... aka: Les envahisseurs de l'espace (The Invaders from Space)
... aka: Night of the Extraterrestrials
I figured I'd hop from HOBGOBLINS (1988) right on over to this earlier Sloane film because, well, sometimes you just want to get all of the pain and suffering out of the way as soon as possible. The director has described this one as being "an homage to Plan 9 from Outer Space," which instantly triggered my auto-cringe reflex. It still floors me that so many wannabe "cult" filmmakers don't realize that if you intentionally make something stupid, inept and bad, it doesn't magically then make your film somehow good. It's still stupid, inept and bad, only it usually ends up even worse than the supposed bad movie you're trying to make fun of. An accidentally terrible film typically still has its earnest, likable and charming qualities, but a film that's purposely bad almost always comes off as arch, cynical and a huge waste of time. I mean, what's there to really like about a filmmaker who doesn't even care enough to attempt to make a good film? To me, that's far less admirable than a director with good intentions who winds up making a terrible film. At least that person tried.
One thing that's impressive about Sloane, and something I will give him endless kudos for, is the fact he just went out there and made his own movies regardless of what anyone had to say about it. He attended Los Angeles City College and was reputedly told by multiple professors that he had no talent and would never make it as a director. He ignored them and then turned around and directed a number of low budget 35mm films that were highly successful and profitable VHS releases. To date, Sloan has made a total of around 15 features at the cost of less than a million dollars. Let me rephrase that: The combined budgets of all fifteen of his films is less than a million dollars. And many of these went on to receive international distribution on home video and likely grossed tens of millions. Regardless of what you or I may think about his movies, that's certainly commendable, at least from a business standpoint.
The Visitants opens with a bickering, human-looking alien couple; Exeter ("Johanna Grika" / Jordana Capra) and Lubbock (Joel Hile), landing on Earth in the 1950s and immediately turning their ray guns on a young couple who've just returned from watching a monster movie at their local drive-in. That's followed by some cute opening credits spiced up with simple bits of animation. So far, so good. We then jump ahead thirty years as the alien couple, who haven't aged a day in their decades on Earth and have settled under-the-radar into suburban living, prepare to move on to the "final stage" of their mission. However, the flashing lights and loud noises coming from their home attract the attention of their next door neighbor: high school senior Eric (Marcus Vaughter).
Thanks to the frequent ruckus, Eric has been kept up all hours of the night and is starting to tire of it, both figuratively and literally. When he wakes up one morning, he finds that his alarm clock has been mysteriously cut in half, though none of the inner mechanisms has been damaged. He consults his science teacher, Professor Levelland ("Jeffrey Culver" / James R. Sweeney), about this, but he doesn't have a clue what's occurred. Eric begins to suspect that a toy laser gun he's seen his neighbors messing around with has something to do with it. Levelland then suggests he try to get his hands on the gun and bring it to him. Looking at this through contemporary eyes (at least by someone who doesn't live in the Deep South), it's downright comical to see a teacher suggest a student bring a gun into school.
Eric breaks into the alien's house, finds their laser gun and hides it in his backpack. When the aliens catch him there, they tell him they work as T. V. repairmen and hand him a convincing note signed by "Their Boss" that reads "Lubbock and Exeter are t.v. repairmen. Uh, that's right, t.v. repairmen." Lubbock accidentally uses his powers to close a drawer without touching it, which forces them to finally let cat out of the bag. They're aliens! But they're at least kind enough to give Eric a friendly warning. If he tells another soul about what he's just seen, they'll either be forced to kill him or take him back to their home planet when they do leave, which will be very soon.
Once they discover their gun missing, Exeter and Lubbock go after Eric at school, which ends with Eric stabbing Lubbock during a pumpkin carving demonstration, which doesn't even phase the alien. With their Earth evacuation date fast approaching (it's scheduled for Halloween night), the aliens then decide to just kill Eric after he reveals the whereabouts of their laser. He eavesdrops on their conversation and learns of their plans but is unable to convince his parents (Cliff Corder, Joan Tinei) not to go to Palm Springs for the weekend. With the folks away, his best friend Sherwin (William Thomas Dristas) decides to throw a Halloween party. The aliens, who we learn are able to change their appearance into whatever they want, crash the shindig and kidnap Eric, Sherwin and Eric's girlfriend Ellen (Nicole Rio).
Well, whatta ya know! Though I'm shocked to find myself saying this, and it may be because I had my expectations set at their lowest possible level prior to viewing, but I found Visitants (gasp!) somewhat enjoyable. Or, at least it all went down painlessly enough, especially when compared to most of the director's other films. Sure, it's still incredibly cheap, poorly made, written and acted at times, thinly plotted and filled with overly long, static camera set-ups, lame comic sound effects and peculiar dead end conversations that don't seem to have much to do with anything. However, it also manages to create a good-natured and enjoyably daft tone that partially makes up for the many areas where it's seriously lacking.
Though the acting is generally bad, I enjoyed the amusingly dispassionate performances from Hile and (especially) Capra as the emotionless aliens. Vaughter is decently likable as the male lead, as well, though the poor guy didn't have much of a career thanks to always getting typecast. He appeared in just four other films and since I've actually now seen all of them I can confirm that he got stuck playing a nerd / geek in ALL FIVE of these movies! I don't even know if Eddie Deezen had it so bad. Vaughter, Dristas and Sweeney can all be seen in NIGHTMARE SISTERS (1988) and Vaughter and Rio were both in the slasher flick SORORITY HOUSE MASSACRE (1986).
The production values and special effects are basically non-existent here. And when you don't have any money for sets and props, you have to whip out the colored gel lights and fog machines, make a living room look "alien" with a strategically placed lava lamp and use a regular ole satellite dish as the alien's means of communication back to their home planet. There's also an alien monster (seen only at the beginning and end) which is basically just a guy in a rubber mask and an even less impressive puppet monster which is seen for all of 5 seconds. Sloane also plugs his earlier film BLOOD THEATRE (1984) and throws in a nightmare sequence where Eric is tied down to his bed and cut open with an electric hedge trimmer (!?)
Fred Olen Ray is thanked in the end credits, the cast also includes Ralph Lucas (Beverly Hills Vamp) as a janitor and Kelley Palmer (one of the stars of Hobgoblins) and it was shot in 9 days on a budget of just 8,500 dollars. This is (I believe falsely) listed as a 1986 release on most websites, which conflicts with both the 1987 copyright date in the end credits and the initial 1987 VHS release from TransWorld Entertainment. It was reissued on video just three years later by Star Classics and, in 2018, received a DVD and Blu-ray release from Vinegar Syndrome.