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John’s Horror Corner: The Alien Factor (1978), a goofy sci-horror B-movie with lots of weird monsters.

January 14, 2018

MY CALL:  Really ambitious, yet really bad.  Honestly, as bad as it is, I was also sort of impressed by the ambition behind it.  MORE MOVIES LIKE The Alien FactorPerhaps Alien Predators (1985), Mutilations (1986) or The Being (1983)—all of which were much better.

Making his very first ultra-low budget film, writer/director Don Dohler (Nightbeast, Galaxy Invader, The Alien Factor 2) has produced something that is equal parts boring and amusingly hokey.  In this clunky 77-minute flick, a spaceship transporting alien creatures from distant galaxies crashes on Earth. After the creatures escape and wreak havoc on the locals, a mysterious pseudo-scientist shows up to help.

As simple as this plot may sound, it’s more elaborate than you’d expect.  And with such an obviously meager budget, I’m shocked Dohler created multiple monsters instead of just one.  This hokey monster movie features an insectoid-humanoid creature, a stilt-legged orangutan-bigfoot with beetle mandibles, a rogue ball of energy, a couple more monstrous humanoids, and a giant lizard monster which was the pinnacle of bad effects (i.e., faded rotoscoping of the monster attacking a man whose reactions don’t match the monster).

Despite the abject quality of it all, I find myself admiring Dohler’s ambition.  The monsters are all dumb, but a lot of work went into them and they’re all full-body pieces.

Not only were there numerous monsters that all find much screen time (however poorly executed), we also have a plot that’s much more complicated than one typically finds among such B-movie fare.  A sort of UFO hunter/cryptozoologist shows up to help the sheriff wrangle the monsters; one monster is killed by a projectile syringe after a dozen bullets failed to pierce its hide; we never really get into the energy-based lifeform (I guess it’s just there to show how open-minded the writing was); a dying monster uses telepathy to help the humans; and, in the end, a peaceful alien is killed without cause as if to sprinkle in some allegory.

All things said, this was terrible and most of the time painfully boring as we suffer through the dialogue.  However, a lot of work went into this and, in the right company, I think the diversity of bad monsters could offer some rich “bad movie night” entertainment.

14 Comments leave one →
  1. January 29, 2018 11:11 pm

    As a wee lad, I was so jacked to see this movie after reading about it in Famous Monsters. All those awesome aliens. Lol! It’s quite bad, but in a charming way, and you’re right about it being ambitious. That’s a great quality in a film, in my estimation.

    • John Leavengood permalink
      January 30, 2018 11:42 am

      Yeah, bad as it may be, there were numerous monsters that garnered much screen time. And that’s something more “successful” horror films don’t so often accomplish.

      • January 30, 2018 7:48 pm

        It’s easy for us (movie fans and people in general) to mock a production like this (and it is pretty bad), but the guy made a feature film with a coherent narrative, that’s loaded with creatures, for about $3. There’s nothing cynical about his effort, because he could have a shot a softcore porn film expending 10% of the energy and made 100X more money back.

        Good write up, and I’m glad you talk about these cinematic obscurities without being dismissive.

    • John Leavengood permalink
      January 30, 2018 8:10 pm

      I can certainly be dismissive. But you show me a low budget monster and I’ll show you a creature creator that had to work harder to make it work (however good or bad it looks). You could tell this guy was trying so hard; so many monsters, such a deeper story than was necessary to make a buck.

  2. rdfranciswriter permalink
    November 21, 2021 1:33 pm

    The thing is, while Don shot on 16mm and blew ’em up to 35 to play in drive-ins: the flat, grainy quality leaves them with a shot-on-video, camcorder vibe. Sure, there’s maybe a little bit more depth-of-field on ’em since it’s film.

    I, however, still lump Don (and further back, Andy Milligan) into SOV discussions, as they’re the precursors to shot-on-video films (like Justin Simmonds’s Spine, which embraced the “new” U-Matic 3/4″ format). Also, most didn’t see Don’s (or Milligan’s work) until the home video era came into being — and that mixed 16 mm’ers and SOV into a one big shelf stew. And what the heck did we know back then, with 16 this and video that? It was ALL kinda crappy and we loved it. I never once recall seeing an Andy Milligan backyarder on UHF-TV in the ’70s, even though others told me, they have. God bless home video. So sad it’s gone. Streaming ain’t the same.

    I just love these movies, be them 16mm or video: they’re rough, but they have their charms and you gotta root for the guys giving it their best. A reissues imprint needs to scoop these all up and do box sets and preserve them for the future via Blu’s and DVDs.

    • John Leavengood permalink
      November 21, 2021 6:29 pm

      Spine…? Do you recommend it? Got a review link for me?

  3. rdfranciswriter permalink
    November 22, 2021 6:59 am

    Well, “recommend” is debatable, as it is not a well-made movie, but there’s a level of innovation to it. It’s a “recommend” in the annals of those fascinated with SOV films. It certainly swung for the fences in mixing genres.

    I appreciate you asking for the link.

    Spine (1986)

    • John Leavengood permalink
      November 23, 2021 8:23 pm

      Oh if you mention a movie in discussion and have a review link, please ALWAYS share. If not for me, then for my other 2-3 readers. lol

      • rdfranciswriter permalink
        November 24, 2021 9:40 am

        Well, outside of you reading . . . I have one reader. So you’re ahead of me in the WordPress game.

  4. rdfranciswriter permalink
    November 22, 2021 7:41 am

    You’ll see a hyperlink at the bottom of Spine for Murderlust. Now, that was shot on film, but has the same SOV vibe. It is also another “slasher” film that aspired for something higher,but ultimately stumbled. The lead actor, I feel, tries to bring a bit of depth to the proceedings.

    That’s not to say it’s a good movie, but better than made (quality wise) a Don Dohler effort.

    • John Leavengood permalink
      November 23, 2021 8:22 pm

      Murderlust is a special feature on my Project Nightmare DVD. Haven’t seen Murderlust yet.

      • rdfranciswriter permalink
        November 24, 2021 9:39 am

        Murderlust is one of those movies, like Spine, where you see what they were were going for . . . and there’s a “something” there . . . but it just misses. Eli Rich is very good and tried to bring depth to the proceedings. I wished he could have risen through the ranks. I hate when you see a decent, passionate actor trying (even in a crummy film) and he never gets a break to the bigs. The video ’80s is full of them.


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