The Visitants (1986)

How can I describe this?…

He looks like a forty-year old Archie Andrews who never left Riverdale (or graduated, for that matter), complete with that signature bow tie.

Which is hardly what we expect from someone who is supposed to be a teenager in a small Eighties town.

I know, we’re not supposed to notice that movie teens don’t look like teens.  And we’re not supposed to notice that the “teen” stars of our favorite TV shows never seem to age during their five year run.  And yeah, the bow tie probably was part of his Halloween costume.

But, honestly, Marcus Vaughter wins the Geritol Memorial Cup, with crossed crutches and Laurel Wreath, for playing teens above and way beyond puberty.

Now the director, Rick Sloan, is one of those oddities of the film world of the Eighties.  He made quite a few films but they were all dirt cheap.  His “magnum opus,” Hobgoblins (beloved by MST3K) only cost about $15,000 and I’m not sure he spent even that much on this one a year earlier.  One recognizes locations he would reuse in Hobgoblins, and despite a monster suit, a puppet creature, and a flying saucer set (supposedly reused from another film), this is clearly a very modest production.  Why, the alien raygun which causes so much trouble is obviously a child’s toy.

The basic story is simple enough: Eric isn’t doing well in school because his neighbors weird satellite dish makes so much noise.

But when he steals their ray gun he learns that they are really space aliens who are here preparing the way for their invasion of the Earth.

Oh, and they want their ray gun back.

So he and his friends have to find a way to stop the invasion by the end of the night.

Not that it helps that someone moved the High School Halloween Dance to Eric’s house.

Is there really anyone this nervous and awkward out there?  Who would steal an alien ray gun just because his science teacher wants it?  I don’t know, it all just feels contrived.  Which is a real problem because there isn’t much more to the plot of this thing.

It’s threadbare and a bit dull, but is it really that bad?

As some reviewer suggested, The Visitants does resemble some of Roger Corman’s early films, which had a similar minimal quality.  But by the Eighties, what Roger Corman did in the Fifties wasn’t good enough anymore.  We expect a lot more of movies these days, and expect them to be a lot more polished — and expensive.

Not that that necessarily makes a film any better.

However, I do need to point out that Roger’s early films always brought something unexpected to the mix.  I’m not sure Rick Sloan managed to do that.

But this is an amiable and goofy film.  It isn’t exactly memorable, but then it isn’t too painful, either.

Although the end credits might be the best part of the film…

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And check out our new Feature (Updated June 11, 2020):

The Rivets Zone:  The Best SF Movies You’ve Never Seen!



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