STRANGE INVADERS — Haphazard But Appreciably Weird

Strange Invaders is now available on Blu-ray from Twilight Time in a limited edition of 3000 units.

What if aliens were right here on the planet among us, posing as humans right under our noses? Before the Men In Black series, Bill Condon and Michael Laughlin explored the idea with Strange Invaders, a 1983 film that feels like a throwback to classic 50s “Atomic Age” sci-fi. Aliens have taken over the small town of Centerville. In fact, they’ve been there since 1958, when they took over Body Snatchers-style as seen in the opening prologue.

After his ex-wife disappears, Charles Bigelow (Paul Le Mat) visits her hometown of Centerville to seek clues as to her whereabouts. Things feel a bit off in the strange place. Like many small towns, it feels trapped in the past, but even more explicitly so, and the atmosphere is incredibly hostile. When things can’t feel any more sinister, his car is attacked and blows up right before his eyes. Stealing another vehicle, he narrowly escapes getting zapped himself as he leaves town, but not before getting a glimpse of his strange attacker.

Things go further down the rabbit hole as Charles gets in touch with tabloid reporter Betty Walker (Nancy Allen) who has published photos similar to his own encounter, and the pair track down Willie Collins, the original photographer (Michael Lerner). Meanwhile, an atmosphere of paranoia deepens as both aliens and government spooks seem to be following them. Eventually Charles’ daughter is whisked away, forcing a confrontation.

This film really hits and misses all over the place. While believable as a university professor, Paul Le Mat makes for a rather bland lead. Nancy Allen helps fill the charisma void, though, with a lively and sassy performance, and the film gets a great boost when Michael Lerner brings the team up to a trio as an unfortunate guy who discovered the aliens and tried to warn the world, but instead got locked up in a mental institution for his troubles. This movie probably would’ve been a lot better with Collins as the main protagonist.

I don’t want to get into spoiler territory, but the film also has a devil of a time trying to decide what exactly the aliens are up to. Their motivations and actions are slippery and inconsistent, leading to a somewhat unsatisfactory ending that feels out of place, but is also in some respects warm-hearted and genuinely affecting.

The film’s creatures and practical effects are the clear highlight. As Julie Kirgo notes in the disc’s booklet, effects work was provided by some of the folks behind The Thing and Battle Beyond The Stars, and the quality shows. The imagery of the aliens gruesomely removing their fleshy human masks is awesome, and toward the film’s climax there are some very cool and visually striking scenes of the aliens parading through the streets of old-timey Centerville, ripping away their faces as they convene to perform their unknowable ultimate purpose.

Strange Invaders is tonally scattershot and suffers from a boring main protagonist, but it’s also undeniably weird, imaginative, and unique. That’s not quite enough for me to endorse it, but I can appreciate why it’s deserving of its measure of cult status.

The Package

Strange Invaders is now available on Blu-ray from Twilight Time in a limited edition of 3000 units. Right in line with Twilight Time standards, the package features their standard transparent case and 8-page booklet with liner notes by Julie Kirgo. In a Twilight Time first though, the notes contain the term “evil bee-yotches”.

Special Features and Extras

Audio Commentary by Director Michael Laughlin and Writer William Condon

Isolated Score Track

Theatrical Trailer (1:25)

A/V Out.

Available from Twilight Time.

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