Scared to Death (1980)
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It was Malone's first film and it starred Diana Davidson, whom I am sure no one remembers as they girl who was shot in the swimming pool in Dirty Harry. It also stars John Stinson, Jonathan David Moses, and Toni Jannotta, in her only film. Malone made sure that he had a good selection of beautiful victims to keep your interest.
The staging was good in the respect that terror was built up gradually with a lot of suspense, and the creature was only partially shown until it got towards the end. You never really knew what you were dealing with.
And, of course, when it is all over, you don't really know if you solved the problem.
Really this is nothing but cheap (and that's very cheap) z-grade trash, but still 'fairly' amusing well that's if you're in the right frame of mood. This is no more than a "Alien" rip-off, but set on earth. There are certain shots that resembled some of those from "Alien" and as well the creature looks very similar too.
The story is extra ordinary. The usual scientific creation that's on the loose killing victims and an ex-cop who's the only one that can stop it. So don't expect anything special or original. Sometimes the pacing is a bit tedious; like a slasher film.
The acting is not that bad from a bunch of nobodies... with a pretty charming and gawky heroine. Although there is one or two annoying characters which you have to deal with. Added to the film's script is some sharp humour and witty one-liners, especially from the geeky lead. A very gritty and grim atmosphere is found throughout the picture, with a lot of the film taking place in dark and dim lighting. While the special effects are hilariously shoddy and cheap, which gives it a sort of charm... well I think so.
I found this more enjoyable than the glossy, but bland "Ghost Ship (2002)" I watched before it.
This film is unoriginal, campy and cheap... but I found this schlock watchable and rather fun.
The story has a creature lurking the city streets of L.A. killing its victims. Wait a minute, that sounds awfully familiar doesn't it? Oh yes, it is a lot like the film "The Dark", in fact this film could be "The Dark II: This Time it Actually looks like an Alien". Seriously, it is almost the same movie other than the fact the monster looks different. We get a kill, we get lead guy Tim doing scenes establishing him, another kill, and then more boring scenes that go nowhere and are pointless. Then a final showdown with said creature in a factory setting that is so slow and plodding. At least that portion of "The Dark" was fairly well done, here it just takes to long as there are to many monster walking toward our intrepid heroes. The only curve ball this movie throws is when they take out the lead guy's girlfriend and substitute her for this nerdy, but very cute girl. A nice upgrade, as the lead guy's girl wore way to much eye makeup and reminded me of that hooker from "Mitchell".
So there really is not much going for this movie other than a nice nude scene at the beginning and a scene with a cute couple of skater girls later. The monster gets a lot of show too, what I mean is they are not hiding it as they must be proud of it. They should be, if this were a science fiction show like Star Trek, but this thing looks to much like an alien from a science fiction show more so than a bioengineered monster. It seems to be beating people to death at first, and I also thought it may be raping its victims because the first two victims are female. However, this is not a Roger Corman film, so no...it is not raping anyone. Even when it is sticking its tongue in its victim's mouth it is not doing anything sexual. It just has an idiotic thirst for spinal fluid. I know you are trying to be creative, but really...why not simply do blood and that way the film is at least a bit more gory.
So what we have here is a film that is trying to capitalize on the success of "Alien", but rather than following that film's format, it instead thought it should be more like "The Dark" in that it is very slow, not tense and has a television movie feel to it. The lead guy is annoying, the lead female to hooker looking and the monster would look right at home in a science fiction show, but not a monster movie. You do get to see a bit of nudity, but nothing good after the first initial scene (trust me, you do not want to see the one involving the lead guy). To much awkward flirting, not enough gore! To much monster coming down hall, not enough action! To much nerdy but cute girl screaming, and not scenes of her naked! This film just does not have enough going for it to be an entertaining film and it just has a been there, done that feel for me. It not only borrows from "Alien", "The Dark", but it does the same things countless films from this era did and it brings nothing new to the table. Unless you count watching a girl skate down an entire parking garage and then slowly dressing in more clothes while feeling threatened as something new.
