The Arrival / The Unwelcomed (1991) missed the mark

This was watched because it looked like a cheesy mix between a vampire movie & Cocoon and because John Saxon always adds a touch of class to a movie. The trailer was that kind of uninspiring middle-of-the-road schleppy that can sometimes be the snuggly sci-fi horror blanket you need.

Space monsters are notorious for obeying signs like this

Things start so-so, with the most “old person who’s about to die of old age, because they’re old!” 73rd birthday is being held for the much-loved 73-year-old Max Page (Robert Sampson). On the off chance you haven’t got the message, there is a nice cake with 73 on it and he’s got an almost totally redundant Zimmer frame. Then a meteor hits his land, gets surrounded by a bunch of government types, and he decides to go look at it with his Grandson because they live in that kind of town.
Apparently, the meteor is u

“Your dad isn’t wearing a buttplug, are they?”

nbelievably dangerous, so the scientists work on it in office clothes whilst a bit of police tape and one guard positioned about 20 feet from it in barracks uniform stops anyone getting in. That doesn’t stop some kind of nasty getting out, which runs up Max’s leg and kills him. Obviously, the family didn’t love him that much as they paid for the budget medical assessment, and after a day or so in the morgue (where he has trousers but no shirt on) he comes back to life. Max also meets the twenty-something nurse Connie (Robin Frates) and compliments her by lamenting that he’s too old to have sex with her.

Other than all the violent death, it’s actually quite romantic.

The plot point’s established, he goes home and starts to grow younger and no one goes “Oooh, could it be that meteor?”. He also starts having incredibly strange and rather nicely directed dreams about sex and murder. These are one of the greatest attempts at visualizing a possession/infection situation and carry both a shocking visual style and delightful “tip of your tongue” almost logic. The film didn’t have to go that hard with these bits, and they are the absolute highlight of the film.

So very good.

Also, a bunch of people start dying and Max thinks he’s doing all the killings so he can feast on their delicious blood because he’s now got the body and the mind of a 30-year-old. He then tells his son this, which is just mind-bogglingly unexpected but also the kind of thing you probably actually would do if you thought you were losing your mind to some kind of malevolent entity and you weren’t a total areshole. Then, just as realistically, his son thinks that’s bollocks so ignores it. Several dead bodies later, Max does a legger because he might be possessed by some kind of space vampire infection but he’s not stupid.

Handled with the care of a drunk elephant.

The middle act involves FBI Agent John Saxon trying to track down the twenty-something Max (Joseph Culp) and giving Michael J Pollard a couple of scenes to bimble about in (which is fair, as he’s one of the greatest bumblers, and mumbles, in cinema). Max just murders a whole load of people and gets a lift with Leslie and Tina, who are a lesbian couple. The film doesn’t bother addressing that aspect in any depth, and I can’t overstate how refreshing it is for that to be handled that way. They need to both be women due to plot reasons, so they are a couple. Gain, the film didn’t have to go that hard.

“Do you know what this is? Because I’ve got no clue”

Then act 3 turns up, and I really wish they had stuck to the 90 minutes mark by cutting a third of it out. It’s not terrible, but it burns out all the goodwill of the first 70 minutes by being overly long and drab. Max finds Connie, she falls in love because of reasons, and then the FBI finds Connie. In a highly memorable scene she gets presented with all the women Max has murdered, has the fact Max is an alien being corroborated by the FBI, and then says “Yeah, but No: I’m not going to betray him because he gives me really good dick”. Or words to that effect. Stuff happens, Max dies, there is a twist, and you won’t care.

“Did I leave the gas on?”

Up until the third act, this was a shoo-in for being a quirky little Treasure. Not perfect, but sufficiently off the beaten trope paths and having the right amount of arty-strange to make it interesting. The cast do a great low-key job of being incredibly normal, which heightens the abnormal elements, and the plot has enough genre knowledge to throw some delightful red herrings. It’s also throwing in low-key issues and, even a good theme, to really give you something to chew over after the film. Then, and I cannot over emphasize this enough, it utterly shits the bed by being dull. If you spend almost half a film hating it for being beige, especially when so much potential was on display at the start, then you know, no matter how great the good bits are, you have to dump it in the Trash.

The Raggedyman

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