PSI FACTOR (1980)
Article 4011 by Dave Sindelar
Directed by Bryan Trizers
Featuring Peter Mark Richman, Gretchen Corbett, Tom Martin
What it is: Alien conspiracy thriller
When a civilian scientist attached to a military space probe project stumbles across evidence of extraterrestrial life, he finds himself on the run from those who want to cover up the discovery… as well as from the aliens themselves.
The minute I saw the names Sandler and Emenegger in the opening credits, I knew three things. 1) Steven Spielberg’s sister was going to be involved as well in some capacity (she’s an associate producer); 2) I could probably cobble together an equivalent production budget by raiding a line of gumball machines, and 3) despite the lack of means to effectively tell the story and the various problems that crop up, the movie will still have something going for it. Granted, the most satisfying elements in this movie come near the very end; for most of the running time, it plays like a bad conspiracy thriller with annoying characters (both the scientist’s girlfriend and the comic-relief pilot got on my nerves) and cliched dialogue. The oddest touch is a series of obviously symbolic scenes of children playing with insects; it happens enough that you know they mean something, but it’s not until the end of the movie that you’ll know what. The movie overall seems like a variation of the associate producer’s brother’s more famous CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND, but at least the final revelations are its own. Make no mistake; most of the movie is pretty bad, but I didn’t walk away empty-handed, and that’s always a plus.