Exploitation Retrospect | The Journal of Junk Culture and Fringe Media

The Alien Dead aka It Fell from the Sky (1979)
Retro Media | Review by Dan Taylor

Filmed on location in Florida in 1979, this blend of horror, action and sci-fi is an early indicator of what was to come from director Fred Olen Ray, the man who subsequently delivered such low-budget classics as BEVERLY HILLS VAMP, HOLLYWOOD CHAINSAW HOOKERS and the recent THE UNLIVING (starring Spanish horror icon Paul Naschy and rumored to be undergoing a title change).

ALIEN DEAD is an interesting show of Fred's developing talent, including his ability to wring every possible dollar from a miniscule budget, his way with a script, and how he can punch up inane storylines with oddball concepts and humor. And best of all it shows why this film, despite its limitations, is still better than many of the low-budget, straight-to-video flicks that have emerged from companies like Full Moon over the years.

Tom Corman (a number of characters are named in reverent nods to low-budget king Roger Corman) is a reporter in a sleepy Florida town, and the flick opens with him reminiscing about the "strange things" that started occurring there. In other words, people with bad Southern accents are being attacked by people with blue complexions while spooky music plays in the background. Obviously these are the "alien dead" of the title. Well, Tom goes to investigate these "strange things" and meets up with a backwoods chickie-pooh who helps him out.

As Tom, backwoods chick and the haggard sheriff (played with prerequisite bluster by Buster Crabbe... yes, that Buster Crabbe, appearing in his last sci-fi flick) search for the truth, they find that a houseboat was hit by a meteorite, turning everyone on board into zombies who need to suck human blood. Once this key point is exposed, ALIEN DEAD kicks into overdrive and we get zombie attack after zombie attack after zombie attack, hairpick-to-the-eyes-kata, slo-mo zombie attack, a tribute to NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, and much more.

Watching the flick, it's apparent that those who call Ray "The King of the B's" know what they are talking about. The man knows how to make an enjoyable exploitation flick, and he punctuates TAD with nudity, gore, horror, whacked ideas and the type of off-the-wall dialogue that turned up in New World releases of the 1970s. (My favorite? "She's deader than Mother's Day at an orphanage.")

While THE ALIEN DEAD would best be enjoyed under the stars with a cooler of Buds and Betty Sue by your side, it still stands as a textbook example of what drive-ins once were, before they started showing the same crap you won't pay eight bucks to see indoors. Oh, and look for Fred in a cameo as a redneck pool player. If you're willing to go into it with an open mind and accept its budget limitations, THE ALIEN DEAD will be a fun time for all.

NOTE: The DVD of the flick – available from The Retromedia Store at fredolenray.com – includes a commentary track from FOR.

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