Paul LeMat stars as an entomologist whose ex-wife (Diana Scarwid) dumps their snot nosed kid on him then hightails it to her Midwest hometown and promptly disappears. LeMat shows up soon after to look for her but is baffled when he discovers that the town is still squarely stuck in the 50’s. (The big tip-off: Someone uses the word “swell” in a sentence.) After his dog is evaporated and his car is blown up by a mysterious bolt of lightning, he skips town PDQ. Eventually he gets a tabloid reporter (Nancy Allen) to do some digging and they learn that everyone in town is a bug eyed alien walking around in human disguises. Including his wife.
Strange Invaders is one of those movies that was made in the 80’s to capitalize on 50’s nostalgia, but over the years has become more of a relic of the 80’s than anything else. The film was a throwback to such flicks as Invaders from Mars, Invisible Invaders and Invasion of the Body Snatchers (basically any movie with the word “Invaders” in the title), but watching it now, Strange Invaders just looks more like your average run of the mill cheesy 80’s sci-fi movie. And not a very good one at that. Even though the film features cameos from such 50’s icons as Kenneth Tobey and June Lockhart, even they could’ve been found hamming it up in such 80’s flicks as Gremlins and Troll.
What I’m getting at here is that the appeal of this movie is one of pure nostalgia, but nostalgia all by itself doesn’t necessarily make for a good movie.
There is some fun to be had with this movie though. The face ripping effects are easily the best thing about the flick and are some of the ickiest and gooiest set pieces ever filmed. The scene where Fiona Lewis spews forth gallons of slime from a gunshot wound is also pretty memorable and I even kinda dug the part where Michael Lerner’s wife and kids got turned into high tech disco balls, but regrettably the movie is completely undone by the plodding pacing. After a promising start, things get awfully tough going throughout the middle section and the film never fully gets back on track. The earnest performances help, but in the end, Strange Invaders is a thoroughly banal and utterly underwhelming hunk of nostalgic sci-fi junk.
File it under the Great Idea, Shitty Execution category.
Co-scripter Bill Condon later went on to direct the critically acclaimed Gods and Monsters.