Thursday, 17 October 2019

Invaders from Mars

Like its forebear, Tobe Hooper's Invaders from Mars remake often takes the paranoid perspective of a child when telling its story. William Cameron Menzies' 1953 original trapped its pre-teen hero in dreamy repetition, framing actor Jimmy Hunt inside cavernous, adult spaces that required the manic determination of an all-American do-gooder to surmount. Rather than steer for straight replication, Hooper takes a slightly different tact, tapping into the central child's emotional hysteria rather than his lack of physical presence. So while the camera doesn't specifically take on David Gardner (Hunter Carson)'s point-of-view, it is frequently positioned in ways that denote sympathy to his predicament. Brain-drilled adults are seen as statues, we stare up at them with a mix of awe and nervous apprehension.

Invaders from Mars posits a situation in which a child's safety net has been removed - the loving father who won't even tell you off when you sprinkle your conversation with light swears has been taken, replaced by a robotic pod person fascinated by artificial sweeteners. The unease a child feels trying to fathom their way through adult emotional remoteness, or even basic changeability, is magnified into an all-consuming anxiety that pollutes the safe haven called home. It's a great hook but this '86 mint is hamstrung by its rhythms. Hooper's film is spaced out and unexciting; terrifying alien confrontations are neutralised by flat, inexpert arrangement and a detached, presumably humorous tone. The blubbery alien threat, special effects courtesy of Stan Winston and John Dykstra, are not so much a terrifying affront to individuality but a clique of incompetent, toy town chums who gobble up mean teachers in a half-hearted attempt to understand mankind's unheeded child champion.

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