“You’re Dr. Karel Lamont, the Atomic Scientist from the Atomic Academy?”
“Uh, I, uh…”
“I’m Sandy Fawkes, I run the Fawkeston Inn. Where you’re staying. But of course, you know that. Perhaps we could head back there now?”
“Fine, I’ll follow you in my car.”
“I’m on foot.”
“I’ll drive slow.”
There are few movie genres as ripe for parody than the ‘50s alien invasion film. Extremely serious and pompous scientist, disbelieving townies, shoot-first authorities, mysterious outsiders who could be aliens in disguise, odd goings-on and gruesome off-screen deaths. All ingredients for a campy party and enduring parts of our of our collective unconsciousness to this day. One or more of these elements pop up on every other episode of The Simpsons, so what more evidence do you need that even the tiniest tot recognizes these chestnuts upon sight? When played straight in parody, you get comedy gold (The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra). When you wink at the camera and point at your gags, you get the opposite of gold (Scary Movie 4). And when you play your cards extremely close to the vest, you get the magic of Invasion.
Aliens have come to the sleepy fishing village of Exceptional Vista, its down but still-plucky citizens still plugging along ever since the Nut Factory closed down. The first indication of the extraterrestrials among them: all the T.V.s are out. The second hint: people are being eaten. But Dr. Karel Lamont from the Atomic Academy has arrived to save the day. Aided by Sandy Fawkes, her inappropriately-close brother, Guy, Deputy Dana, Officer Gale and a whole host of folks with sexually-ambiguous names. Possible opposition: Lilith Stern-lookalike Chris Monroe (“I sell ban-joes.”) and the sinister Michel O’Shea, “Michelle O’Shea – my territory includes Bladdertown, Left Hemisphere, Dunk, Right Hemisphere, Walkadogathon, New Imbroglio and Fetus. I specialize in vacuums.”
Unleashing the driest of humor, Invasion keeps the gags and jokes flowing from start to finish, but delivered completely straight. These characters completely inhabit this bizarre world without a hint of self-awareness, which is what makes the humor work. As Dr. Karel Lamont, when Campbell Scott announced that a body was found in the “lumpy, bumpy part of town outside of town” or that a man is suffering from a “post cranial-bump”, it sounds exactly like the dry diagnosis it’s supposed to be. Fiona Loewi, as Sandy, is so taken with the Atomic Scientist, every line of dialogue is a swoon. “I love to read. I read everything. I’ve read that it’s possible to read too much.”
“Ah, yes. But if you didn’t read, you wouldn’t know that.”
And as for the aliens, well, imagine what kind of aliens would pick Exceptional Vista to invade.
So low-key is the humor in Invasion that it will occasionally throw in a kinky curve-ball just to see if you’re paying attention. It’s implied that Lamont has a few sexual quirks, but can anyone be prepared for what he’s caught in the bathtub with? Or that the central love-affair plays out with Lamont, Sandy and a third party? (Trust me, I want to prepare you—it’s eating me up inside!—but I can’t bring myself to kill the joke.)
Shot in a easy-going and low-budget manner, Invasion is substance over style, so the special effects are less than dazzling (though the mountain scenery is nice) and the kills not-so gory. But with lines like, “He was the alpha and the omega, and he also played the trumpet.”, who needs ‘em? Funnier and shorter than Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Invasion is a home-run for the wacky. The truth may or may not be out there, but the DVD definitely is. Go watch it.