Believe it or not, Scared to Death is probably one of the very first ALIEN templaters to have come out in the 1980s, alongside other similar films such as THE INTRUDER WITHIN & the el bizarro British entry XTRO. The film was the debut of director William Malone, a makeup effects artist who has designed the mask of serial killer Michael Myers from the Halloween films whilst working at Don Post Studios. Malone raised $74,000 in order to make the film & co-wrote the story with another effects wizard, Robert Short.
Scared to Death is an interesting film, although nowhere even near the stature of the original Alien – while the Syngenor looks a bit like a H.R. Giger creation, it still is kept to the shadows to disguise its shortcomings (although the creature's body suit looks quite impressive). The rest of the film is basically Alien melded with Friday the 13th – plenty of undressing girls & shenanigans going on in the dark. The idea of a genetic cyborg (a being made from synthetic DNA) is quite good – indeed the film's attempt at setting the template on Earth & providing a reasonable explanation for the monster's nature earns full marks for being innovative despite the ultra-low budget. The only problem being that Malone is nowhere even near the skill set & vision of Ridley Scott, with his handling frequently turning the film's pace into a hard slog & having no idea on how to create suspense. Still, it was one of the earliest Alien templaters & the Syngenor still looks cool, enough for a sequel-remake to come out a decade later.
Not absolutely painful, just plain boring.
If you want to see something a little better with the same creature, try Syngenor instead. I'm a big fan of the genre, especially the "so bad it's good" sub-genre, but this one is definitely not in that league. Avoid.
This one starts out in classic B-movie monster mode with a naked blonde babe slipping into sexy, silky red underwear before becoming another victim of the Syngenor (Synthesised Genetic Organism). Its a fun, trashy way to kick things off, but the rest of the film offers very little to get excited about: lots of dull chit chat, a few gore-free deaths, and some roller-skating, all leading to the inevitable showdown between Ted and the incredibly slow moving H.R.Giger-style creature in a factory (an ending that might possibly have influenced The Terminator!).
Missable stuff, unless you absolutely have to see every movie inspired in some way by Ridley Scott's Alien.
I will admit that I was hoping for Monster carnage, but director William Malone(feardotcom;House on Haunted Hill;Creature)opts for building suspense instead. I was hoping to see the creature's tongue inserting into a victim's mouth, enabling the viewer to see just how it removes spinal fluid, but Malone's budget(..as obvious from the dark, gritty cinematography)was perhaps just too small to elaborate such grisly details. And, perhaps to prevent us from realizing the fact that the creature is merely a monster suit with a stuntman inside, Malone doesn't allow true visibility of the syngenor lifeform until the very end..and even at the end, Malone carefully blankets it in darkness. But, we get to see those slobbery, sharp teeth with a serpentine tongue as it slithers from the mouth towards a poor female victim, face clutched within it's long fingers, feet high off the ground, frightened out of her wits. Malone spends a great deal of time showing potential victims unaware of what's in store for them(..one girl is actually attacked in her home). The creepiest scene, besides a well executed jump scene concerning a missing construction worker, takes place in the sewer when Ted and Sherry discover that innocent people have become life-support for the syngenor's cocooned offspring, drinking their spinal fluid through a type of umbilical cord! The search through the sewers is probably Malone's greatest triumph because he's able to build a dread in such a hostile environment where the monster considers home. There's a Carrie-type of jolt sequence at the end to cap off Malone's nightmare scenario of a creature hiding in the dark. Malone moves the pace rather slow in the early going, developing his small group of characters, while also establishing the prey, at night oblivious to their predator. The lack of gore was really what bummed me out, but Malone was making a different kind of film than the one I was expecting. A bit ugly and rough-around-the-edges(..a bit too murky for it's own good), Malone's film shows he was a pup learning his craft, but the final chase through the sewers into a machine shop displays potential. I've seen a lot worse shot on a shoestring budget, and this film certainly shows promise..a promise, I don't feel he's capitalized yet, despite the visual polish of his nightmarish urban hell of "feardotcom". The syngenor itself favors the alien walker in ALIEN quite a bit, perhaps fueling the mockery of those who detest filmmakers who attempt to cash in on the success of another.