Hell Target [Heru Tageto] (1987)

If there is one thing in this world which is guaranteed, it is that, if you watch enough Eighties Science Fiction films, you are going to see an Alien rip-off.

And, apparently, this was also true when it comes to Japanese Anime.

After all, we have this OVA from 1987, about a spaceship responding to a distress signal and finding a deadly alien lifeform which kills the crew one by one.

Sound familiar?

Now it has been a while since I watched an Anime from the Eighties, and I was a little amused to note some of the little stylistic quirks, like scenes with characters in front of blank backgrounds, or the many scenes we see of the spacesuited crew running against an indistinct mottled brown background.  These, like a lot of the tropes of anime films — many of which are in use here, like using still images with camera movements to convey emotion — are all there to cut costs.

And that minimal quality does seem to carry over to other aspects of the film: we barely get introduced to the main characters before something starts killing them.  In fact, I’m not even sure we hear the names of some of these characters before the scenes in which they get killed off.

The OVA (or Original Video Animation) format was an incredibly successful way of selling animated films: it started out on VHS, and later moved to DVD.  The length varied a bit, but most were fairly short (and overpriced!) and they could be chapters of a much longer story.  Hell Target is only fifty minutes long, although I do not know whether they sold it as a single installment, or as a series.

The OVA gave creators a little more freedom when it came to content.  As they didn’t have to worry about the rules expected by the television industry, they could indulge in gore, nudity and sex.  Plus, as strange as this may sound, OVAs were far more profitable and they often had far larger budgets than their TV counterparts.

There is a lot of gore on display in Hell Target, including some fairly gruesome scenes where people get melted, or torn apart.  Curiously, there is no nudity or sex for most of the run (and they are surprisingly circumspect about the crew in their hibernation pods) until near the end when the main characters throw their clothes off and jump into bed together at a time when they should really be fighting the aliens.

Even then, their hearts don’t seem to have been in it as they still do not give us a lot of nudity, even though the scene is drawn out as far as they can.

Ironically, Hell Target might almost be a direct steal not from Alien but from the Roger Corman produced Galaxy of Terror (1981).  The basic plot is almost identical, you can’t miss the similarities between the alien presence they are up against in both films.

Although no one gets raped by a giant worm creature.

Now, I’ll admit this may be because I watched this as a VHS rip posted to Youtube, but to me Hell Target looked dull.  The colors were drab, most of the scenes are dark, and it all seems to take place against the barren surface of the planet, or in caves.  All I can think of the First Act of the original Alien, which takes us to a mist-shrouded alien planet and uses every trick they had at their disposal to pile mood and atmosphere on top of a fairly routine sort of story.  Hell Target is far more mundane with some very Eighties anime music playing constantly, and a lot of surprisingly well-done hardware (in the age before digital when any of these things required a lot of hand-drawn effort.  And a bit of Xerography).

The film looks even worse if you compare it to Dragon’s Heaven, an OVA made just a year later.  Dragon’s Heaven had a very strong art style which deliberately conjured up the work of two great artists.  Hell Target looks far more routine, as if they were instead copying the style every other anime used at the time.  Only some of the gore and the alien attacks have any real life to them.

Nor is the story all that interesting: it is mostly a series of gruesome deaths with only a few minor plot interruptions.

The bottom line here is that this one is on the downhill side of mostly okay.  It does some things well — like the gore and much of their hardware — but it really doesn’t offer much of anything that distinguishes it from its competition.

And, let’s face it, it isn’t even as good as the much-maligned Galaxy of Terror.

With or without that giant rape worm…



Check out our new Feature (Updated February 16, 2022):

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



This Time Featuring Two Interesting Short Films

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