Carpenter’s not-especially-subtle dig at film critics. Get it?
John Carpenter’s sci-fi satire falls squarely into the ‘great idea terrible execution’ category. It takes a really long time to get going – we don’t see any of the titular aliens until a third of the way through – though that wouldn’t be such a problem if the first third wasn’t so reminiscent of bad ’80s television. The production values are terrible; don’t get me wrong, I can handle low-budget, but this is just bad. Its biggest flaws are the awful acting (especially from Roddy Piper, a professional wrestler inexplicably cast in the lead role), shitty special effects, hokey action (including a pointless fight scene between the protagonist and his eventual buddy that goes on for over five minutes), repetitive, cheap-sounding ’80s-TV-show music (co-written by Carpenter), and characters whose behaviour is constantly baffling (seriously, Piper is incapable of convincing others to try the sunglasses by giving them a brief summary of what’s going on??). Some of Piper’s lines, such as “I have come here to chew bubble gum and kick ass – and I’m all out of bubble gum” and “Brother, life’s a bitch – and she’s back in heat”, are the sort of things that might have worked coming from Ash in the Evil Dead movies or Duke in the Duke Nukem video games (which actually ended up using them!), but they’re cheesy in a bad way here. The real shame is that the premise is so promising; it’s clear Carpenter had some interesting ideas, not to mention some worthwhile satirical points to make, but all was squandered in execution.