It’s always a pleasant surprise when someone locates some forgotten but interesting little film and makes it available once again. In this case, Garagehouse Pictures turned up this minor gem, an independent film directed by a young man who would become a special effects expert, which no one noticed during its brief UK theatrical run in all the hullabaloo around the two far more notable SF films which came out the same year.
Something strange is happening. An Air Force jet vanishes after encountering something unearthly, and, while the military monitors it from far away, the alien ship settles over a remote island and surrounds it with an apparently impenetrable field.
Only four people are on the island — the lighthouse keeper, his wife, and a pair of scuba divers — and there is no way to evacuate them.
Nor does anyone know what the mysterious visitors actually want.
This is a very unusual film. The encounters with the aliens are surreal and inexplicable, they come with wild, psychedelic light shows and images, some of them quite beautiful. It’s all backed by a wonderfully eerie and very Seventies score.
It would be easy to dismiss the effects as cheap, but those who know a bit about what it takes to create such effects will notice one truly remarkable thing: the underside of the alien saucer has a mirror finish and reflects its surroundings in many of the shots. That’s something special effects people avoided for years, and the reflective ship in Starman was actually a white ball with images of its surroundings projected onto it — and when George Lucas wanted to show off his digital capabilities in The Phantom Menace, he gave us Amidala’s mirror finish Royal Yacht!
There is one particular image which stands out, although it is clearly a matte painting, of the weirdly lit alien saucer hanging in a perfect night sky. It looks like it came off the cover of a Seventies rock album, for Boston, or ELO or perhaps Led Zeppelin.
The characters are barely developed and they mostly react to things rather than pursue some clear goal. But Foes isn’t too worried about that and is more interested in showing us a surreal lightshow and a string of remarkable images and moments.
Some of you out there may find this one a little slow, but if you are willing to work with this one, it is weird and unsettling — and very welcome (and creepy) as a midnight movie.
Just don’t try to get off the island.
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