A 1986 remake of the 1953 film of the same name. Directed by Tobe Hooper, and written by Dan O'Bannon, perhaps best known for having written Alien, and Don Jakoby, perhaps best known for devising the story for Evolution (2001).
With son David (Hunter Carson), NASA worker George Gardner (Timothy Bottoms) watches a meteor shower.
As a storm rages, David sees, through his window, an enormous, brilliantly lit sphere slowly descend from the sky and vanish beneath a nearby hill. Next day, David and mother Ellen (Laraine Newman) are unnerved to find George serenely subdued. At school, bullying teacher Mrs. McKletch (Louise Fletcher) starts to threaten David with physical force.
When his mother finally succumbs to the inscrutable alteration, David can only turn to school nurse Linda Magnuson (Karen Black), who, with increasing dread, realises David to be preoccupied by something other than flight of fancy…
This film provides examples of:
- Actor Allusion:
- In the final scene with the parents, Laraine Newman placates her son using an exaggerated alien voice. It's the same voice she used on Saturday Night Live when she played Connie in the Coneheads sketches.
- While heading for the sand pit to look for the missing George, the police chief remarks he hasn't been around this area since he was a kid. This is a nod to how Jimmy Hunt played David in the 1953 original.
- Alas, Poor Villain: Cruel as it is, the despairing growls of the Supreme Martian Intelligence are somewhat plaintive.
- Ain't Too Proud to Beg: David, before the Supreme Martian Intelligence, begs for his fellow humans to be spared.
- Alien Invasion: Having installed their ship beneath a sand pit, the Martians wage a campaign of infiltration by implanting Mind Control probes in local humans.
- Aliens Speaking English: Averted. With its weird growls ill-suited to human enunciation, the Supreme Martian Intelligence lets the mind-controlled Mrs McKletch impart its scornful dismissal of David's pleas. It then somehow mimics a sentence recently spoken by David's dad.
- Alien Blood: The Martians appear to bleed orange
- Armies Are Useless: Averted. With crucial information supplied by David, the locally stationed Marines invade the underground Martian base.
- Attack Its Weak Point: Several well-placed shots to the central console in the control room thwart the invasion.
- Beneath the Earth: Through seamlessly drilled tunnels, the Martians reach from their buried ship to the surface.
- Big Damn Heroes: Just as Nurse Magnuson is about to be probed, the Marines destroy the Martian machinery.
- The Brigadier: Benevolently cooperative General Wilson.
- The Bully: Mrs McKletch, even before takeover by the Martians, steadfastly persecutes David.
- Chekhov's Gun: Early on, George presents David with a vintage penny. Being made of copper, it's used to activate a Martian weapon.
- Cigar Chomper: General Wilson.
- Cowardly Lion: While petrified, Nurse Magnuson resolves to protect David from Mrs McKletch.
- Darker and Edgier: This version of the story puts graphic emphasis on the Martian implants.
- The Dragon: The possessed Mrs McKletch seems to be chief informant to the Supreme Martian Intelligence.
- Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu?: When the Supreme Martian Intelligence mocks his pleas for mercy, David gives it a whack, which seems to somewhat disorientate both it and the Drones.David: I'll fix you, dick brain!
- Good Parents: George and Ellen have a caring, jolly rapport with David.
- Here We Go Again!: At the end of the movie, David having been reassured by his parents that what just happened was All Just a Dream the poor kid sees the alien ship coming for real.
- Heroic Willpower: Sergeant Major Rinaldi, while unable to resist Martian control of his body, urges his fellow Marines to shoot him before he shoots them.
- Kid Hero: While helpless against the possessed adults, David proves a crucial informant to the locally stationed Marines.
- Kick the Dog: The Supreme Martian Intelligence mocks David's heartfelt pleas for mercy.
- Mind Control: Much of the horror lies in David and Nurse Magnuson's helplessness amidst a mysteriously augmented populace.
- My Brain Is Big: The Martian Drones are directed by a gigantic limbless head, mounted amidst a web of machinery.
- Mythology Gag: Atop a chest of drawings in the school basement sits the 1953 version of the Martian Supreme Intelligence.
- Orcus on His Throne: The Supreme Martian intelligence directs the invasion from the control hall of the underground spaceship.
- Organic Technology: The architecture of the alien ship does seem to give this impression, in fact, the director originally intended the walls to expand and contract, as if the vessel was alive and breathing.
- Puppeteer Parasite: The Martians control humans via probes drilled into their necks.
- Remake Cameo: Jimmy Hunt, who played David in the 1953 original, now plays the police chief.
- Scenery Porn:
- The cavernous underground spaceship.
- Some nice shots of the forested hillside.
- Science Hero: David Gardner, son of a NASA worker, has a keen grasp of astronomy, and astutely realises the Martian gun to be powered by copper.
- Starfish Aliens: The Martian Drones are hairless, hulking, bulbous, disembodied heads, with four legs, retractable arms, and huge mouths. Their leader, the Supreme Intelligence, is a huge, hairless, limbless, disembodied head with an exposed brain and a long muscular tail with two long tentacles growing from either side.
- Swallowed Whole: The possessed Mrs. McKletch is pushed into the mouth of a disorientated Martian Drone, and is subsequently devoured, possibly as punishment for failing to recapture David.
- We Come in Peace — Shoot to Kill: Dr. Weinstein of SETI attempts to communicate with a Martian Drone and is rewarded with disintegration.