Stars: Richard Ruxton, Faye Tilles, George Stover
An alien is hunted by a gang of drunken hillbillies who saw him crash-land his spaceship.
So it’s that time of year again where cinematic art becomes a contest, and some mostly unknown people judge which American film was the best in the world this year. I’m talking of course about the Oscars, and what better way to celebrate this occassion than by reviewing Don Dohler’s 1985 classic “Galaxy Invader”, known to many as the “Driving Miss Daisy” of sci-fi. If trying to make honest, low-budget films with a deep message about society through the use of alien metaphor, but instead producing schlock of the highest order was an art form, then Don Dohler would be a genius. It’s not however, and so Don will never receive the full acclaim he so fully deserves. With this said I present you with my review of his greatest achievement, and a film that was so cruely snubbed by the Academy.
Well one thing you can’t criticise is the opening music, it screams sci-fi and has you bobbing your head to it like a rapper, however, I think that’s the first and last item on the uncriticisable list. The first person we meet is the emotionless David, who’s performance in this film almost gives Zooey Deschanel’s in “The Happening” a run for it’s money. It may not surprise you that he is played by Greg Dohler, yeah, it’s the director’s son. He’s driving along in his car when suddenly, he sees a ball of light fly through the sky and crash in a nearby forest. I don’t want to criticise the CGI effects too much, but it basically looks like a cartoon. David rushes to a pay phone and calls his old teacher, Dr. Tracy, who has a great interest in UFOs and explains to him what he’s just witnessed. Tracy tells him that he’ll be there in five hours, meanwhile, the alien has left it’s spaceship and is making it’s way through the woods.
It arrives at some random couple’s house as they sit at a table not really doing much. They suddenly hear a noise coming from the basement, so the man grabs a kitchen knife and they go off to investigate. They eventually come across the alien, which looks similar, but worse, to the alien Captain Kirk had to fight to the death in that Star Trek episode, you know, the one where he made a rocket launcher out of a tree or something. Anyway, as soon as they see it, the man starts attacking it, trying to stab it before hitting it with some household objects. The alien seems impervious to this however and instantly kills him with one swipe. The woman then goes after him with a lamp, but she meets the same fate. I’m not sure it was wise to include this scene in the film, because at some point, we’re supposed to be on the alien’s side, and well, even though it was self defence, he’s already killed two people in the first ten minutes.
All that pales into insignificance however as we meet the greatest family in cinema history, the Montagues. We have J.J. the eldest son who’s a little on the slow side, Carol the eldest daughter who seems to love arguing with people, Annie the younger daughter who’s played by Kim Dohler (yes it’s the director’s daughter) and who seems to hate everything, and the mother, Ethel, who does well to put up with all the rest of her family’s shenanigans to be fair to her. It’s the “shirt with a massive hole in the chest area” wearing father, Joe, who’s the real legend of the piece however. A one sentence description doesn’t do this man justice, and well, you’ll soon find out what he’s all about, with this first Montague based scene, of which I shall go fully in-depth, being a particular highlight.
They’re all sitting around the breakfast table as Kim and J.J. are arguing over why coffee is bad for you and Carol demands Ethel hurries up with her eggs because she’s going to be late. This is where Joe pipes up and starts to badger Carol into telling him what exactly she’s going to be late for, but she’s all “It’s none of your business”. Ethel tries to calm Joe down but he tells her to shut up and continues his interrogation saying he knows she’s going to meet that Michael Smith kid and that he hates him and his whole family. Carol responds by telling him it’s only because he tried to cheat Michael’s father out of some money before calling him a drunken bum. At this, Joe stands up and slaps her across the face, so she reacts by throwing water at him and storming out. As Joe goes into another room, Ethel tells him to calm down again, but he returns with a shotgun and points it at his family before going out after Carol, his daughter, who he may just be about to shoot in the chest.
