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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Prince (Brendan Hughes), Sir (Dennis Vero), Queen (Florence
Schauffler), Jester (a winningly playful turn by Red Hot Chili Peppers
bassist Flea) and their lizard-like, laser gun-toting bodyguard Warrior
(bodybuilder Spice Williams in a gnarly scaly monster suit) are a
desperate on the run quintet of wan, pale-eyed, white-haired benign
alien beings who have narrowly avoided getting killed by another
belligerent race of warmonger extraterrestrials. Their spaceship
crashlands on Earth nearby the farmhouse of feisty Grandma Grace (a
wonderfully spry Maureen O'Sullivan) and her withdrawn granddaughter
Deirdre ("The River's Edge" 's Ione Skye, the fetching daughter of 60's
folk-pop singer/songwriter Donovan). They have a nasty run in with two
hunters, which results in one of the hunters and Queen both getting
mortally wounded. Newly elected black sheriff McMann (an excellent Joe
Morton, the former "Brother from Another Planet" in a very canny piece
of casting), a staunch by-the-book professional, has to prevent the
tense, nervy hostage situation from becoming an outright bloodbath and
prove his mettle to his doubting men who include "Vice Squad" 's Gary
Swanson as an antagonistic deputy and Harry Caesar as a more
level-headed lawman. Making an already fraught situation more edgy and
explosive are Susan Barnes as an icy government agent who specializes
in mysterious close encounters who wants to relinquish McMann's
authority and Michael Greene as the dead hunter's anguished, vindictive
father who brings along a heavily armed posse so he can exact his own
embittered brand of rough justice on the hapless aliens.
Tex Fuller, an acclaimed documentary filmmaker here making his first fictional story feature, artfully creates a fresh, ingenious and absorbing sci-fi thriller variant on your standard hostage/siege scenario that's greatly enhanced by uniformly bang-up acting, sharply drawn characters who are basically neither good nor bad (the aliens are just trying to stay alive, McMann and his men are competent, well-trained fellows thrust into an odd ordeal that's beyond their ability to effectively handle, and Grace and Deirdre are innocent bystanders who get caught in the middle of the whole mess), Stacy Widelitz's shivery score, Michele Burke's nifty and elaborate, but never constricting alien make-up (although the extraterrestrials have little dialogue, their eyes and faces prove to be remarkably expressive), and Jeff Jur's slick, shadowy nighttime cinematography. Alan Castle's trenchant, thoughtful, multi-layered script works as an interesting and revealing allegory which bravely tackles such grave issues as racial prejudice, hostility and intolerance, mankind's gross inability to either accept or comprehend anyone or anything that's different and out of the ordinary, and any living, sentient being's profound need to survive. The film surely delivers a good deal of gradually mounting suspense and doesn't skimp on the exciting action, but what ultimately makes this arrestingly offbeat outing so special and provocative is its evenly balanced, nonjudgmental and always highly complex tone which never resorts to a crudely cut-and-dried broad strokes of black and white no-brainer mentality, thereby respecting the viewer's intelligence and furthermore giving said viewer a handy helping of food for thought to chew on and digest.
There are films that never seem to see the light of day and the late
80's obscure Sci-fi thriller "Stranded" happens to be one. Supposedly
from the producers who brought us "Critters" and having the young up
and coming star Ione Skye in the cast. I'm surprised that it wasn't a
little more known. Anyhow the idea behind the story is very slight in
what is an offbeat siege set-up with an intergalactic twist and while
the threat wasn't inside the house but what was actually happening
outside. This meant those sequences dealing with the aliens and their
captors were less so interesting compared to the tension-fuelled and
confrontational exchanges between the officers, local hicks and the
mysterious FBI agent.
Teenager Deidre and her grandmother live in an isolated country house when one night they find themselves held hostage by aliens who escaped their world with an assassin on their trail. The situation becomes worse when a local and police officer are killed leading to a standoff between the aliens and the officers.
At just over 70 minutes, "Stranded" doesn't outstay its welcome and it's rather breezy as it hurries through. Even in that, the film is smart, taut and engrossing. The material is thoughtful and infectious in its themes. Rock solid performances ensure you keep watching. Maureen O'Sullivan, Joe Morton, Cameron Dye and Ione Skye all hold their own. Flea from the "Red Hot Chilli Peppers" plays one of the aliens and so does actress/stunt-woman Spice Williams-Crosby in the most distinctive costume design. Moody visuals are etched by director Tex Fuller, by letting the situation unfold with story development, character sensitivity and suspenseful set-pieces with some limited, but durable optical special effects.
"Anything is possible. I suppose."
Maureen O'Sullivan and Ione Skye are surprised to find benevolent aliens hiding in their house from an interstellar assassin in this weird little film. It's not especially good or bad, but fun in that unintentionally trippy, MST3K kind of way. If you see it in the sale bin for less than three bucks, it's worth the buy. Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers plays the most annoying alien in the group.
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