Ratings Key



★★★★
= Excellent. The best the genre has to offer.
★★★
1/2 = Very Good. Perhaps not "perfect," but undoubtedly a must-see.
★★★ = Good. Accomplishes what it sets out to do and does it well.
★★1/2 = Fair. Clearly flawed and nothing spectacular, but competently made. OK entertainment.
★★ = Mediocre. Either highly uneven or by-the-numbers and uninspired.
1/2 = Bad. Very little to recommend.
= Very Bad. An absolute chore to sit through.
NO STARS! = Abysmal. Unwatchable dreck that isn't even bad-movie amusing.
SBIG = So Bad It's Good. Technically awful movies with massive entertainment value.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Night Beast (1982)

...aka: Nightbeast
...aka: Terror from the Unknown

Directed by:
Don Dohler

A spaceship is struck by a meteor and forced to crash land on Earth. Out of the wreckage comes a tall, skinny, fanged, wrinkly, lizard-like alien monster dressed in a silver jumpsuit who immediately uses his laser gun to make three hunters evaporate, rips a father's face off, dissolves his children while they sit in a station wagon, rips a guy's guts out, kills his girlfriend and gets in a shoot out with cops and a bunch of local yokel draftees with shotguns... and all within the first 15 minutes! Sheriff Jack Cinder (Tom Griffith, sporting curly silver hair and a black mustache), female deputy Lisa Kent (Karin Kardian) and aspiring policeman Jamie Lambert (Jamie Zemarel) survive the attack, but have a hard time convincing local mayor Bert Wicker (Richard Dyzsel) and his large-breasted drunken secretary Mary Jane Carpenter (Eleanor Herman) that they needs to cancel the pool party they're throwing for the governor (Richard Ruxton). Meanwhile, a psycho biker named Drago (Don Leifert) is running around bad mouthing the fuzz and strangles his Asian ex-girlfriend Suzie (Monica Neff) to death because she wants to leave him for Jamie, leading to a horribly-choreographed fist fight that comes out of nowhere.
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The alien isn't given much of a motive for killing but it's revealed at a later junction that it enjoys eating people, which doesn't really explain why it likes to zap nearly everyone into oblivion that it comes into contact with, though it does eventually settle into more of a traditional carniverous alien rampage by ripping off a black guy's arm, ripping open the secretary's chest and ripping off the mayor's head. When it attacks a clinic run by doctors Ruth Sherman (Anne Frith) and Steven Price (George Stover), the two are able to fight it off using electricity, which comes in handy for the big electric cable finale.
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Truly awful acting, terrible cinematography and production values and seemingly no sense of contuinity whatsoever helps this fall into the "guilty pleasure" category for fans of bad regional B movies. It's completely straight-faced and lacks any kind of pretense; the film merrily just zips along from one silly scene to the next, with one alien attack scene after another and with as many cheap-but-fun visual (some by Ernest D. Farino) and prosthetic makeup effects as they could probably afford piled on top. The film is also loaded with secondary characters whose relevance to the primary plot is questionable at best. After his first two timid sci-fi/horror features, Don even updates the formula to get it ready for the video age by throwing in a few random T&A scenes, one of which being an incredibly awkward but fitfully amusing coupling between our afro-sporting hero and his tanned-and-bleached sidekick. Yes, it's awful... but it's also awfully entertaining if you like this kind of stuff.
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Shot on 16mm around Baltimore (where all of the director's films were shot) and with a budget of just 42,000 dollars, this is more-or-less a remake of Dohler's first feature, THE ALIEN FACTOR (1978), with many of the same cast members playing the same roles they did in that film. It has been issued to VHS several times; and there's even a DVD release from Troma containing an intro, outtakes and bloopers, a commentary track from Dohler (who passed away a few years back) and Stover, as well as other fun supplements. The sound effects were by Jeffrey Abrams a.ka. J.J. Abrams, who'd go on to create the TV shows Alias and Lost, produce CLOVERFIELD (2008) and direct the blockbusters MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE III (2006) and STAR TREK (2009).
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Others in the Dohler filmography include; FIEND (1980), THE GALAXY INVADER (1985), BLOOD MASSACRE (1988), ALIEN FACTOR 2: ALIEN RAMPAGE (2000) and DEAD HUNT (2007; which he co-directed with Joe Ripple). Dohler also wrote and/or produced several other films.
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SBIG

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