Atomic Brain Invasion (2010)
In recent times there have been an awful lot of films paying homage to the classic horror films of yesteryear. HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN pays homage (brilliantly, I must add) to grindhouse cinema; DEATH PROOF to the exploitation flicks of the 70’s; EL MONSTRO DEL MAR! to the 50’s creature flicks; and ISLE OF THE DAMNED to the Italian cannibal flicks of the 70’s and 80’s. When done right, the homage flick is a great walk down memory lane. When done poorly it’s an eye-rolling exercise in patience and annoyance. ATOMIC BRAIN INVASION takes the alien invasion/flying saucer films of the 50’s & 60’s and gives it the once over. Let’s see if this one accomplishes what it sets out to do.
ATOMIC BRAIN INVASION follows the story of Sherman (David Lavallee Jr.), an intelligent, dorky but kind hearted nerd and Betty (Sarah Nicklin), another intelligent and at times bitchy girl who happens to be Sherman’s love interest. We also have Sherman’s nerdy buddies Kevin and Jim (Daniel Lee White & Colin Carlton, respectively), and Lukas (Michael Reed), the greaser, pseudo-bully of the bunch who ends up having a tender side. The casting is perfect here. One thing I always found silly in the scifi-horror films of the 50’s and 60’s is when they took place in high school and all the actors and actresses looked like they were in their late-20’s and 30’s – at least. Writer-director Richard Griffin captures this perfectly in his casting.
The gang is going about their daily lives when they suddenly find themselves at the heart of an alien invasion. The (purposely) goofy looking aliens first send down to earth a goo that turns people into disgusting slaves of the aliens. The second stage is the aliens themselves, who are literally brain aliens, coming to earth to complete their invasion. The alien’s primary mission? Abduct Elvis Presley (Brandon Luis Aponte), who happens to be playing a concert in the small town. The motives of the aliens are rather unclear and the science of the aliens is pretty dubious. But when has a 1950’s scifi flick ever been accurate?? The writing here is pretty spot on. If you close your eyes, you’ll swear you were listening to dialogue from a 1950’s scifi flick.
Other colorful characters to fill out the ranks are old man O’Brien (Rich Tretheway), a heavy drinking Irishman who claims to have been abducted by aliens and who has seen these mysterious UFOs (is this a spoof of Randy Quaid’s character in INDEPENDENCE DAY??), and General Bedfellow (David Erin Wilson), Lukas’ father and a hard-nosed General who praises all the various functions of the atom bomb and who seems to have been expecting these aliens. Bedfellow and O’Brien are your standard 1950’s stereotypical characters. O’Brien is an Irishman, a drunk Irishman, with a bad Irish accent who always has a bottle of Irish whiskey in his hand. Bedfellow is your no-nonsense military man with no real sense of humor but who’s preoccupation with “Commies” borders on paranoia.
The overall writing is sharp and fun and nothing is meant to be taken seriously. That is never more evident that with the aliens themselves. Remember the famously disturbing scene in WOLF CREEK about the “head on a stick”? Well the aliens here could literally be referred to as “brains on a stick.” They ‘invade’ the bodies of humans and take them over and destroy them by ripping apart the head in order to expose their big brains. Sure it leaves them extremely vulnerable to such weapons as sticks, rocks, and fists, but remember that they are a superior alien race from the deepest recesses of space. Is this any more ridiculous than the alien invaders from SIGNS who attempted to invade a planet that’s over 70% water, and water is the one thing that can kill them??
There’s a lot to like here. The acting is all spot on. Sherman is great as the nerdy, worm-turns character and Lukas plays his role perfectly as the greaser-ruffian who ends up being a good guy (and who loves origami). The f/x are mainly practical and the filmmakers weren’t afraid to throw around the gooey stuff. And when you see the alien brains running around in human cloths with human hands, you’re gonna laugh your ass off. The pacing, for the most part, is pretty good, but the film does feel as though it drags on in a few spots. It’s 90 minute run time was a bit long for the material and it could’ve greatly benefited from being tightened up a bit in the editing room.
But just when you think things can’t get anymore bizarre here, Griffin hits us with a hilarious song and dance routine in the local diner after Elvis shows up that had me laughing out loud. And things just get even more odd when another UFO, with an entirely different race of aliens, show up. Just wait until you see them and find out their intentions!!
ATOMIC BRAIN INVASION is overall successful at what it sets out to do: Be a love letter to the 1950’s alien invasion/flying saucer films of yesteryear. The characters are well written and perfectly casted, the aliens are ridiculous and fun, and the addition of Elvis was a nice touch to the story. ATOMIC BRAIN INVASION is a fun time and I recommend it for a fun walk down memory lane.
Look for ATOMIC BRAIN INVASION on DVD on October 2, 2012 from Camp Motion Pictures.
Director: Richard Griffin (& writer)
Plot: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Gore: 5 out of 10 skulls
Zombie Mayhem: 0 out of 5 brains
Reviewed by Scott Shoyer