Sunday, August 11, 2013

You thought they were from another planet... You were right!

Illegal Aliens (2007)

Inhabitants of Earth are at perpetual risk from alien invasion, so says the PSA at the beginning of Illegal Aliens, which not only warns us of this danger, but informs us of how the Intergalactic Council has taken steps to protect all of humanity. Entrusting the safety of countless lives within the capabilities of a highly trained trio of shape-shifting extraterrestrial agents – the Council sends these officers to Earth – instructing them to assume the shape of the locality.
Two of the aliens, which in their native form look like giant Wacky Wally wall crawlers, are seen barreling through the stars, cutting off spacecraft and chirping tired tropes about how badly women drive. The third alien, however, is in the form of a pig screaming through the vacuum of space. It's a pretty peculiar choice which is never really explained as anything other than a set up for a joke about bacon as the pig alights into flame and begins burning up as it enters the atmosphere.
The aliens strike down somewhere in LA at night and form a massive crater upon impact. A nearby hobo, sure enough with bottle and brown bag in hand, is unsettled from his cardboard nest and wanders out drunk and agape, as he watches the smoking hole and listens to the aliens arguing in their own language about which form they should take.
Chance intervenes and blows a porn magazine into the crater and fate is set in motion. Three sexy girls arise from the crater – all dressed in lingerie. I really can't tell you how many times as a young boy I wished that sexy women would just appear wherever I was and save me the effort of having to mentality facilitate them, but I never once imagined that sexy girls would emerge from a pig-crater in some soupy back alley.
The aliens walk into a nearby bar packed with the usual thugs – and this one guy comes out from behind the bar and immediately begins to rub his face all over these strange street women in their underwear without question. He smacks one on the ass and it leads to a goofy bar fight, I guess to demonstrate the fact that the women have some form of martial training.

Several days later, the aliens have made their home in LA and are lounging about, still in underwear, waiting for some action. There's this surreal third-wall moment where the alien Lucy, played by Anna Nicole, is watching herself on television (actual scenes from the The Anna Nicole Show which ran legitimately from 2002 to 2004, ending three years before the filming of this movie), insinuating that the real Anna Nicole had been a shape-shifting alien crime fighter all along. I think it was meant to be a humorous nod to her bizarre behavior on the show but I for one think far too critically about really pointless shit for this sort of existential thinking to ever lock into place.
The surlier of the trio, Cameron, establishes herself as the leader of team through her affirmative dialogue and take-charge attitude.
The third girl never had a name, or it was mentioned so little that I never caught it. I didn't care enough to give her a place-holder.

While the Illegals are busy acclimating into society, the movie shifts once again back into space, and to a fourth alien who is approaching the planet.
Now, being a fan of professional wrestling, I feel the need to prepare an aside for anyone who isn't familiar with the 90s era female wrestler Chyna. Chyna, born Joan Marie Laurer, is a big girl. A relic, really, from a time when lady wrestlers could and would match up against male wrestlers and hold their own. I won't take too much time harking on the fact that Chyna was probably meant to be a man. With her enormous build and muscle tone, squared jaw and breasts that were at best tacked on tenuously for given intervals of time between frog splashes and moonsaults, you can't say she wasn't trying. Anyone who lived through the 90s and watched WWF knows this already. I guess I can say it was good to see her, though the movie was made six years ago and she's probably even more of a canvas mat accident now.
The fourth alien, a rogue scientist known as Rex, inhabits Chyna's body as opposed to shifting into one of his own.
Rex walks Chyna into the same bar the Illegals entered previously and shoots the owner. She (excuse the pronoun trouble) immediately takes over the bar and uses it as a base of operations, recruiting the delinquents within into a hardcore smash and grab crime scheme as she begins hijacking convoys and stealing experimental technology.

Chyna's long years of professional acting as a professional wrestler instinctively lurch into play as a strange behavioral tick manifests, which makes Rex's voice pinch off into octaves of screeching and cringe-inducing guttural heaving while dialogue is delivered. An awkward choice, the sort of decision that makes you almost wish you had some sort of directorial commentary just so you can sleep at night...
Rex's first hit is a truck filled with cool top-secret boxes. After stealing it, she proceeds to blow up more cars with the face-rubbing guy from before, and one other, as a high-profile heist crew who later plant explosives and infiltrate government buildings. It all comes together really well and then gets rammed down your throat so you can really taste the experience.

