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John’s Horror Corner: Without Warning (1980), a movie about a tall alien and his fleshy monster shurikens

October 11, 2013

Wait just a second!  It preys on human fear AND feeds on human flesh? Oh, I’m so outta’ here!

MY CALL:  A D-horror film with a history that’s more interesting than its plot, characters, monsters, gore or story.  MOVIES LIKE Without Warning:  Want more gory alien shenanigans?  Try Xtro (1983), Alien Predators (1985), The Deadly Spawn (1983), Seed People (1992) and The Curse (1987).  Somewhat similar monsters can be found in The Kindred (1987).

Four clueless horny teenagers go camp out in the wilderness, encounter weird locals who try to warn them of the local dangers, don’t heed the warnings and proceed anyway.  They make out and then get picked off one by one–chewed to death by what can only be described as Frisbee facehuggers.  Why, you may ask.  Because this movie is about a tall, huge-headed alien that throws fleshy shurikens with teeth and tentacles at people for some reason.  These living weapons look like parasitic Frisbee facehugger starfish.

A victim of the aerial alien starfish.

This bro doesn’t even look like his death interrupted his train of thought.

In most movies, some guy playing the resident know-it-all would examine how this parasite kills its prey, investigate if the body was serving as host to a clutch of eggs, or even compare the organism to some invertebrate life on Earth.

Instead Jack Palance puts one in a jar and puts on his best crazy old loon face, clearly satisfied by his catch.

Eventually we see the alien and it looks like something we’ve all see in dozens of ’50s-60s B-movies, including the Twilight Zone episode To Serve Man.  The alien has come to hunt man for sport, but the potential of the plot is completely wasted.  No “cat and mouse games”, no sense of anything even resembling a chase, and no tension at all.


This movie moves at a terribly slow pace and, even when we see Frisbee facehugger scenes and enjoy the gore that accompanies them, it all gets old fast.  But what’s way more interesting than the plot, characters, monsters, gore or story, is all of the random trivia and history that surrounds the film itself.

I find it so sad that this VHS sleeve compares this flick to the like of Close Encounters, Alien and ET.  Desperate marketing.  Let’s also take a moment to appreciate that filmmakers had some disagreement regarding the title.  The Warning and Without Warning, despite the use of the word “warning”, suggest EXTREMELY dissimilar meanings.  Was there or wasn’t there warning?

1. Without Warning offers us some zany cameos, each bringing their own brand of crazy.  You may also notice some familiar faces in the cast like Martin Landau (The Being, Ed Wood) playing the town loon who swears he’s seen the parasitic Frisbees, and Jack Palance playing a local hunter who knows exactly what the alien’s doing…“He came down here for the sport. He wants to get himself a few trophies.”  He even gave them the old “you don’t want to go up there” speech to the teenagers.  It’s hard to believe they’d each win Oscars for Best Supporting Actor in the near future for City Slickers (1991; Palance) and Ed Wood (1994; Landau).

Not exactly an Oscar moment for Landau.

I guess this film was just a good career jumping off point, huh?  Another before-they-were-famous face is playing one of the teens–we find Golden Globe Award winner David Caruso (NYPD Blue, CSI: Miami) in some criminally short shorts as if he was a counselor at Camp Crystal Lake.  BTW, Friday the 13th (1980) featured Kevin Bacon in one of his earliest roles.

Yup.  Criminally short.  I can see as much side-butt on him as I can on her.  That is no bueno!

2. The alien is played by Kevin Peter Hall, a 6’9″ creature actor who you would’ve seen in Prophecy (1979), Harry and the Hendersons (1987), Predator (1987) and Predator 2 (1987).  Without Warning is basically a skeletal blueprint for Predator–only horribly written.  A giant alien comes to Earth for the express purpose of hunting humans (and other local fauna) for sport.  In fact, Kevin Peter Hall played the alien in both films.

3. Made for a meager $150K, $75,000 of which was used to pay Palance and Landau, this movie was filmed in just in three weeks.  I’ve read that the filmmakers tried to sue the folks behind Predator.  They didn’t win.  But you can’t blame them for trying, right?  This alien and the predator both wear mesh, remain unseen for most of the movie, they both sneak around in the woods hunting man for sport, they’re both huge and are played by the same actor, and they both favor ranged weapons.  A few coincidences, perhaps, but I’m sold on the mesh.  What other alien at that point in film history had ever been seen wearing mesh?

4. The special effects and makeup designer Greg Cannom would later move on to win Academy Awards for his work in Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992), Mrs. Doubtfire (1993) and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008).

This film clearly served as a breeding ground for greatness.  Too bad their skills were so stillborn back in the day.  This flick would have benefited from a little more substance.

Ouch. Mouths that look like flying saucers?  Who wouldn’t want to see this movie?

10 Comments leave one →
  1. davecrewe permalink
    October 13, 2013 4:53 am

    “It Came… Without Warning”

    A horror movie title and an explanation for how most of us ended up here!

  2. December 16, 2014 5:26 pm

    I adore this movie. Like Race With The Devil, it was right place, right time. Awesome analysis. Made me want to watch again!!!

    • John Leavengood permalink
      August 21, 2016 4:09 pm

      I still need to see The Being…which Amazon suggests based on my liking Without Warning. You know it?


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