sector of galaxy. They put in robot drones to increase productivity but the robot drones end up leading the Martians to their doom. The invasion force puts in a distress signal and some hotrodding Martians from the other side of the galaxy attempt to come to their rescue. When they get halfway across the universe they stop hearing the signal but they do hear a rebroadcast of War of the Worlds in Big Bean and crash land on Earth to join the invasion fleet which they think has attacked Earth because of the HG Wells radio novella.
Calamity ensues as the Martians are a bunch of nitwits. They believe that they’re joining a larger Martian task force and try to enslave the humans with mixed results. Everyone in Big Bean just thinks these Martians are little kids in costumes since it’s Halloween.
The Sheriff’s misfit daughter and an annoying black kid in a duck costume notice that something is strange about these trick or treaters. Soon she’s befriended the Martian’s friendly robot probe (not to be confused with the evil Martian robot drone) and looks to help the Martians.
There’s also a fair amount of side plot about a local gas station manager and his feud with the strip mall tycoon. Unfortunately as much fun as the movie is, it’s weighed down with a lot of needless side plots that make the overall experience a bit too lengthy. The Martians are kinda funny, the crazy old farmer is amusing, the kids are annoying, but there’s just too much dense plot in ultimately a movie that’s pretty stupid.
Eventually the gas station manager gets turned into a cyborg Martian slave but he’s just as dumb as the Martians themselves. The town of Big Bean eventually realizes they are under Martian attack about the same time that the Martians realize that Mars has not declared war on Earth. Unfortunately for the Martians the folks of Big Bean respond with their shotguns and pitchforks.
Eventually the Sheriff, his daughter and crazy old farmer man team up to try and help the Martians get home. But not before the evil Martian robot drone tries to kill the Martians for failing their mission, the gas station manager builds a giant robot and chaos ensues.
There is some good humor here, but it’s hidden under a bit too much convoluted plot. The acting isn’t terrible as the adult actors seem to take their work relatively serious all things considered. The kid actors aren’t bad either actually, but there doesn’t seem to be enough story to any of the characters to make them more than just plot fodder.
For a comedy homage to War of the Worlds it has surprisingly good special effects. Steven Spielberg was so impressed with the little movie that he’s the one who ended up getting it wider distribution. The Martian costumes are quite impressive and the little people who played them probably couldn’t see at all but do a great job acting out the roles.
Most of the suitimation and puppetry is really well done too. There are a few instances where things could be better, but this movie never really looks too low budget. Eventually the Martians get home, the Sheriff and his daughter come together and the old farmer gets his land saved thanks to the Martians. Everyone goes home happy except that damned strip mall tycoon who gets his comeuppance for trying to be an entrepreneur and destroy the heartland of America.
I loved this movie when I was 7 or 8, but it’s not quite as good now that I’m older. It’s still a decent little Halloween movie with some goofy aliens, some witty dialogue and decent special effects. I highly recommend it if you have some kids that you’d like to watch some Halloween programs with and don’t want to expose them to slash and hack films.
There’s also this Spaced Invaders fan site that made me smile. Not because it’s any good, but because there’s a fan site for this movie.