Intermittently I was treated with the background noise that was Anna Nicole Smith. Her off-key line delivery and incessant jokes about her own vacuum of character seemed to punctuate the movie every time the action tapered off. She had this strange adult-child mentality that prevented her from filling any other role than the one who farts and laughs at her own farts. Most of her screen time was a randy combination of sluttiness and clumsy stupidity, which did loan the role a pinch of authenticity, as Anna Nicole's legacy is not exactly brilliant. In retrospect I realize that her space pig moment from the beginning of the film was symbolic, a personification of everything we came to know of the woman through MTV and her time spent in the train wreck obituaries that were the celebrity tabloids.

The Illegal Aliens answer to a sentient computer-being known as Syntax, who cues the women in on the recent developments concerning Rex's technological thefts. They deduce that the offender must be alien in origin as well. He also informs them, based on unseen and unexplained algorithms, that all the items on the snatch list are parts needed to built a 'Mega Gravitron' – a weapon of mass destruction powerful enough to destroy the world.

The girls go on a stakeout – attempting to case the next location on Rex's agenda from a building across the street. At this point Lucy (Anna Nicole) pulls a dildo out of the couch she's on to bring some levity to the gritty, true crime plot that's been keeping me white-knuckled for the longest forty minutes of my life. She sticks it in her ear, and then waves it around like a light saber. We're to assume she doesn't know what a vibrator is, even though the aforementioned looseness of Lucy's personality would contradict her confusion... Or maybe it's simply that they don't have vaginas on her home planet, or maybe their vaginas are in their ears.
The warehouse explodes, the aliens move in, and there's a chase scene with a lot of synchronized fake-breast shaking.
Rex hijacks a bus, and it was revealed to me then, that Lucy can shape-shift into complex working machines as well, because she turns into a car and the other girls get inside of her to catch up with Rex. There's a car chase of no significance in a generic under-bridge area, Rex's car flips, and Lucy turns back into her human form with the other aliens sitting on top of her – answering the Transformers passenger mystery for all of us.

After his plans are foiled by the Illegals, Rex begins to rattle off a bit of prose, revealing his plot to destroy Earth and move his own home planet into its place. This is because the star which warms his own world is very quickly dying – and total orbit re-synchronization is obviously the most easily executable course of action.

Rex then once again attempts to steal another important component for the Gravitron. This time the Illegal aliens commandeer a bus from its driver to chase her down – so far displaying no actual talent or skill as space-faring secret agents but rather cruising through the movie on nothing but their ability to wear low cut tops and demand favors with pouty orgasm faces.
The chase ends up intersecting with a speeding train – Rex rams it – and after another explosion we cut back to LA – leaving the outcome open for speculation, or most likely a director's cut.

Cameron offers a bit of background on the criminal Rex as Lucy retires to the bathroom for what I can only generally summarize as a roaring “session” of diarrhea. Carmen's recounting of Rex's relationship with her (they dated before Rex became a woman) is shouted over a seamless, deafening wash of farting and liquid fecal pounding. Rex was a scientist who was part of a rebel group, trying to take over, and demolish other planets to remedy their dying star (mentioned before). He was imprisoned by Cameron herself, and then escaped several years later.

Syntax informs the ladies that there is but one last piece Rex needs to build her weapon (even though at least two of her attempts to steal parts had been unsuccessful by this point). The final and most important part of the Gravitron, the Colliding Syncotron, is in possession of the scientist who built it, and the only man who can operate it, who resides somewhere in Montana.
Traveling to the home of the scientist, the women find that the place has been ransacked – there's an overturned bowl of Cinnamon Toast Crunch, some pretty heated suspense music, and a fork in the microwave which is about to explode. I don't know if this is a real thing or not, I almost got went to try it (don't you look down your nose at me, I'm not a Googler, I learn by living my life damn it) but when the entire building atomized in a bloom of smoke and conflagration I quickly put the the utensil back into its drawer.
I can't say at that point I hadn't learned anything from Illegal Aliens. I had learned two things actually, that forks may explode when microwaved, and that the resulting explosion would more than likely level several hundred square feet.

They find that Rex has kidnapped the scientist. Lucy transforms into an ATTACK CHOPPER and proceeds to gun down Rex's caravan of vehicles. More trucks explode. There's so much exploding in this movie. I can't tell you how many times something explodes in Illegal Aliens. I don't know if they were trying to drown the movie in explosions to soften its slightly autistic edges, or if the movie itself was built around a surplus of leftover theatrical-grade explosives.
The scientist wakes up in Cameron's crotch, Rex is gone, and the Syncotron has been destroyed.

