This is the story of two apprentices who know more than their mentors. One is Kasper, who discovers the Hidan of Maukbeiangjow, to where six girls have been abducted. He is apprentice to Sam Trowel, whom Fred refers to as "private pig," an independent investigator who gets his mission information through a time-delay self-destruct tape (that is a parody of Mission: Impossible). The other is Prudence, a Christian spiritualist who is an apprentice to a wizard named Aph. Aph has had the impudence to use vodoun rituals to possess corpses with demonic earth spirits, or the spirits of extraterrestrials summoned from the Red Star galaxy. Fred and Junior tie up Prudence and a zombified girl named Rosebush while an alien learning to use the body of Ruthie, one of Trowel's operatives, keeps Kasper tied up while she guards whom she calls "the Prudence." The first alien brought by Aph eventually takes Trowel's body. He is intent to use Fred's safe-cracking skills to destroy evidence of his ... Written by
Scott Andrew Hutchins <email@example.com>
According to Carla Rueckert, he word "hidan" refers to a "high place" or "holy place". Maukbeiangjow is the name of the holy place in the film, though Hugh Smith remembers Maukbeiangjow being the name of a demon. See more »
_The Hidan of Maukbeiangjow_ is a fascinating film. Given the lurid title _Invasion of the Girl Snatchers_ nobody expects much, but I had the fortune of seeing the trailer, which has two guys trying to come up with a title that encompasses everything that is in the film. _The Hidan of Maukbeiangjow_, which is the name of Aph's compound has an appropriate air of mystery that seems more fitting than the title we get, that never appears on the film itself. I have seen to versions, one that I rented that had it chyroned in over synth music and cutting off the end credits, and one with the end credits and no opening title (and it wasn't cut off--it still has FBI warnings and the like), which I bought in an eBay auction.
Set in a rural forested area that is simply gorgeous to behold in its natural wonder, on top of it we are given Aph's weirdly decorated mansion, which is a highlight of the film. Something about it is both very surreal and very seventies at the same time.
The two central characters, Kaspar and Prudence, are unusually written and don't seem like halves of a couple but rather individuals. I particularly liked Prudence. I believe I've seen Elizabeth Rush as a teacher on an independent segment of _Sesame Street_, but it was so long ago, I could be mistaken. She is a forthright character with an interesting fashion sense, and practices new-thought Christianity with smatterings of the occult, while Kaspar is a hippie working for a private investigator. Elizabeth Rush effortlessly imbues her character with wisdom and compassion (although the fact that she never does find help for Junior after her very strange chase scene seems a bit out of character), while Kaspar is a lovable dolt. You don't tend to think of hippies with redneck accents, but here one is.
As you might expect simply form my descriptions of these characters, aside from the title assigned to it in 1985, nothing in this film is handled conventionally. The Prospero-like Aph rarely uses his powers on screen, and often sits bottom center in the camera frame looking on at the cockeyed plans of the two Juniors and the alien he mistakenly brought forth into the world. While ostensibly a mad scientist/alchemist/sorcerer type figure, he seems to pride himself on his calmness and inaction, realizing that these weak people are likely to destroy themselves. Charles Rubin gives a deadpan, nearly emotionless performance, but actually substantially different from the totally emotionless performance of the possessed girls.
Ellen Tripp as Ruthie and Ruth Horn as Rosebush give remarkably deadened performances, like that of true (Haitian) zombies rather than the movie zombies like the one played by James Rueckert in this movie that has everything. Some of the humor with these characters is wonderful, but some goes on too long. It's rarely generated by them, and even worse from Pepper Thurston as Big Girl (who is aptly described--very tall). Prudence's reactions to Ruthie walking around topless all the time are priceless. The major problem is that the cramp jokes go on too long, as most of the other humor works quite well.
Hugh Smith as Sam Trowel is appropriately serious, but he really doesn't change enough when he becomes Utaya, or else I'd give higher marks for his performance. It is certainly a serviceable one, but that aspect does not do much to impress, though Smith does have an impressive stage voice.
The real dynamism comes from David Roster as Freddie, who is dumb enough to be funny but not dumb enough to be dull, like his brother, who is basically there to be his foil, as they're both juniors after all.
The camerawork in the film is sometimes stiff, and the camera, except during the chase scenes is often used in a way that is too "stagy" to be effective, although many of the compositions are still impressive. Lee Jones and his crew obviously had access to a wonderful property which they often use very effectively, particularly in chase scenes. Unfortunately, some of the shots are over exposed, but that may be correctable on remastering. The scene in which Prudence and Kaspar are in the circle of protection has one camera angle for which the film was very badly overexposed, and fortunately, this angle is used only sparingly, since they Jones did not try for any Laughton-esque uses of ill-matching lighting to demonstrate the characters being in psychologically separate worlds, which they certainly are, particularly at this point.
The film is one that constantly throws out ridiculous ideas and makes them work, from the abandoned bra causing a quick circulation to the constant spoofery. The only one I was sure about was _Mission: Impossible_, but it seems to spoof a lot of things I haven't seen and I hope to get the references someday. Aside from running jokes not working, most of the off-the-wall additions to the plot are what make the film so interesting. "Invasion of the Girl Snatchers" just suggests a much simpler film than it is. In fact, aside from Utaya, who wants money, none of the other aliens have motivations for being there, other than simply that they were brought by either Aph or Utaya. The aliens are neither a united force or evil or a legion of buffoons. They are just like people in the way they think; we never see what there bodies are truly like, nor do we care to as they aren't very interesting people as it is. All we need to know is they don't really know why they are here and do what Utaya says because they are hopelessly out of their environment.
Little additions make the film interesting, too. A nine chambered revolver throwing off a count, an exploding tape that won't explode when it's supposed to, Rosebush drinking nitro, all go into a film that makes you wonder what the meaning of it all really is. It's almost Buñuellian, even if unintentionally so. (On the surface it looks more like Arthur Penn.) Still, it's a shame we don't see Elizabeth Rush, Ele Grigsby, or David Roster in anything else.
A discussion of this film would not be complete without mentioning James DeWitt's score, although some of the suspense scenes rely on library music that tends to punch up the humor rather than suspense. His style is somewhere between Bob Dylan and Roger Miller with a booming bass voice that is smoother than either of them. DeWitt, who also plays the pimp in the green jacket, has clever, rapid fire lyrics that comment on the action as well as the Leonard Cohen songs in Altman's _McCabe & Mrs. Miller_, and as a result it results with odd language use and a lot of internal rhyme. The songs are a strong part of the character of the film, and question what's going on as often as they describe it "Freedom" is the main theme of a song in which a character breaks free, for example, but the opening song, which is repeated several times, could be said to represent the aliens' confusion as much as anything else. It mentions such things as struggling to stay out of trouble, dealing with confusion that spreads like cancer, and the impossibility that everything can ever makes sense. It's certainly apt as this film's principal theme, which again makes me think of Buñuel in his deliberate attempt to make nonsensical films. It suggests the filmmakers, despite the technical glitches, more aware of what they were doing than what viewers might expect, or that they intended viewers to expect.
View this film with an open mind. You are not going to be seeing the usual fare when you sit down to watch this, neither are you seeing something truly pretentious, but you are seeing a fascinating film that does not ask you to think about it, merely to laugh, but when you do think on it, it becomes all the more interesting.
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