Remember that cool low-budget monster flick where the giant stop-motion-animated crab terrorized a small town? No, I'm not talking about one of the great black-and-white 50s classics, but 2015's QUEEN CRAB, which came as a welcome CGI-free throwback to the old days when filmmakers with limited resources were trying to make Ray Harryhausen movies.
Now, the same team behind that bundle of old-school fun is at it again, this time going the pulp sci-fi route with their alien invasion thriller OUTPOST EARTH (2016).
Human civilization gets destroyed during the opening titles in a scaled-down riff on INDEPENDENCE DAY by way of EARTH VS. THE FLYING SAUCERS, leaving a devasted dystopian world whose few human survivors are being hunted down by hostile aliens and their mutant mongrel pets.
After Blake saves her from some "goons" (slang for aliens) Kay invites him back to her hideout which she shares with naive sister Penny (Kristen Gylling), dour den-mother Kagen (Yolie Canales, QUEEN CRAB), and brilliant theoretical physicist Uncle Zayden (Mason Carver), a white-bearded egghead who's always in his makeshift lab trying to figure out what makes the aliens tick.
It takes Blake a while to gain the trust of the others, especially the skeptical Kagen. But when Penny gets captured by a group of bad humans (including QUEEN CRAB's Ken Van Sant as the loathsome eye-patched Manny) he comes through during a daring rescue and then later discovers the secret to operating one of the crashed alien spacecraft (part of which involves getting really drunk).
Locations are well-chosen for their desolate, bombed-out look, bringing to mind the final segment of "Threads." Performances and dialogue are good and the characters are likable, particularly the two leads whom we just know will eventually form a twosome and help repopulate the Earth.
But that's for later--in the meantime, it's interesting how writer-director Brett Piper (QUEEN CRAB, TRICLOPS, A NYMPHOID BARBARIAN IN DINOSAUR HELL) takes what is basically a James Cameron-level scenario and drastically scales it down while still coming up with something that's fun to watch.
These SPFX remind one of such films as EQUINOX, THE CRATER LAKE MONSTER, and THE EVIL DEAD, along with the stop-motion creatures on the 70s Saturday morning series "Jason of Star Command."
One humanoid mutant, who may or may not have once been human (he's played by Steve Diasparra in full body-suit before morphing into a towering animated behemoth), even resembles something out of those old Jack Kirby monster comics as well as KING KONG animator Willis O'Brien's sketches for his proposed KING KONG VS. FRANKENSTEIN.
The film ends with a wild sequence involving Blake getting good and loaded (for the cause, of course), hopping into that crashed spacecraft with Kay, and making a daring attack run (aka "drunken joyride") on an alien outpost thought to be one of their main command centers. The ending is left wide open for a sequel.
Despite the miniscule budget, OUTPOST EARTH is loaded with entertainment value--especially for us nostalgic Monster Kids--and intriguing elements of both serious and pulp sci-fi. It's the kind of flick I used to run home from school to watch on the afternoon movie.