The Illegals immediately tell the scientist that they're extraterrestrials, who are trying to stop the apocalypse. He buys into it pretty easily, which I took to be a little unbelievable, but at this point the end of the movie was in sight and I just wanted to clench, pinch, and flush.
In the next scene, seemingly out of context, the director suddenly remembered the third, nameless alien hadn't had much development, or really any at all. Attempting to quickly add some depth to her character, she is seen working on a muscle car – insinuating that she may be a beautiful woman, but she's also a strong woman who ignores all gender assigned convention and can cut it on her own in a two-fisted man's world. That's all I really got though, I guess it was supposed to last for the rest of the movie and forecast her attitude through to the end. Sort of like, “This is who this girl is if you didn't know,” attempting to dilute the objectivity of women which the film had lavished on up to that point.
Their way of telling me “See? We're not really just trying to get this movie by on lady lumps and belly-shirts alone,” although she was wearing a belly-shirt while working on the car.

Soon after, Cameron and the scientist go on a date. This is to get the two of them out of the house so Rex can attack while the only semi-capable alien is out of the picture. The nameless alien (muscle car) is attacked and knocked out, Lucy (farts) is taken, and Syntax the intelligent computer, is destroyed, garnishing a reserved nod from me as Chyna delivers the pretty swell one-liner “CPU later.”

As this icy BM of a movie neared is final round of gut-shivering bowel cramps, I was taken to Rex's island lair – where the Mega Gravitron sat primed and ready.
Not missing any opportunity to include Anna Nicole's asshole into the script, Rex forces both her and the scientist to anally receive mind-controlling suppositories, so she can force Lucy to transform into a Syncotron replacement, and the scientist to operate her.
Soon after the Gravitron is powered up and aimed at the moon – which Rex intends to blow up to move the Earth on up and out.

The two free-roaming aliens fix Syntax and get him to locate the island. As they touch down, Rex summons large, mutant crabs to attack the women, which get mowed down when Homeland Security decides to show up with an army of helicopters. This gives the ladies a chance to prance through the destruction on the balls of their feet, shaking their upper halves, again with that weird plastic rack motion that reminds one of a light switch flicking on and off rather than anything remotely sexual.

Some of Rex's thugs make up their mind to save the world because they're pretty attached to it. I was eager to wrap this session up as I felt, personally, I had absorbed as much from Illegal Aliens as I could and once again I didn't care much to dissect the contrivance at hand.
That being said, between the decision to save the world and pulling the suppository out of Anna Nicole's rectum, I realized the weight of the choice they had to make. These men were not cowards, and by far the true heroes of the movie.

Anna asks why her poopy hole is sore (actual words used in the film) and then dive-tackles Chyna for one of the most unappealing cat fights I've ever witnessed. The whole ordeal was a mangled mess of cavernous, stationary, bowling alley cleavage and a not-quite-definable masculinity that was drowned in baritone caterwauling.

With Anna pulled out from the machine – the world celebrates – Rex is thrown into the machine and in one final explosion, it takes the whole island with it.

After I had finished with Illegal Aliens, I cast it aside like a dejected lover. Well, not a lover really, more of a Family Dollar backside prostitute – whom I envisioned looking much like Cameron or any of the ladies from the movie. I had had my way with it and to be honest it had been a horrible lay. One cannot expect the warmth of more satisfying company when you look for companionship within the marsh, but that's not why we came here, is it? Hopefully now, if you're reading this, you're a little wiser and can save that ninety five minutes of your life for something more productive. Like microwaving a fork.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

in the middle of the ocean, a new form of horror is taking shape.

it has to be annoying. you spend years of your life deeply steeped in genetic and biological scientific study - or let's say - days on end of meticulous militant training... real top-of-the-class stuff. you excel and overcome physical and mental adversity for weeks, months, years, until it finally pays off. you're enlisted to become part of a high-tier government project. your life is paid for - sure the work is a little risky and there are a lot of dangerous secrets flying around, but your long ordeal has finally gotten you into the big leagues. you're exceeding where most others have failed, pressing your mind and body to the limits and breaking down all the walls in a world of advancing technology.
so one night you're working out in the middle of the ocean on a top-secret black operations-funded oil rig, and things get a little frumpy...
everyone has to expect some setbacks right? some money is lost, valuable data compromised, maybe even a person or two or three or four dies? all in the order of crisis management. nothing you can't handle. sure enough. that is unless a group of curious survivors casually drift up at the most inopportune time to climb aboard at the exact moment there is a compound-wide security wipe-out and stroll right along into the heart of your laboratory - touching everything they can see, breathing all over the specimens, and arming themselves with very costly firearms that will most likely be taken out of your paycheck if you survive. drink all the coffee in the break room and eat my sandwich out of the fridge while you're at it. well great, thanks. hey, and fuck you. why did your yacht full of heroin have to blow up on my shift? like i don't have enough to deal with with this rabid clump of mutant DNA sliming up all the vents and liquefying people?

