ALIEN ZONE (1978)
(a.k.a. THE HOUSE OF THE DEAD)
Article #1458 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 3-12-2005
Posting Date: 8-9-2005
Directed by Sharron Miller
Featuring John Ericson, Ivor Francis, Charles Aidman
An adulterer finds himself lost in a rainstorm, but is taken in by a mortician who tells him the story of four of his “clients”.
Let’s get that title out of the way. My print of the movie has the title THE HOUSE OF THE DEAD, and it’s appropriate enough for a horror anthology in which the stories of four dead people (five, if you count the linking story) are told. However, whoever named it ALIEN ZONE was merely trying to find some way to tie it in with ALIEN. There are no aliens in this movie, nor is it even a science fiction movie. Don’t go in with the wrong idea.
As for the movie, it’s a low-budget regional stab at an Amicus-style horror anthology. Unfortunately, it pales badly next to its model; it’s chock full of bad acting, poor writing, and misconceived stories. The first story is obvious; a teacher who hates children gets her comeuppance when she finds trespassers in her home. Yes, there’s a twist to this one, but it’s really lame, and all the camera tricks in the world can’t make this one work. The second story (about a cameraman who films himself killing women) is disastrous; the worst thing about this one is not that it plays like a ten-minute version of PEEPING TOM minus that movie’s writing, acting , camerawork, tension, etc., but rather that there is no story. You see the guy being arrested at the beginning of the movie, and then they show footage of the murders. That’s IT! The almost complete lack of context or insight would have rendered this sequence deeply offensive had it been competently acted. As it is, It’s merely the low point of the entire horror anthology form.
The third story is easily the best of the bunch; even though one plot point of this tale of two great detectives facing off with each other is very predictable, it still manages to be passably entertaining and it has some of the better performances of the movie. The last tale is about an insensitive man getting his comeuppance, and given what happens, it would have been better if this particular sequence would have been played for comedy.
That’s pretty much it. The best performance comes from the man playing the mortician in the linking segments, and even he is saddled with a tiresome speech in which he explains how every character in each of the stories he’s told 1) had character flaws, and 2) received his or her comeuppance. I guess the scriptwriter thought we wouldn’t get it if he didn’t include this speech. I’d be insulted if it were worth it.