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Film / The Alien Factor

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The Alien Factor is a 1978 Sci-Fi/Horror B movie directed by Don Dohler that takes place in rural Maryland where several townspeople are killed off in manners that match nothing the local wild animal population could possibly inflict. After several of these killings, a local astronomer named Benjamin Zachary from a nearby observatory investigates what he believed to be a meteor crash that turns out to be the remains of an alien space ship.

The film achieved a mild Cult Classic status after its release and got a minor boost among that crowd after being featured as one of Cinematic Titanic's live performance films.

The Alien Factor provides examples of the following:

  • Downer Ending: The total body count is nearly in the double digits and includes the mayor, and finally the friendly alien sent to kill the monsters, due to a misunderstanding.
  • Government Conspiracy: A small-town version, as the mayor wants to keep the killings covered up to prevent the loss of an enterprise from building an amusement park in the city, costing the city both revenue and jobs.
  • Healing Hands: The alien who becomes Ben Zachary healing a woman run over by a drunk cyclist.
  • The Hero Dies: Shot at the end by the sheriff.
  • Intrepid Reporter: Edie Martin, who actively seeks out factual information on the monster attacks and is present to witness Ben's fight against the Lemoid at the end.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Benjamin Zachary, who intentionally acts cold towards the townsfolk to keep them from interfering and getting hurt by the monsters.
  • Mean Character, Nice Actor: In-Universe example as the alien who adopts the Ben Zachary disguise tries to push everyone away just to keep them from getting hurt. After the monsters are all killed, he is very civil to Edie in their final scene.
  • Mr. Exposition: Benjamin Zachary, especially after contacting the dying alien at the space ship's wreckage.
  • Outrun the Fireball: Low-budget example as Ben and Mayor Wicker have to run from the crashed alien spacecraft before it explodes or, as Cinematic Titanic put it, to get far enough away so they didn't have to show the explosion because they couldn't afford that.
  • Police Are Useless: Averted. Sheriff Cinder and Pete do everything they can to track down the monsters, and the sheriff does everything he can to keep the second monster away from Mary Jane, even when his bullets aren't hurting it.
  • Screaming Woman: Actually becomes a plot point. In two separate monster attacks, all the men present are killed, while a woman who screams her head off manages to escape. Ben Zachary theorizes that their high-pitched screams repelled the monster. He then rigs up some loudspeakers to blast the monster with even higher-pitched sound waves, and that's enough to kill it.
  • Shoot the Dog: The friendly alien who kills the monsters is shot on sight by the sheriff because of his scary appearance.
  • Suit with Vested Interests: The mayor refuses to call in outside help to deal with the animal attacks, fearing that if word gets out, it'll drive away the amusement park construction project and hurt the city financially. In an unusual take on the trope, when outside help comes anyway — in the form of Ben Zachary — the mayor is the first one to take Ben's side, because Ben also wants to deal with the problem as discreetly as possible, for his own reasons.
  • The Reveal: The creatures are zoological specimens that escaped when the spaceship crashed, and Benjamin Zachary is really an alien sent to destroy them. Also done visually with Ben's real appearance, as he looks as hideous as he claimed he'd be to Edie, despite being a good guy.
  • Too Dumb to Live: The group that decides to hunt down the first monster without knowing anything about it. Ironically, the only survivor is the unarmed girlfriend, who everyone else thought would be The Load, due to her high-pitched scream repelling the monster better than bullets could.
  • Transformation Sequence: An early scene shows one alien working on making himself look human. This alien later introduces himself as Benjamin Zachary.
  • Wham Line: Sheriff Jack Cinder gets a phone call in response to an inquiry he made about where the stranger who showed up in town and was able to take down two of the monsters claimed to work.
    Jack: My hunch was right: They never heard of a Benjamin Zachary working at the Garret Observatory.