AVAILABLE ON BLU-RAY AND DVD
RUNNING TIME: 85 min
REVIEWED BY: Dr Lenera, Official HCF Critic
Meteors from an alien planet make their way through space and start hitting California, causing much destruction. The next morning, Melissa is late for her job at a talent agency because she’s too busy having sexy time with her boyfriend Andrew. Her boss Samantha wants the firm to snag model Taylor as a client, but Melissa isn’t happy about this because Taylor is totally ‘up herself’. Another client comes by the office to give a plant to Samantha, who takes it home and that night is brutally attacked and killed by a double. She comes to work the next morning with her personality totally changed, and she’s also now a lesbian. When another colleague also seems very different, Melissa thinks that something is up, but who can she trust….
Last night was actually the first time I’d seen a film from The Asylum, that company that rushes out cheap knock-offs of potential Hollywood blockbusters and gets them on shop shelves before the original movie has arrived in cinemas. I Am Omega, Transmorphers, Princess Of Mars [which actually was the title of the first Edgar Rice Burroughs book in the John Carter series], The 9/11 Commission Report [tasteless or what?], San Andreas Quake, Apocalypse Pompeii, Snakes On A Train, Age Of Tomorrow, Paranormal Entity, The Da Vinci Treasure; the list is endless. A couple of the ones I’ve just mentioned even spawned sequels, God help us. I guess it’s the cynically exploitative nature of the way Asylum work while never seeming to actually make their movies any good that has prevented me from checking out some of their output up to now. However, when I told a good friend of mine that I was planning to review all four Body Snatcher movies, he asked me if I was going to review the fifth version. Fifth version? Really? O yes, there’s a fifth version, he told me, hurriedly made when The Invasion was about to come out [though that film took so long to hit cinemas that there may have been a sizeable gap between the two releases].
So I decided to obtain Invasion Of The Pod People, and within just a couple of minutes of watching it realised that it was going to be an ‘unusual’ experience. About twenty minutes in, the act of viewing this pile of shit was becoming incredibly painful – and this is coming from someone who often enjoys bad movies – but I soldiered on and am still wondering what the hell I’ve just watched. I suppose one has to almost admire the cheek of the makers of this film in producing something so incredibly crap and not seeming to be ashamed of it, but this is no ‘so bad it’s good’ effort, like for example the Lou Ferrigno-starring Hercules and Sinbad pictures I reviewed for this website three or so months ago which were actually immense fun to watch. No, It’s just pure bad through and through, and I found it an ordeal to sit through in-between the bits when I was laughing my head off at the sheer awfulness of what was unfolding on my TV. Here’s just one example before I get into the review ‘proper’ of how inept this film is. The alien plants that cause people to change/be taken over/whatever [it’s never properly explained what exactly happens] are ginger roots. That’s right. Somebody says, upon seeing one: “It’s one of those trendy new things, Chinese of Japanese or some nonsense. One of those Feng Shui things”, and they’re supposedly from an alien planet, but they’re ginger roots like you can buy in any supermarket, with no attempt to disguise them whatsoever.
The beginning is clearly modelled on the opening of the 1978 version of Invasion Of The Body Snatchers, with meteorites making their way through space towards Earth. Rather effective ambient-style music from composer Chris Ridenhour plays over still shots of the Monterey area of Los Angeles where the film will take place and the main titles to create a surprisingly creepy atmosphere, but in truth it’s probably the film’s only good bit. As this is a very cheap movie, one can forgive us being shown only brief glimpses of the meteor shower that attacks California on a TV, reported as news, so why then do we have to have our heroine Melissa look up in the sky and see the most unconvincing CGI ‘things in the sky’ that have probably been put on film, looking like a child has been flicking ink from a fountain pen onto a photograph? Most of the film actually takes place either in a couple of apartments or in the office where our group of girls work, a really strange room, especially for an office, with an enormous pipe going all the way round it. Most bizarrely though, it appears that this office is located near a really loud washing machine going by the constant background noise you hear whenever a scene takes place in this location.
It’s not long before one of the girls, Samantha, is attacked by her double, who even wears the same eyeliner and a bandage on her arm, her head bashed repeatedly on the floor in what sounds like a horribly brutal scene but is just funny in the way that it’s staged and shot. What I couldn’t get my head around was the total confusion about what precisely happens when a ‘takeover’ occurs. Do the aliens take over humans or do they ‘become’ them? Even Melissa says she’s not sure what happens in one scene, and it doesn’t help that, despite the front cover of some of the DVD versions, you barely see a pod [and it’s just a polythene bag anyway] or a person being formed. Mind you, hardly anything exciting actually happens in the movie, which moves incredibly slowly despite its short-ish running time. It’s mostly just dull chat – the scene where the girls all go out for a drink is excruciating to watch because the cast members just can’t act ‘natural’ in front of the camera to save their lives – ,people acting in an opposite manner to the way they normally do so, and poorly shot sex scenes. The main set piece of Invasion Of The Pod People is a lengthy lesbian section, which admittedly isn’t unpleasant to watch, where Melissa watches a girly threesome involving two ‘changed’ workmates and a ‘still human’ one before letting herself be seduced by her ‘changed’ boss.
I’m tempted to say that maybe the Sapphic aspects show that the film has a feminist, even pro-feminist message, especially when you consider the number of times people say how wonderful this new alien world will be without things like pain, suffering and conflict – one person even calls it a utopia – to the point that these body snatchers really seem quite sympathetic, but I doubt that writers Ron Magid, Jay Marks and Leigh Scott are aiming as high as something like that. Then, after we finally have our two surviving characters on the run [though there’s no sense of urgency whatsoever], following a potentially good scene ruined by terrible acting where Melissa is confronted by two of one character and can’t tell which is the real person and which is the double, we get the film’s non-ending which I guess is intended to evoke that nightmarish 1978 final moment with Donald Sutherland but instead just seems like the film has stopped.
Technically the film is appalling, with car interiors which don’t match on the left and right sides, portions of dialogue almost drowned out by background noise, and scenes where the lighting changes half way through. Being cheap is no kind of excuse for this filmmaking incompetence. Dialogue is lamentable though sometimes amusing in a “what have I just heard”? way, such as this gem from a gun shop owner: “Maybe you should think about a shotgun, it only shoots in four directions – north, south, east, and west.” Acting is either hilarious [like the guy who shouts all of his lines] or just plain pathetic. Direction is dire. Invasion Of The Pod People is simply terrible and makes The Invasion look like the great 1956 and 1978 versions of Invasion Of The Body Snatchers – it’s that bad. I cannot deny that I had a small amount of fun with it, but not as much as I hoped for. Watching the thing just hurt for much of the time, along with some annoyance at all the talented filmmakers out there who have made good films for peanuts but can’t get them properly released or noticed, while puke like this gets out there easily and quickly, obviously has a ready made audience, and makes the people who made it some money.