Thursday, October 18, 2018

31 Days of Halloween - Day 18 - Movie 1

I first encountered Baltimore filmmaker Don Dohler through the pages of Cinemagic magazine, where he provided numerous articles on how to make props and accomplish special effects on almost non-existent budgets. Dohler was the epitome of an amateur fimmaker, creating simply from the passion to do so. The Alien Factor (1978) is one of the feature length results of this passion to create movies. Elements of this film were the source of numerous articles in Cinemagic.

The film concerns a small town dealing with a crashed spaceship that was transporting three specimens for an alien zoo, now released and on the rampage, while an outsider appears to stop these creatures, before they can kill anyone else. It's a decent premise. The outsider's true identity is not surprising, but provides a solid (if also not surprising ending). The filmmakers also get kudos for not just creating one alien being, but five. These are also not cheesy aliens in the sense that they are humans in futuristic clothing, or humans with weird ears, or bumpy foreheads, but full blown creature suit aliens (plus one delivered courtesy of stop-motion animation). Sure, everything is crafted for virtually no money, but the effort and ambition show.

The movie itself drags. The opening credits are really long (though nicely done), the acting is amateurish, the filmmaking equally so. There's quite a bit of padding, illogical storytelling (including a bullet proof monster foiled by a screen door, and dispatched with a syringe needle), wonky sound design, and a sudden halt while a band performs. It's tough to beat on something that was clearly created with a lot of love and enthusiasm, which is why I'm always willing to give Ed Wood films a pass, but Ed Wood is practically Orson Welles in comparison to Dohler's work.  It was almost nice to finally see a film that I knew so much of the behind the scenes material for, but I can't say I was glad to have used my time this way.

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