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Director: Tobe Hooper
Writers: Dan O’Bannon, Don Jakoby
Cast: Karen Black, Hunter Carson, Timothy Bottoms
Length: 99 min
Label: Scream Factory
Release Date: April 7, 2015
Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Audio: English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and 2.0
Subtitles: English SDH
- Audio Commentary with Director Tobe Hooper
- The Martians Are Coming! – The Making of “Invaders From Mars”, an all-new retrospective featuring interviews with Director Tobe Hooper, Actor Hunter Carson, Special Creature Effects Artists Alec Gillis and Gino Crognale, and Composer Christopher Young
- Theatrical Trailer
- TV Spot
- Original Storyboards
- Original Production Illustration Gallery from Artist William Stout with Commentary by Stout
- Still Gallery
I think it is safe to say that the last — and I mean absolutely last — thing you think about when you hear the words Tobe Hooper and Cannon Group together, is a children’s movie. But, that is exactly what 1986’s Invaders from Mars was intended to be. In Hooper’s own way, however, the film is more than meets the eye. Certainly one of his lighter and far less bloody films, Invaders still features most of what we have all come to love about Hooper. It’s a bright, colorful, wildly imaginative, and, most important of all, funny film; one that envisions a world of its own, makes it tangible on screen. Like many of the best horror and/or sci-fi remakes — of which Invaders is one — Hooper’s film takes aspects of the original and makes from it something completely unique and original. Perhaps it doesn’t have the same lasting power as 1982’s The Thing or 1978’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers, but it is still a film that has capture the hearts and minds of audiences for nearly thirty years. Following its debut on Blu-Ray by Germany’s Koch Media in September, the film is getting its North American debut courtesy of Shout! Factory’s horror/sci-fi imprint Scream Factory and that means that you are in for quite a release.
Following a stellar (sorry couldn’t resist the pun) credit sequence that perfectly blends the 50s-meets-80s sensibilities with which this film is informed, Hooper is quick to delve right into the story. Behind the picturesque suburban home of the Gardner’s, which seems to serve as the barrier between the bright green lawns and the deep, dark, and star-filled sky, lies young David Gardner (Hunter Carson) and his father George (Timothy Bottoms). Shot from above, the camera tracks down to the father and son, as if to foreshadow the inevitable extraterrestrial visitors that will soon wreak havoc on this quaint town. Hooper allows the viewer just enough time to get comfortable and attached to the Gardners before ripping any sense of comfort away. David, fast asleep, is suddenly forced awake by a crashing and blinding light source. The following morning, David’s father is suddenly acting strange, and it is not long before his bizarre illness starts infecting the entire town. Left to fend for himself, David is forced to face the problem head on.Hooper has been quoted as saying that a lot of what drove him to this project was the idea of creating a horror film for children and really that is one of the biggest takeaways from this film. The idea itself — much like the similarly themed and titled Invasion of the Body Snatcher —, is honestly terrifying. What is scarier for a child than to wake up and suddenly no longer be able to trust their parents? While the idea is scary, the film is far from it but it also doesn’t need to be. Invaders is rather more two-fold; equally entertaining for adults through its campiness, as it can be for children. It may not be as expansive and engaging as something like The Goonies but it is still a charming little film. Other than its campy aesthetic, I would say that the film’s real power comes from Hooper’s brilliant visual eye. The film has this remarkable quality of looking entirely prefabricated and artificial. For most movies, this would be a grave mistake but for Invaders it couldn’t work more. It’s the world envisioned as a set; colorful and cheap. At the same time that this clear artifice has the quality of undermining the artificial idea of 50s Suburbia, it honors the stylistic and aesthetic tendencies of the style to which it is both indebted and re-envisioning. Along this line, the creature design by Stan Winston is, as expected, outstanding. In many ways, the aliens look like something that would be drawn by a child and I can’t help but think that was entirely intentional; after all, as the ending suggests, the film is possibly the result of David’s imagination.
With Cannon you weren’t always getting the biggest budget, but for all of their low budget glory they do have a surprising number of better than average looking films. In particular, Golan-Globus were keen on getting from Hooper a Chainsaw sequel — to which, along with Lifeforce, this film was part of a three picture deal, the final installment would see the iconic sequel to his 1974 masterpiece — so they were willing to open up their pockets to make Hooper happy. The result can be seen on screen. Certainly, there are many aspects of the film’s budget on display but Hooper uses them to his advantage. The print really allows the film to shine, especially the color, and in particular the luscious reds and blues. The bright tones that Hooper uses in the film are very vibrant and well contained in HD. Grain is finely intact, and there are no overt signs of digital restoration at play.
The film contains two tracks, a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and 2.0. As with many of their releases, both the 2.0 and 5.1 tracks accurately and evenly present the audio. There are no signs of distortion, hiss, or cracks. The 5.1 track does allow Christopher Young’s striking score to pop with a bit more resonance but, other than that, both tracks make for fine aural experiences.
I always love hearing Hooper talk about his own work, so it definitely comes well-received that this disc comes with a commentary track with him. Ultimately, however, I think that the real take away from this release is the The Martians Are Coming featurette, which is a newly commissioned documentary tracking the making of the film. Featuring interviews with cast and crew members, you are taken through the production, including more than a few humorous stories about the larger-than-life Menahem Golan, co-chief of The Cannon Group. In addition, this collection comes with the original theatrical trailer and TV Spot, Storyboards, and a production illustration gallery and photo gallery.
In hindsight, knowing Golan-Globus, it is equally as baffling as it is understandable that Invaders from Mars was the by-product of the Cannon Group — all we know is that we happy for it. The behind-the-scenes antics of Cannon always make for great anecdotes and we are pleased to report that this collection’s extra features are filled with many. It is a bit surprising that Scream did not package this as a Collector’s Edition, fit with a slipcase (as they have with their other collaborations with Hooper), but what is in store here is more than adequate to please most. I think that this film marks an interesting moment in Hooper’s career. As a filmmaker who was always forced to confront audience expectations of him following Chainsaw, Invaders shows his more playful side, something that we will see taken in a much darker route with TCM 2. If you are the type of person who picks up every Scream Factory title, it is hard to imagine that you won’t find something to love about this movie. It’s the perfect title to spend a Saturday afternoon with; the kind of movie that almost made me wish that I children to share it with…almost.