(director: John McNaughton; screenwriters: Richard Fire/Mason Nage; cinematographers: Julio Macat/Robert New; editor: Elena Maganini; music: Ken Hale/Steven A. Jones/Robert McNaughton; cast: Rae Dawn Chong (Diana Pierce), Don Gordon (Charles Krieger), Antonio Fargas (Julius), Tom Towles (Bob Laney), Tony Amendola (Dr. Cheever), Bentley Mitchum (Kip), Neil Giuntoli (Scully), Pam Gordon (Connie), Larry Pennell (Captian Scarcelli), Tom Allard (Ruben Whitefeather); Runtime: 95; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Steven A. Jones/R.P. Sekon; Cannon Group; 1991)
“Not without being somewhat entertaining in a childish way.“
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
John McNaughton’s second film is a follow-up to his highly acclaimed Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, but it’s not as accomplished a film as Henry. Its attempt at schock/schlock horror film satire–though not without its gross-out moments (an alien slurping down a rat in his soup without batting an eye)–fails to be anything more than outrageous fun for a few scenes. It’s a B-film comedy horror/sci-fi film that is more messy than funny or scary, but not without being somewhat entertaining in a childish way. Its faults can be attributed to production problems due to lack of money that delayed filming and thereby throwing the pace off-kilter, its unsatisfactory and incomplete ending, and its too simple-minded premise–that has an alien wandering the streets and ripping people’s heads off but never developing into a greater story than that.
For unmentionable crimes against his planet, an alien is “genetically devolved” and banished to Earth in a human form. A fight ensues between the monster captor and his alien prisoner where the flying saucer landed in frigid Chicago. An argumentative low-life Father, Bob Laney (Tom Towles), and his dope-fiend son, Kip (Bentley Mitchum), are illegally hunting deer in a forest preserve with a rifle that has a silencer on it, but when they see the scuffle and believe the alien in trouble to be human–they do the right thing and come to its rescue. Instead of thanking Bob for the rescue, the alien goes into its exploding head routine and rips the head off dad and wanders into town trying to act human as if he was the real Bob Laney (Towles acts the part of the alien until there’s another vic). The alien in order to survive must steal heads from other people after its own explodes (gloriously shown onscreen every time it explodes), and before long there’s a series of headless citizens in Chicago.
This gets detective partners Diana Pierce (Rae Dawn Chong) and veteran Charles Krieger (Don Gordon) assigned to the case, viewed, at first, as a possible cult ritual murder act. The cynical Krieger dismisses Kip’s eyewitness report about aliens as something a dope fiend would say, but the sassy Diana wonders if it could be possible. When Diana is chasing an escaped rapist psycho named Scully and he turns into this alien freak, it begins to look as if it couldn’t be anything else but your typical horror film plotline of an alien responsible for the bloody mess. More proof comes by way of findings from the coroner (Pam Gordon) that the killer is not human–though the cops wonder “If it’s not human, what is it?”
There are also replacement heads for homeless skid-row eccentric Julius (Antonio Fargas) and a skirt-chasing Dr. Cheever (Tony Amendola) that provide some laughs, but all the low rent antics never become as good as those in The Hidden–a film that The Borrower borrowed its theme from. It works fine as a cult movie for the midnight set, but doesn’t have enough premise or charismatic enough lead actors to make it work as a major feature film.
REVIEWED ON 1/27/2005 GRADE: C+