Friday Night Flix: Invaders from Mars

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Welcome to Friday Night Flix, where there’s never a need to leave the couch or put on pants. Each week I’ll recommend an under-the-radar movie currently available on one or more of the major streaming platforms. They won’t all be classics, but every selection is guaranteed to be 100% watchable or your money back.

Invaders from Mars (Netflix)! What!? How did I not know of this movie’s existence?

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This thing came out in 1986 when I was seven and deeply in love with fantastical childhood adventure movies. I was disturbingly invested in The Goonies, The Monster Squad, Flight of the Navigator, The Neverending Story, all that crap. Invaders from Mars, with its a nerdy little kid who gets caught up in the middle of an alien takeover, teams up with the pretty school nurse to stop it, gets to boss around the military, and ultimately saves the day…this would have been my jam.

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Directed by Tobe Hooper, Invaders is a remake of a 1953 sci-fi movie of the same name based on a short story that, like 1956’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers, was itself a shameless ripoff of Robert A. Heinlein’s The Puppet Masters. You ever read that book? It’s awesome but it’s also batshit crazy. Flying cars, legal drugs, mandated public nudity, limited duration marriages…it’s out there. Made for a pretty kick ass movie though.

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Despite it’s dubious pedigree, despite a truly dreadful child star, and despite  Karen Black’s bizarre cross-eyed histrionics, there’s a lot of fun to be had here. Practical Stan Winston effects and clever puppets coupled with extensive optical effects and a variety of large-scale sets give it the feel of a big studio picture, even though it probably wasn’t. The plot has some loose threads but mostly hangs together as it barrels toward an obvious but satisfying conclusion. OR DOES IT?

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Added bonus: You probably won’t adore this movie if you never saw it as a child. It hasn’t aged well. But if you convince yourself you’re watching a modern day spoof of 80s sci-fi adventures flicks, you will no doubt find it a work of pure, soul-skewering genius.

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