Top of the Food Chain (1999)
User ReviewsReview this title
Top of the Food Chain features several of the easily recognizable character tropes: Dr. Karel Lamonte is an "Atomic Scientist from Atomic University", a bespectacled and timid young man who loses said glasses, starts looking a bit more muscular and starts spouting 1950's hero-clichés and barking orders partway through the film. As you watch, however, you see that a man this straight-laced and stiff is sexually repressed to the point of ridiculousness, making it impossible for him to respond properly to the female love interest's perfectly obvious advances. The love interest, Sandy, is Exceptional Vista's femme fatale but over-sexualized to the point where she is a raging nymphomaniac involved with practically every man in town. Other clichés abound as we meet the cop character who is suspicious of the FBI, the small town men who are offended by the "big city" scientist. These clichés are often turned on their heads. At several points in the film Sandy makes it known that she is every bit as bright as the professor, but this is ignored by all. In another example, it is mentioned that the city coroner vivisected himself (and then filled out the required paperwork before he keeled over: a true citizen!) and the so-called "uneducated cop" has been performing all of the town's autopsies since (although when he inspects human remains at one point he uses kitchen cutting boards and eats crackers at the time.)
This movie lampoons alien-centric films, government conspiracy-centric films, genetic engineering and sasquatch-centric films, horror films, action films, and mid-1900s' Hollywood. It is dialogue-heavy and relies on the viewers understanding the jokes regarding chauvinistic attitudes, propagandist nationalist/stupidly simplified scientific language, and sexual innuendo that permeate the interactions between characters. This is a funny film, but only if you have a feel for the genre. If you're looking for high-action, special effects or potty humour directed at pre-pubescent teens, you won't find it here. If you want a funny satire of 1950s sci-fi then you're in for a treat.
The acting is just wonderful. Campbell Scott is very effective as always serious atomic professor (the script emphasizes "atomic" as much as possible) Karel Lamonte. Fiona Leowi (Sandy) is interesting as his kinky heterosexual interest. Tom Everett Scott (Guy) is completely over-the-top as her idiot brother who has an amorous relationship with both his sister and the professor.
The script is ingeniously dumb. It is exactly as it should be. The special effects are cheesy and not believable. Just like they were supposed to be. You will hear pompous explanations to unexplained facts, you will laugh at the aliens' completely black eyes.
And the final scene is stunning. Who do you think the professor marries? If you answered 'Sandy', you are wrong. If you said 'Guy', you are wrong again. It is both of them. Don't ask why or how. Also, everyone who had been killed by the aliens attends the wedding. They had been brought back to life through 'resuscitation'. Best would have been not to explain it at all, I would have loved it even more.
A much deserved 10/10.
It's as B as a movie can be, it's cheesie and it's awesome.
If you liked this, I'd check out Psycho Beach Party and Jesus Christ Vampire Hunter.
This movie parodies the original Invasion of the Body Snatchers, as well as other 50's sci fi classics. But it doesn't just do a basic plot parody with dumb jokes plastered over it, a la Airplane or other Hollywood broad parodies. Top of the Foodchain gets into little details, like making fun of how all men in 50's sci fi seem to have traditionally female names (see cast list) or the bizarre, ham handed way that those movies dole out religious platitudes and hypocritically pro- and anti-science ideology.
Campbell Scott is, as usual, dead on in his mimicry -- this time of 50's leading man mannerisms. He's got the reassuring shoulder clap *down*. Every little nuance of this movie is brilliant and surprisingly innovative in spite of the fact that the movie is a spoof. I'm giving credit to the Canadians on this one. I doubt this movie would have been as funny or insane had it been done in the States. Do not miss Invasion! or Top of the Food Chain or whatever it's called in your neighborhood. It is smart, funny and will always be one of my personal all time favorite rentals.
I agree much of it was silly fun, but there was some more subtle humour. I don't think it was an accident the aliens at the end looked like they walked out of a Gap ad, which I thought was one of the funniest things in the film.
To dispute its absolute originality, TOP OF THE FOOD CHAIN shares a craziness of concept with 1984's BIG MEAT EATER, another micro-budget Canuck item (something in our water?) Rather than the conventional smug mockery of 50s drive-in sci-fi (oh look at Woody and the giant tit, how droll and cunning) these films strive to be, in look and feel, a modern day continuation of a time-locked genre that had logic and principles of its very own, though so free form that comic expression can flourish on a wide open range. While MEAT EATER, a delightful though haphazardly directed mess, was marginally a musical remake of PLAN 9, FOOD CHAIN takes its initial premise from from the interesting ASTOUNDING SHE MONSTER, complete with the strangely lit alien sexpot in the woods and main characters that are somewhat similar to the ones here. It's clear that the actors are in improvisation heaven but Paizs, in the tradition of Altman and Morrissey at their best, never lets them stray from his story telling vision. And what a vision: this is like MARAT/SADE! It's a 50s monster melodrama concieved, produced and acted out by mental patients!
