Alien 2: On Earth [Alien 2 – Sulla Terra] (1980)

(aka Alien Terror, Strangers)

You have to wonder.

I mean, this is an Italian film.  We know why they slapped the name “Alien 2” on this thing.  After all, Fox hadn’t trademarked the name Alien yet, so it was inevitable that some enterprising Italian filmmaker would try to cash in.

But a “sequel” to a deep-space thriller set in an unexplored cavern on Earth?

A film doesn’t get more Italian than that.

Now my suspicion is that this one started out as a “monster in a cave” movie that got rebranded because they needed that “sequel” in a hurry.

A space mission comes back from the moon, only the capsule is empty.  Meanwhile, an expert speleologist who just happens to be a psychic sets out with her friends to explore an unmapped cave.

Unfortunately, none of them realize that strange rock her boyfriend finds is really a living creature.

This one caught me by surprise: I’ll confess I expected a simple runaway monster sort of film.  Instead, we have a slow buildup, ominous premonitions, and a single instance of gore before the main character reaches the cave (and no, it has nothing to do with that space capsule).

Instead, we spend a lot of time in the cavern before the mystery rock finaly wakes up and claims its first victim.

However, as this is an Italian film, the title isn’t the onlu thing that’s borrowed: we gets hint of The Invasion of the Bodysnatchers, another sequence almost straight out of Scanners; transformations like those in The Thing, and an ending which borrows heavily from one of my favorite Japanese films.

The creatures themselves are decidedly unmemorable: they’re mostly badly-done tentacles and shapeless masses.  They don’t seem to move much — except when they’re pretending to be someone else, which they’re actually surprisingly good at.  You end up wondering how, everytime the cast races away from them, they are there first.  In, fact they’re even waiting for them.  Every single time.

But then, I guess hockey masked serial killers have known how to do that one for a long time.

There are two truly remarkable sequences worth noting: one at the end as a character passes through the busy mechanized workings of a big bowling alley, and the other which features bright lights descending through the darkness to a stirring theme by Oliver Onions (which sounds suspiciously like they were channeling Queen’s Flash Gordon soundtrack.

Mind you, both sequences go on a bit too long.

But then what do you expect? this is an Italian film.

I’ll admit that I have a soft spot for Italian science fiction, even their Alien and Terminator copies from the Eighties and Nineties.  They aren’t exactly brilliant, they are often technically flawed and suffer from bad dubbing  and sound problems.

But if you can get past those challenges, then they can be quite entertaining in their own strange ways.

I like this one: it’s diferent and not at all what one expects.  You find it in a lot of these films, and I suspect it’s because no one cared too much what was in the film as long as it got done

Which is a rather strange sort of freedom.

But what the heck, it worked….

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