so proteus is one of several horror movies i've seen that takes place out there on the high seas. inevitably i always assume that sea-creatures will end up being more terrifying than shore-side monsters, as the ocean is already packed with soulless abominations that exist purely to strike terror directly into the deepest portion of your gut. it was less satisfying, then, that the thing which stalked the half-sunken halls of the film ended up being a bit more man-made than something that was just unearthed and swam up from the blackest depths. but i'm a man, i deal with these things - and i'm not one to turn my nose up at a genetic experiment gone wrong - leviathan or mutant alike - who's really that picky?
so we kick this bitch off with a group of six drug dealers (one of which is actually an undercover cop) and about twelve bags of dope being loaded onto a yacht to escape some ordeal with the triads. one fellow, paul, is already bleeding through his face and missing a few fingers right from the start - so i was sure that more dismemberment was to come.
at some point during the opening credits the boat blows up and the crew is set adrift on a raft until they plunk into a seemingly abandoned oil rig. normally i would complain about the plot-crutch of a group of inexperienced people insisting on worsening their situation by exploring some hollowed-out place of misfortune they probably shouldn't... but i let it slide this time seeing as they were floating abroad with nothing to eat but a bag full of drugs.
now i knew some dank shit was already happening inside. there was at least one panicky security officer running from some serious color-tinted monster vision already teased before the smugglers got on deck.
after making themselves comfortable (as they always do), the group discovers lumps of clothing laid all about the rig - and plenty of empty animal cages and living quarters. the whole place is dripping with slime - and paul (the fingerless fellow) goes off almost immediately and gets taken out by the red lens filter and ingested... i guess? his face sort of melts off into some awesome late 90s CG effect.
my faith wavered a bit when i put the slime and the clothes together like some tubby-limbed child doing grade school math while waving his arm and grunting at the teacher... i had already nailed this flick down as a slime creature feature which i'm never pleased with. not the good kind - like the blob - but the sort where they just toss a bunch of fluid around and insinuate you to death. not to say i have an aversion to slimy movies, i just prefer to see the stuff in action.
anyhow anyhow anyhow.
so eventually you're told what's going on - after a few of the people who have died start showing up in spanking condition - though it was fairly straightforward all along. a crazy doctor named shelley (name drop) was hired out by an eccentric billionaire to explore the boundaries of human DNA to potentially unlock the secret of eternal life. the doctor mentions that the body and all of its elements are 95% water and that the trick was to exploit the meatier remaining 5% into something that would defeat death.
it just has to sound good normally, but i found myself making a 5% meatier effort to explain the contrivance away and caught the reflection of my contorted face on the television screen and thought it was a jump-scare.
so this biological element was tested on a great white shark (always good to test that radical and unstable virus on something with five rows of teeth) they nicknamed 'charlie'. from this point on the creature is referred to thusly.
most of this knowledge comes from a tape which alex (the undercover DEA agent) finds, that shelley had made himself.
it got a bit more interesting when they explained that charlie sort of gelled himself and slopped out of the tank to take over the remaining staff on hand - gathering their traits and forming a mental collective - but it was still a little hands off for my taste. a lot of the kills were made by reusing actors who had come back after they had died to kill again by jamming a feeding appendage down the throat of their victim.
just before the doctor succumbs to charlie on camera, he hints at a way to defeat the entity by using a large amount of heroin.
sometimes you just get all the best cards...
there's a lot of menial elements in the movie that i've not even bothered to mention - various little thickets of disinterest about the characters who you don't really care for to begin with - but i'll just let that sauce marinate until i forget i've left it on the stove.
let's get to what i really want to talk about - and probably the reason you should watch this rank load yourself - the final confrontation.
the final battle against charlie gets real when alex's girlfriend (a previous victim) returns and tries to pull on his muscled heart just before his escape from the rig. she offers to show him charlie's "true form" and begins to buckle and gag until a five-story-tall creature ERUPTS FROM HER FACE which is genuinely awesome and looks like a cross between the universal studios jaws ride and a street shark. alex begins to pelt the monster with BAGS OF HEROIN, each time prompting it to stop what it's doing and lap up the smack.
this is just to slow charlie down until he douses the beast with gasoline and scrambles a trail of it back to a mess of hand grenades (the most overused method of ending large killer things, second only to 'laying prone behind an upward-angled pointy stick') but it doesn't even matter - at that point in the movie i had gotten what i came for.
proteus has lain mostly dormant since 1995 for good reason. at first most would probably decry it as one of many similar movies that rolled out unhindered off the aliens meets abyss craze - but they aren't aware of the key issue this movie provides - and that is: under the most extreme and particular circumstances - drugs are good for something.