Strange Invaders is a 1983 science fiction/horror film directed by Michael Laughlin. It stars Paul Le Mat, Nancy Allen, and Louise Fletcher. Although the film has largely fallen into obscurity, it is noteworthy for some creatively gory special effects sequences and as a cleverly subtle homage to science fiction films of the 1950's.
The plot follows professor Charles Bigelow (Le Mat), who despite being something of a ladies man, seemingly maintains a healthy relationship with his ex-wife Margaret. When his ex gets called away to her home town to attend a funeral and asks Charles to babysit their young daughter while she is away he doesn't think very much of it. But as the days stretch into weeks with no word from Margaret, Charles sets off to learn her whereabouts himself. What he discovers brings him into the path of a cynical tabloid reporter (Allen), an enigmatic government agent (Fletcher), and a conspiracy of impossible scope and terrifying implications.
This work contains examples of the following tropes:
- Alien Among Us: Despite having been on Earth for twenty-five years and having access to flawless human disguises, the aliens' isolation in Centerville has left them less than competent in understanding the human world. Not only do they act stiff and menacing while trying to interact, but they have to be reminded not to use their telekinetic powers for basic acts like opening doors. They also lack the ability to comprehend that tabloid newspapers are read for entertainment and not believed to be true by their readers, interpreting an outlandish article about them as an actual threat to their existence.
- And I Must Scream: The Invaders can inflict this fate on a person with little more than a hand gesture, painfully reshaping them into spheres of pure energy. The humans are seemingly under the control of the Invaders while in this state, but also seem to remain aware. In one particularly troubling scene a human sphere can be heard crying while alien scientists probe and examine it.
- Body Horror: The aliens' Latex Perfection human disguises are... not pleasant to see removed. But that's nothing compared to how they crumple human beings' bodies into a singularity of rippling light.
- Blue and Orange Morality: Despite their collusion with the United States government, the aliens clearly hold humans in little regard, horrifically compressing them into orbs of plasma energy at the slightest provocation. However, they do not actually kill any of their human victims, and they all revert to normal as soon as the aliens depart.
- Cardboard Prison: After his escape from the aliens, Willie spends years incarcerated in a mental institution, but when Charles and Betty come along he escapes and is ready to join their quest in a matter of minutes. Possibly justified, as he could have worked out a method of escaping years ago. But with his family gone and the Invaders ready to move against him if he ever resurfaced, he simply chose never to act on it.
- Cassandra Truth: Par for the course in a classically-styled alien invasion film, Charles has a hard time getting anyone to believe him.
- Creator Cameo: Bill Condon, who co-wrote the script, can be seen lurking about Betty's office when Charles goes to confront her about her article.
- Death by Cameo: Wallace Shawn falls prey to the aliens while investigating a neighbor's bathroom when a visiting saleswoman seemingly vanishes inside it.
- Everybody Lives: The Invaders don't actually kill anyone, just transform them into energy and keep them prisoner in this state. By the end, every single human captured in the film has been reverted to normal.
- Government Conspiracy: Not only is our government fully aware of the Invaders, they are actively assisting them; running interference when public opinion turns against their rhetoric.
- Half-Human Hybrid: Charles and Margaret's daughter. Luckily for them, they seem to inherit the Invader parent's powers but the human parent's looks.
- Humanity Ensues: Margaret is the only Invader shown to have any empathy for humans, clearly caring for her daughter and ex-husband Charles and singled out by the alien leader as having gotten "too involved" with Humans during her twenty-five year stint on Earth.
- Kick the Dog: Charles puts his dog away in his room just like Arthur asks him too... And Arthur goes in and does something horrible to the animal anyway. Like all of the Invaders' victims, the dog shows up unharmed at the end, but still...
- The Men in Black: Can be seen among the government personnel manning the blockade outside Centerville.
- Two Decades Behind: The alien-occupied town of Centerville. The invaders took it over in the 1950's and immediately cut it off from the outside world, keeping clothing, businesses, and vehicles as they were when they first found them. One of the few genuinely funny moments is when Centerville sends a few dozen aliens to New York to hunt down both Charles and the leaked photograph and they emerge from a bus decked out in outlandish 1950's clothing.
- Villains Out Shopping: Shortly after the aliens arrive in New York, one of them takes some time to relax in his hotel room, watching television and ordering room service. When the room gets too hot, he peels off his human disguise to get comfortable. Too bad for the hotel maid who walks in on him though...