Invaders from Mars

Directors - Tobe Hooper

Cast - Karen Black, Hunter Carson

Country of Origin - U.S.

Discs - 1

Distributor - Shout Factory

Reviewer - Scott MacDonald

Date - 04/18/15

The Film (3/5)

   Tobe Hooper practically exploded on to the horror scene with his 1974 film and second feature overall the Texas Chainsaw Massacre. The film's every frame oozed with a sense of dread, he would follow TCM with another horror picture Eaten Alive, which was nowhere on par with the earlier film. He would close out the 70's with a quite decent TV adaptation of Stephen King's seminal vampire novel Salem's Lot. The 80's for Hooper, however, proved to be a lucrative time for the director. He would begin with the Funhouse, a fun, but imperfect carnival horror film, before being chosen by Steven Spielberg to helm the family horror picture Poltergeist.
 

   Poltergeist has gone on to become a classic, but it has been open to some debate for the last 30 years as to who really directed the film as allegedly Spielberg was on set everyday of the production. The finished film does indeed have the hallmarks of both filmmakers, but the answer may never fully be known on that one.  However, in the mid-80's Hooper would ink a deal with exploitation/action power house Cannon films for a trio of films that may be among some of the finest of his career, and actually in the grand scheme of things the last great and memorable films he directed. He would begin with the completely off the wall sequel to his own Texas Chainsaw Massacre, the Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 would tone down the dread and intensity of the original, and replace with it comedy, and the gore everyone thought they saw in the original, but had not.  The second would be Lifeforce, an adaptation of Colin Wilson's classic sci-fi novel Space Vampires that takes the gonzo approach from Chainsaw 2, and applies it to the sci-fi genre.  The final film in his Cannon sequence would be a remake of the seminal 1953 sci-fi film Invaders from Mars originally directed by William Cameron Menzies.

     The late 70's and early 80's were a time when remakes for horror and science fiction films weren't immediately met with sighs from a frustrated fanbase. A good many filmmakers from Philip Kaufman (Invasion of the Body Snatchers) to David Cronenberg (The Fly) threw their hats into the remake arena with spectacular results.  Most of these remakes took the skeletal concepts of the originals and built their films back up from them. Hooper's Invaders from Mars on the other hand is a remake in the more traditional sense of the word.

   The film is not a shot for shot remake of the original, but the original Invaders from Mars certainly offers a visual springboard into this world.  The Menzies' film like many American science fiction films of the era was a parable for the Communist scare of the early 1950's and his film due to the nature of our fear of the communist during that time was played for scares. Hooper, it seemed during the mid-80's left his serious side behind.  His version of Invaders from Mars is a more light-hearted affair.  The film is much more colorful like a comic book brought to life, and the aliens in the film are too over the top to be anything but silly.  The concept of neighbors being possessed by Martians through a hole in their neck is certainly terrifying, especially from the perspective of a young child, but the film is played along the lines of a family-oriented sci-fi adventure than the horror it could have been. Then again the Body Snatcher horror was essentially done perfect in the aforementioned Philip Kaufman film.

     Hunter Carson got his start in the Wim Wenders film Paris, Texas scripted by his Father L.M. Kit Carson. He was quite good in that film, and to be honest works for the most part here. However, in the pantheon of chid actors in sci-fi and horror cinema he will not go down as one of the greats. His performance at times feels a bit stiff, and other times too unrestrained.  Which is coincidentally something that can be said for the performance by Karen Black who early on in the film gives an excellent restrained performance before losing any sense of character direction, and goes completely over the top in the way only Karen Black could..

   The film stars Hunter Carson (son of Karen Black and screenwriter L.M. Kit Carson) as George a young boy at the heart of a typical nuclear film. His Mother is a stay at home, Mom, and his Father is an astronaut. George's idyllic existence begins to change when one night he sees a UFO crash land in his back yard, his parents deny any such thing happened, and send him on his way. Later on when he comes home his Dad is acting off, and George is convinced it's because of something around the crash.  He begins to discover his parents, friends, and neighbors, are being overtaken by the Martians, pierced in the back of a neck by a needle and being injected with the essence of a creature from the red planet, these creatures begin to invade the town, and through them the Earth.  It's up to George, and the school nurse (Karen Black) to help stop the invasion.

 

Audio/Video (3/5)

   Scream Factory presents Tobe Hooper's Invaders from Mars in a decent, but imperfect transfer.  The film is presented in it's intended 2:35:1 aspect ratio in an AVC encoded 1080p transfer.  The colors here are excellent, detail is solid, and blacks are quite good for the most part.  There is some damage present throughout the film.

   There are 2 audio options a DTS-HD 2.0 track in English, and a DTS-HD MA 5.1 track also in English. Both tracks are quite serviceable with the score, effects, and dialogue coming through nicely, and no issues to complain about.

 

Extras (3/5)

   Scream has presented their edition of Invaders from Mars with a nice set of extras. It kicks with a commentary from director Tobe Hooper. We then gets a 36 minute behind the scenes retrospective on the film.  There are also trailers, still galleries, art galleries, and storyboards.

 

Overall

   Probably the least of the 3 films from Hooper's Cannon period. Invaders from Mars is still a bit of  a fun time. The Blu-ray from Scream looks and sounds decent, and the extras are a nice look  back on this camp-sci-fi flick. RECOMMENDED.