A young boy in the woods discovers a lovable alien…or is it?
I had never heard of Extra-Terrestrial Visitors before I was asked to review it, so out of curiosity, I looked it up. When I saw a still shot from the film I immediately began to have this feeling of dread because I had seen it before. In those days, it was known as Pod People and was the focus of one of the more classic episodes of the original Mystery Science Theater. The thing about that show is the worse the film was, the better the cast was at mocking it. Pod People was a pile of straw that Joel Hodgson and his two bots were able to turn into gold.
The best way to describe Extra-Terrestrial Visitors is it’s like someone tried to force two different movie concepts that don’t belong together, and that’s exactly what it is. The director’s original vision was to make a horror movie about an alien visiting earth going on a murderous rampage after a hunter destroys its eggs, and a pop-rock group gets caught in the middle. Around the time they were making the film, E.T. hit theaters and became a huge hit. As a result, the production company behind Extra-Terrestrial Visitors demanded that changes be made to be more of a family-friendly film. As a result, the director was forced to include a storyline about a young child befriending another alien while trying to keep it a secret until the two stories finally collide.
As one can imagine, the director’s attempts to make the movie he envisioned while trying to appease the producers led to one heck of a mess. You have two different plots that are so tonally different from one another that they don’t mesh at all. I doubt that even the most gifted directors of our time could make these two concepts fit together, much less Juan Piquer Simon. It’s hard to say he’s good or bad at his job since this film may not be the best work to use to judge his capabilities, but what it shows doesn’t bring a lot of confidence. To be fair, the industry is filled with stories of producer interference ruining what could have been a good movie. Sam Raimi’s Spider-man 3 and Wes Craven’s Cursed are two examples of films where the directors were forced to make changes they didn’t agree with. Making a movie seems like it’s already an uphill battle without someone else demanding unwanted changes. Of course, that’s not to say that I think this would have been a good film if Simon had been left alone.
Another aspect that hurts Pod People the most is that there really aren’t too many likable characters. The lead singer to the rock group that’s the focal point of one of the plotlines is an obnoxious jerk. The film tried to portray him as the musical artist that’s a perfectionist, but it never does enough to win an audience over. He’s just a jerk from the word go, and honestly, actor Ian Sera doesn’t really do him any favors. Ever see someone that makes you just dislike them immensely at first sight? Sera has one of those faces.
The other character bound to make you hate life is the child that befriends one of the aliens. Instead of being the plucky kid hero, like Eliot from E.T., he’s an annoying personality that will grate on an audience’s nerves anytime he’s onscreen. His voice was dubbed, and I’m pretty sure they had an adult try to do a child’s voice, and the person they chose was horrid. They used a high pitched voice that was like nails on a blackboard, and it didn’t sound natural at all. It sounded like they just had an adult try to do a child’s voice, and it’s disconcerting.
The aliens themselves are pathetic looking. They’re obviously children or height-challenged adults wearing a fur costume that made them resemble the sitcom character ALF (I can hear some people Googling that already). Their faces were basically ridiculously large eyes and a trunk that looked like they could have been made with clay. (The kid calls his alien friend “Trumpy”, which is kind of hilarious considering current U.S. politics). On top of that, the special effects are laughably bad, like you can literally see the strings holding up floating objects bad. The ineptitude of the effects is at least amusing.
Long story short, Pod People is terrible. It’s a Frankenstein’s monster of a film made with two plotlines that don’t fit together filled with unlikable characters and shoddy special effects. It’s not a movie I recommend watching by itself. The only way it’s tolerable is if you watch the Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode that riffed on it or if you have some friends to help you mock it. Of course, they better be good friends or you may find yourself needing to get new buddies once the end credits roll.