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Invaders From Mars (Blu-ray Review)

Invaders-From-MarsI love the directors that the folks at Scream Factory choose to follow and try to release nice editions of their works.  Unappreciated or worthy of their unfavorable status, directors with names’ films are ones that are continually studied and collected no matter what.  Tobe Hooper’s filmography is getting some of its more unappreciated works the attention they deserve via the Scream Factory.  In the 1980s, Tobe had a 3-film deal with the infamous Cannon films.  Three films that I find all to be greatly underrated.  The first of which was Lifeforce and the last being Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2.  In between was a another sci-fi/horror mash-up, a remake of 1953’s Invaders From Mars.  Hooper’s goal; to craft a science fiction film for kids and families.  He brought with him an awesome production team.  But, like his other Cannon product, it didn’t perform too hot and wasn’t appreciated at the time.

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Film 

Little David Gardner’s starry-eyed dreams turn into an out-of-this-world nightmare when invaders from the red planet land in his backyard and unleash their hostilities on unsuspecting earthlings! Paralyzed with fear as the aliens take over the minds of his mother, father and even his classmates, David must somehow find a way to stop them- before they turn the whole human race into brain-dead zombies!

Tobe Hooper’s Invaders From Mars has always felt to me like this was him trying to prove he directed Poltergeist.   This movie wants to be of his family adventure ilk so badly, but it just doesn’t quite have “it” that works for them.  Invaders is a family horror film that follows a the exploits of a young boy forced to be the adult hero in this situation.  In simple terms, this is the 1970s Invasion Of The Body Snatchers meets Amblin Entertainment.

What works in Amblin is what struggles here; the child acting.  For the most part, its always a crap shoot.  Kids can look great in auditions, test shoots and the like but sometimes its a different story in the final product.  None of the kids are really noteworthy here.  And our lead, Hunter Carson, struggles with a lot of scenes where he needs to play things big.  Its a really feels like he’s holding back or afraid to just let out.  This performance doesn’t work for me and hampers the movie a bit, but for the kids this is intended for, I’m sure its just fine.

The joyful performance is watching Karen Black enjoy herself in the film.  She’s our trustworthy adult character; the school nurse.  Black has some great facial reactions to things.  Hunter Carson’s strongest moments are usually when he shares scenes with her, so she brings out the best in him (It probably helps that she is his mom in real life).  I just found the legendary actress to be having fun and resonating that much to the viewer.

Behind the scenes, Hooper had plenty of big names working on this.  Its a rather big production too, with massive sets and aliens roaming around.  This one’s spectacle is definitely the major highlight of it.  Dan O’Bannon wrote this sucker and Stan Winston was at the helm for the special effects in the movie.  Just a crazy triple-threat team up here.  And while some of the designs may be goofy (Remember, its intended for kids and is PG), they still are fulfilling and awesome to me to this day.

Hooper’s Invaders From Mars remake is a fun little family adventure.  There aren’t tons of horror films truly for all ages, but here’s a decent one.  It’s one of Tobe Hooper’s that I haven’t been back to often like I do the Chainsaws, Lifeforce and Funhouse but it was fun to revisit here.  Heck, now that I have it, it’ll probably be one of the earlier sci-fi horror films I get to show my kids.  And that’s a pretty big plus in my book.

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Video 

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1

Clarity/Detail:  Invaders delivers a nice looking picture that is brilliant in some spots but mostly a notch above solid for most of the runtime.  The picture is pretty sharp for the most part, running into a few soft spots.  Detail is pretty gnarly on all the colorfully lit martian creatures and the like.

Depth:  Some solid depth work here.  Foreground and background stuff is discernible with free moving characters and objects throughout.

Black Levels: Blacks are pretty natural and accurate.  No real crushing problems to report.  Darkly lit scenes are a tad grainier than others.

Color Reproduction:  Colors look nice and bold.  Filtered scenes looks pretty gorgeous for the most part.  Wild vivid colors shine through without bleeding or being too obnoxious.

Flesh Tones:  Natural and consistent.  Detail is good for the most part.  Minor smoothness in some medium shots.

Noise/Artifacts:  A nice layer of grain as well as some specs, dirt and a streak/scratch on one scene.

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Audio 

Audio Format(s): English 5.1 DTS-HD MA, English 2.0 DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: English

Dynamics:  This is a nice, clean track, but I really felt there was an opportunity for it to get more “in your face”.  Voice, effects and score all fee free and loose from one another.  But, this one lacked a deep thrust to really feel completely full.  I kind of feel like the 2.0 track is equally, if not more, satisfactory to a degree.

Low Frequency Extension:  I feel like the sub could have boosted the action more.  Its contributions are there, but I was wanting more boom from the explosions and weapon fire.

Surround Sound Presentation:  There are some fun noises and bits of unique action that impressively come from the rear speakers.  The front channels have some solid movement and volume placement.

Dialogue Reproduction:  Loud and audible.  There are some moments where the dialogue sounds a little bit muffled, but that appears to be source related.

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Extras 

Invaders From Mars comes with a reversible cover featuring alternate poster art for the film.

Audio Commentary

  • With Director Tobe Hooper

The Martians Are Coming! The Making Of “Invaders From Mars” (HD, 36:33) – Another outstanding retrospective documentary on making the film.  Tobe Hooper, Hunter Carson, Alec Gillis and others assemble to discuss the lavish and big time production.  As always, this moves at a great pace and is highly informative.

Theatrical Trailer & TV Spot (HD, 1:28 & :32)

Production Illustration Gallery From Artist William Strout (HD, 14:03) – While a montage of art plays, the artist is the to give commentary on the inspirations, working with Hooper and how each piece works.

Storyboards (HD, 4:16) – A montage of storyboards from the film.

Still Gallery – 25 images of promotional photos, posters and behind the scenes pics.

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Summary 

Fans will be very happy, because this is probably about as close to a definite version of Tobe Hooper’s Invaders From Mars as you’re going to get.  The film looks and sounds very good, and the extras rock.  Hooper’s commentary and the retrospective documentary would be enough, but there’s even some more goodness on the disc.  No, its not a Collector’s Edition, but its only really difference is in name.  A definite pickup for Hooper fans and Scream Factory fans.

Invaders-From-Mars-Blu-ray

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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