Tobe Hooper is a name that is synonymous with the horror genre. Hooper brought us such instantly recognizable and game-changing films like the ghastly The Texas Chainsaw Massacre in 1974 to its oddball horror-comedy sequel in 1986. In between he added to the horror genre with horror favorites like The Funhouse in 1981 and maybe most recognizable, and quoted, the 1982 hit Poltergeist. But in between the classic horror films Hooper attempted to delve into the Sci-Fi genre with 1986’s Invaders from Mars. Invaders from Mars is actually a remake of a 1953 film written by Richard Blake (I Am Legend) and marks not only Hooper’s jump into creating a movie that is geared towards families with a large child cast and our protagonist being a young boy named David. Real briefly, here is an overview of the plot:
The plot is pretty simple. David Gardner witnesses an alien arrive in his backyard. Pretty soon, David sees all of the people around him become mindless, robotic aliens in kind of an Invasion of the Body Snatchers kind of way and it’s up to him to save the day. Can he do it and, more importantly, did it ever really happen or was it a dream….or premonition?
Invaders from Mars starts off at a decent pace, we actually see our first aliens about 10 minutes into the movie. For a movie made in 1986 it does a decent job at special effects, though at times it does get a little on the campy side. The aliens look a little silly (kind of odd round looking creatures with laser rays on their sides) although I tend to think that this was a conscious decision to make it more appealing to families rather than create some out of Aliens that might scare children to death. The film tends to keep it very light, not ever getting too scary or tense which I again attributed to the family genre, although there are some sincerely creepy moments in the film. I think to truly gauge this film you do have to look at it through that family-friendly lense rather than some of Hooper’s earlier, more grown-up, works. It’s hard to compare a family-friendly film with no foul language, blood, or nudity to a film like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, which literally made movie-goers physically ill in the theaters.
As a family sci-fi film the movie does a pretty good job. It provides just enough creeps and moments to keep adults interested (and maybe nostalgic for this genre of film) while scaring little kids just enough to not scar tem for life. However, I must say that one of the weaker points of this film is the children actors. It’s sometimes hard to find good child actors and while the ones in this film are by no means the worst they are not the most talented either. Conversely, the adult actors are pretty fun to watch as mindless zombie drones. They play up their parts pretty well and it makes up for the children well enough.
Invaders from Mars is presented in 1080p resolution with a 2.35:1 aspect ratio. The colors are vibrant and clean and the images are detailed, especially on close-ups of the special effects and Martians. With the exception of one particular scene, there were no scratches or specs for the majority of the film. The sound is clear and crisp and comes in either an English 5.1 DTS-HD MA or English 2.0 DTS-HD MA with English subtitles. Both of which perform about the same, there were no major difference that I could tell.
- Audio Commentary with Director Tobe Hooper
- The Martians Are Coming! – The Making of “Invaders From Mars”, an all-new retrospective featuring interviews with Director Tobe Hooper, Actor Hunter Carson, Special Creature Effects Artists Alec Gillis and Gino Crognale, and Composer Christopher Young
- Theatrical Trailer
- TV Spot
- Original Storyboards
- Original Production Illustration Gallery from Artist William Stout with Commentary by Stout
- Still Gallery
Overall, this is a film that many of Hooper’s fans might designate as a miss. It is not all that scary and certainly does not compare to previous movies on the terror-meter; however, I don’t really think that’s the point of this movie. This movie was an early attempt to make a sci-fi movie that adults would enjoy watching with their children and the movie does just that. It’s never too scary or tense while also never being too childish in its presentation. It’s a fine balance when you think about it. If you’re expecting the level of gore and trauma that you got from other Hooper movies then this might not be for you but if you’re looking for a family-friendly sci-fi movie that still has some tension (or one for that family member that gets scared easily) this would be a good selection for you. It’s also a good pick for Hooper fans that just want to see his work in another genre.
Invaders from Mars is available from Scream Factory on April 7th
Fun Fact: Actor Jimmy Hunt, who plays the police chief actually played the child role of David in the original 1953 version of the movie