Not a single character in this movie even attempts to approximate socially acceptable behavior, nor does anyone, even on a good guy/villain level, ever question one another's unusualness. Sexual obsessions spring up all over the place but are pointedly ignored in terms of detail, as if Paizs is taking on the role of gossippy spinster aunt who knows where to cut things off for decency's sake. It doesn't stop there. He interrupts things, though briefly enough to maintain the flow, to point out things of visual interest, like a hideously familiar faux-wicker basket full of saltines, that you just know you once saw in your own childhood home. He actually has the gall to reuse enjoyed props within the same sequence: a bright pink hugely finned bulgemobile ('59 Pontiac?) appears in the background during both takes on an opposite-angled dialogue. Even the FX showcase at the grand climax, suitably tacky looking by today's standards, he undermines with swift dispatch that makes it clear that the characters are far more interested in each other's activities of the moment than any impending doom.
The sci-fi spoofs are great, and the dialogue is genius. Campbell Scott plays a great Atomic Scientist and Fiona Loewi plays the sexy bed and breakfast hostess beautifully. Not only is she sexy, but even though she has an incestous relationship with her brother, you would still like to date her.
This movie is for people who understands irony (which apparently some IMDB-users haven't), and like the splatter genre. Though it isn't by far a hard-core splatter, the scenes that are gory, works very well.
Watch it as a comedy and as a caricature of old sci-fi movies.
--You just can't go wrong with this one. Every single friend that I've shared this movie with has loved it as much as I, and there's so many little treats you pick up on in repeat viewings...I honestly feel sorry for any individual who just didn't get this movie, but they probably never will. (I guess thats the point, really.) Oh well. Enjoy.
My personal favourite part of this movie is the "prayer" that Sandy delivers in song. Heh heh. I memorized it. Those who plan to see the movie shouldn't read this next part, as it contains many spoilers. :)
"They say that in Rupert's Land They found our Lady of Fatima's Hat. Holy Mary, Mother of God. They found your hat, How did it come off your head? Did you sneeze, Or drive in a convertable? Did a gust of wind take it away, Or were you eaten by aliens?"
As if the lyrics weren't hilariously nonsensical enough, the song's melody also bounces haphazardly. Listening to it just brings so many questions to a logical person's mind. Why is she praying about aliens? Why would this mysterious angelic matriarch be driving in a convertable? Why is it a song? Just brilliant on so many levels.
And of course, I love how they glaze over the fact that you can't tell what country they live in. The city is Exceptional Vista in Left Hemisphere, and the secret agent who aids them in finding the "moonmen" works for the "National Government", which is of course written on his ID card.
What I especially love is when Sandy points out a plot hole, after Karel tries to explain how "cool fusion" works.
I'd recommend this to everyone. Even to those who don't get it and find it unfunny. Maybe someday they'll learn.
I laughed all the way through the movie. It was funny, it was cheesy; it not only poked fun at all the bad B-movie sci-fi/horror flicks of the 50s and 60s, but it even poked fun at itself.
It's a spoof, it's fun, it's entertainment. Don't expect deep psychological drama--go to smile and laugh. Believe me, I did!
It's hard to even know where to begin. The basic plot is simple. A small town that is dying out is invaded by aliens with a taste for humans.
Minor spoiler- one joke from the movie ahead!
All in all a simple premise. The genius of this movie lies in the acting and the dialogue. The town's people are completely crazy in the most interesting ways. The actors carry it off perfectly. The lead, Campbell Scott, has a deadpan delivery that is hilarious given some of the lines he has in the movie. The end of the movie is stolen however by Tom Everett Scott who delivers one of the most amazing performances I've seen lately. I was in serious pain from laughing by the final credits.
The humor is of the quirky kind, similar to some of the work of John Cleese. It's based on absurdity but also on incongruity.
If the idea of an "atomic scientist" trying to stall attacking alien monsters by welcoming them to Earth and describing some of the interesting flora and fauna to be found here, such as the wily skunk which comes in three types, tickles your funny bone then you need to see this movie.
It's not for everyone but if you like British humor I'd give it a shot.