Ethel begs J.J. to go after Joe, but he’s all “What can I do? You know what he’s like”, but eventually he starts to follow them. Annie takes this opportunity to tell Ethel that she hates Joe. As he’s chasing after his daughter to murder her, Joe comes across the alien, and as J.J. aproaches and asks what the hell it is, Joe doesn’t think twice about shooting it. The alien doesn’t seem to be too bothered by this, but he does drop a flashing ball thing that he had around his waist before he scarpers off through the woods. Joe sees this and runs straight over to it, and then eplains to J.J. that it’s probably worth a lot of money before taking it home. Meanwhile Carol meets up with the Michael Smith kid, who looks about forty, and tells him about the whole being chased with a gun situation. Michael responds by telling her that he wants them to move away because this is the fourth time this has happened. He then explains that if it happens again, he’ll punch Joe’s face in.
I just need a moment to take in what I’ve just watched. That scene escalated from having breakfast around a table to Joe chasing his daughter with a shotgun and then shooting an alien in the space of about three minutes. I love this film already. Dr. Tracy pulls up to where David is waiting (did he wait there for five hours?) and tells him that he’s already talked to several high sources in the scientific community and his friend that works over at the airforce base, who have somehow confirmed that it was probably an alien that crashed. David points to where about it happened and they decide it must be a few miles away. They start walking. I just have to point out that the actor playing Dr. Tracy is far from a great thespian, but alongside the Dohler kid, he seems like bloody Sir Alec Guiness.
Joe and J.J. return home at this point and Ethel and Annie ask where’s Carol. Joe tells them to shut up. Carol shows up soon however with an angry Michael who starts telling Joe to stop threatening to shoot his girl, but Joe just points his gun at him so Michael backs down. He does see the glowing ball though and asks what it is and as J.J. explains about the alien and stuff, Joe stops him by telling him to shut up. I’m starting to think this is his catch phrase. Later, Joe’s mate Frank Custor arrives on the scene with his total caricature of a slut girlfriend Vickie in tow and they check out the glowing ball. After Joe does a little demonstration where he pokes the ball with a pole and it kind of goes on fire a bit, Frank comes up with the ingenious plan of instead of trying to sell the ball thing, why not try and catch the green space alien that it came from. This excites Joe immensely and they decide to get a group of fellow rednecks together to go after it. As soon as Joe, Frank and Vickie leave to gather their crew, the alien turns up, stuns J.J. with a space pen thing and takes back his ball.
After Joe and friends go to the pub and somehow get a little gang together without even telling them what they’ll be hunting, Our anti-hero Joe returns home and inexplicably starts panicking straight away and starts looking for J.J. He runs into the house where Annie and three of her friends are and asks where her brother is, but she says she doesn’t know. After he runs back outside, Annie takes this opportunity to tell her chums that she hates him. Gotta love Annie. He eventually finds J.J. spark out on the floor and of course blames him for losing the ball. Meanwhile, David and Dr. Tracy give up there search as it’s getting dark, just in case you were wondering what these two fantastic bastards are up to, but back to Joe. The crew arrive at his house and so they all head off to hunt for the alien. As Ethel and Annie watch from the window, Ethel challenges her daughter to a game of scrabble. Annie takes this opportunity to tell her that she hates scrabble.
David and Dr. Tracy head to the same pub where Joe was earlier for a quick drink as Vickie sits at the bar with her back to them. I can’t help but notice that her arse looks ridiculous. Anyway, Vickie’s off her tits on booze and starts shouting about how her fella is hunting the space alien from Mars (her words, not mine). The acting really hits a new low in this scene, not just from the Vickie actress trying to portray a convincingly drunk person, but from Dr. Tracy who has to react to what she’s saying and David basically just sitting there trying his hardest not to look at his dad behind the camera. They talk to Vickie and get all the drunken information they need about the hunt, so they head into the woods to see what’s going on. The next ten minutes consists of a drawn out and poorly lit scene where the rednecks catch the alien after they have a gun fight with it. The aliens gun shoots what can only be described as fireworks at them. David and Dr. Tracy follow them as they take the alien to Joe’s.
