DIRECTED BY: Don Dohler
WRITTEN BY: Don Dohler
PEW PEW: Nah, it’s not a very engaging picture, but stuff happens and it’s amusing.
CAT FOOD: Don’t let a zoo ruin your amusement park.
I’m sure you’ve heard it many times before, “that movie is so bad it’s good.” Well, Don Dohler’s 1978 creature feature The Alien Factor is so bad it’s… fairly watchable (let’s not get too carried away with that ‘good’ word).
After a meteor crashes outside a small town, a rash of strange animal-like killings breaks out. It’s up to the town’s two police officers, a medical staff of two, a pushy reporter, a scientist who’s a bit off, and a few seventies-style townies to put together the mystery and hunt down whatever is causing the grisly deaths. Oh, and just to make things difficult, the mayor of the town is preparing to have a major amusement park constructed and he doesn’t want any bad publicity, so asking for help beyond town level is a no-go.
This movie should have been one of the worst things I’ve ever seen in my life. The script and the acting are brutal, the visual isn’t incredibly inspired, and there are more cliches than you can shake a stick at, but somehow, against all odds, I actually enjoyed the loping monstrosity.
So yeah, the unfortunate reality is that the acting is so bad it feels like watching a school play, but there are a few distinctly likable things that I can recall about The Alien Factor. Namely, the score, the creatures, and an ending that actually threatens to be interesting.
Outright, I will acknowledge that the film’s score, by Kenneth Walker, is something pretty damn enjoyable. Made with seventies synths, the soundtrack is heavily nostalgic for a synth nerd like me. I’ll admit that a lot of people might not like how absolutely dated it sounds, but I’m afraid I’m guilty of just loving it.
The creature nerd in me was reasonably satisfied as well. Throughout the course of The Alien Factor, we find out from the slightly spun scientist character that there are three creatures roaming the town. There is a venomous insectine creature, a tusked centaur-like creature, and a being that is apparently mostly light and can barely be seen during the day. The two most visible creatures are both bipedal humanoids, which doesn’t add much variation, but fans of thirties and forties monster movies will appreciate the tribute.
Before I get too much further along, I’ll put out the warning that there will be some spoilers.
The final creature is a stop-motion, semi-transparent, serpentine affair that pulls itself along with two powerful forearms. Under normal circumstances, this thing would be laughable at best, but, again, fans of this kind of stuff will eat it up. I grew up with Harryhausen stop-motion monsters and the lemoid, as the final creature is called, is a very corny send-up that I rather enjoyed.
True, the monsters could have done more, but considering the thing had a four-figure budget, I’d say the monsters look passably cool and they certainly aren’t bashful when it comes to killing. It’s another unfortunate, though, that the killing isn’t a whole lot more exciting than merely throttling someone or draining their life essence.
Finally, the plot, while incredibly basic and terribly scripted, really isn’t all that bad. There are several maulings before the scientist figures out a way to dispatch all three creatures — eventually revealing that he himself is an alien. He explains that an alien craft containing zoological specimens crash landed and released the creatures, forcing him to have to intervene before word got out.
Then the sheriff fucking shoots him. The end.
It’s a tough call to make, but this is a two star picture no matter how you look at it. I’d give it a phantom third star, however, for those of you who dig the occasional good bad movie. I wouldn’t watch it instead of a good movie, however.
I don’t know, I feel I should be ashamed, but something about The Alien Factor just rings enjoyable. If you pick up a copy of the picture, just go in with the mindset that you’re sitting down to watch a movie a friend made… with a bunch of dudes he knows who worked for six packs and a few bags of chips… you should be able to draw some seemingly absurd pleasure from it.