The next morning it seems that the coast is clear and so David and Dr. Tracy infiltrate Joe’s garage and free the alien. While doing this however, Frank turns up and Joe greets him at the door. Knowing that they’re in mortal danger, Dr. Tracy takes a scientific approach. He flings the garage door open and they make a run for it. Seriously, the alien running behind them has to be seen to be believed. So as Joe and Frank chase after them shooting their beloved guns, Carol sees this from the window and I like to think that the vision of her father chasing someone with a gun gives her a flashback to when he did the same to her… four times apparently. She gets the space gun and space ball which Joe previously stole back from the space man, which I might not have mentioned (this film is hard to keep up with) and runs into the woods. She soon meets up with the alien and gives him back his weaponry, probably because she wants it to shoot her father. Meanwhile in a different part of the woods, Frank shoots Dr. Tracy in the back killing him instanty.
As David says “Dr. Tracy, no” in a monotone voice and kneels beside him, Frank goes to shoot him too, but the alien appears from behind some grass and shoots Frank dead with his ball gun. Joe in turn shoots the alien and for some reason, this time it knocks him unconcious so Joe once a-bloody-gain steals the ball and the space gun before running back home. David runs the other way and eventually bumps into Carol and Michael. They decide to get the gun and ball back from Joe and give it to the alien. I’m sick of this friggin’ ball thing now. Later that night, Carol’s asleep in bed when a noise from the cellar wakes her up. So she goes to investigate, for quite a while, and well yeah, it’s the alien. She reacts badly to this, screaming and waking up the rest of the family. Joe sprints out and shoots at it but it gets away. The only reason I can think of for having this scene in the film is for pure filler.
The next morning, Joe wakes to find his family have disappeared. They’re taking a trek through the woods to meet up with David and Michael who now seems to be the main hero? Oh yeah, this part is brilliant. As they’re walking, Annie starts having a bitch fit and tells the others that she doesn’t want to go, so they decide to leave her by a tree and then literally walk about ten paces to where David and Michael are waiting for them. They devise a quick plan to get the space gun from Joe, then they all walk back to Annie who straight away agrees to go with them and help. What? Wait until you hear what happens next then. Vickie goes around to Joe’s all worried asking where Frank is, and out of the blue, Joe tries to rape her. She pushes him off and runs out the door so Joe shoots her with the space gun. Honestly. Then he acts all like “what have I done?” and hides her body. This film has just gone completely mental!
After coming up with an intricate plan to steal the ball ‘n’ space gun from Joe, the group find him passed out drunk on the couch so they just grip them easily. David, Carol and Michael run off into the woods to look for the alien and return them. Back at the house though, Joe comes round and is soon screaming at the others demanding to know where his new toys are. Ethel says something but Joe tells her to shut up, so they try and restrain him but he pushes Ethel and Annie to the ground. J.J. punches him in the face but gets one back in the belly and at that, Joe is off in pursuit of Carol with his gun (again). He’s soon on their arses and corners them near a “cliff” which looks to me like they could have easily just ran down. He tells Michael to drop the gun and as he goes to retrieve it, the alien shows up so Joe shoots it dead with the space gun. Michael grabs Joe and they start brawling. Surprisingly Joe twats Michael, gets him on the ground and starts strangling him. I tell ya, the way he caught up to them and outfought Michael, Joe must be about twenty times fitter than he looks. Anyway, as he’s strangling Michael to death, the rest of his family turn up and Ethel picks up the shotgun and twats him around the head with it knocking him over the cliff to his death. That’s how it ends. Yeah. Like that.
So when “Out of Africa” was getting the Oscar in early 1986, “Galaxy Invader” was left to be forgotten with time. We all know that the 80’s was a rubbish decade for the Oscars, like seriously, “Ordinary People” winning over “The Elephant Man” and “Raging Bull”? And just look at what 1989 films “Driving Miss Daisy” beat to win that one. But it’s the list of films that weren’t even nominated, “The Shining”, “The Princess Bride”, “Slumber Party Massacre II” and “Galaxy Invader” which really begs the question, who even decides this crap? Who cares? So with that said, this brings an end to this Oscars special review, I hope you enjoyed it. Remember to put all your money on “Boyhood”, with the whole twelve year gimmick the academy will lap it up like retarded cats. But as Linklater holds aloft his little gold trophy, just spare a thought to what low-budget gem is missing out this year. Cheers.