AD­VEN­TURES IN STREAM­ING

EACH IS­SUE, OUR IN­TREPID WRITER FOL­LOWS NETFLIX’S COMPUTERCALIBRATED REC­OM­MEN­DA­TIONS, GO­ING WHER­EVER THE TRAIL LEADS Alien in­va­sions

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SI­MON CROOK T’S A QUES­TION THAT’S baf­fled mankind’s great­est brains: are we alone in the uni­verse? Well, Hol­ly­wood has an an­swer to that, which it’s re­peated end­lessly since the 1950s. No, we’re not, and here are the spe­cial ef­fects to prove it. This year alone, we’ll be gate­crashed by The Fifth Wave, Ter­mi­nus, The Blob and, pend­ing an Ap­ple up­date, In­de­pen­dence Day: Resur­gence. Of­fer­ing an A to Z of plan­et­trash­ing ETS, Netflix is chest-burst­ing with the bug­gers.

First up, . Made in 1978, when the toxic haze of Water­gate was still thick, Philip Kauf­man’s hor­ror re­flects the era’s per­va­sive para­noia, but its vi­sion of soul­less con­form­ity still leaves a bit­ing chill in the 21st cen­tury. In­fected by a cos­mic fun­gus, hu­man­ity’s cloned into emotionless, blank-eyed Pod Peo­ple. Ever been on the North­ern Line at 9am on a Mon­day morn­ing? Same dif­fer­ence. The man-faced dog and Don­ald Suther­land’s cli­mac­tic, blood­freez­ing scream are well-known, but for me, its creepi­est im­age is Brooke Adams’ body de­flat­ing like a punc­tured tyre as her twin rises in the back­ground. Dutch an­gles and mir­ror-im­agery en­hance the dop­pel­gänger un­ease. This is the rarest of beasts: a re­make that top­ples the orig­i­nal.

As a spe­cial bonus, the Netflix al­go­rithms ap­pear to be jammed on Other Re­makes Of 1950s Flicks I Might Like. , an ’80s odd­ity from ’80s odd­bods Cannon Pic­tures, fol­lows a pan­icky kid as he alerts sub­ur­bia to a Mar­tian in­va­sion. Hunter Car­son stars along­side Karen Black, his real-life mum. Com­bin­ing the tal­ents be­hind The Texas Chain Saw Mas­sacre and Alien (Tobe Hooper di­rects from a Dan O’bannon script), you ex­pect events to lurch into gooey hor­ror but, weirdly, it plays as a schlocky chil­dren’s movie. Wil­fully blinded by nos­tal­gia, it’s amaz­ingly faith­ful to its source-movie, of­fer­ing lit­tle new other than Stan Win­ston’s crea­ture FX. His globular Martians look like Pac-men sculpted out of meat. The in­va­sion’s even­tu­ally de­feated by some good old gra­tu­itous ma­chine-gun­ning. The in­va­sion-nos­tal­gia con­tin­ues in

. Fresh­en­ing up the for­mula with a time-travel plot and a menagerie of retro ETS (all bug-eyes and ex­posed cau­li­flower brains), the third in the se­ries sends Will Smith back to the ’60s to pre­vent his part­ner’s death. En­ter Josh Brolin, nail­ing a fan­tas­ti­cally crum­pled im­pres­sion of a young Tommy Lee Jones, and Jer­maine Cle­ment gnash­ing ham as its Boglodite vil­lain. Men In Black’s sar­cas­tic take on alien-in­va­sions (they’re al­ready here, pro­vided they go through cus­toms) is in­her­ently funny, but the films, en­joy­able though they are, feel nag­gingly in­con­se­quen­tial. I swear Barry Son­nen­feld hides a neu­r­a­lyzer flash in the credit crawl — you for­get Men In Black 3 the mo­ment it ends, vaguely aware of hav­ing had a good time. Next up,

, a pro­to­type of the ti­tle-first-script­later trend that birthed the Shark­na­dos of this world. It’s bad-on-pur­pose but sur­pris­ingly good fun. Ar­riv­ing in a Big Top UFO, said Klowns, pre­sum­ably from a planet shaped like a big red nose, set about turn­ing hu­mans into can­dyfloss co­coons, suck­ing out the blood with Krazy Straws. Crikey. Re­mem­ber Krazy Straws? The fear of clowns, by the way, is coul­ro­pho­bia. You might want to avoid the Chiodo brothers’ movie if you also suf­fer from cam­popho­bia, but the world they cre­ate is con­sis­tently tongue-in-cheek and per­versely in­ven­tive: shadow-pup­pet T-rexes, bal­loon-an­i­mal Dober­mans, cus­tard-pie mas­sacres, even in­testi­nal ven­tril­o­quism. It’s like gate­crash­ing a kids’ party hosted by Freddy Krueger.

Set ten years af­ter the in­va­sion, is an at­tempt to ex­pand the uni­verse cre­ated by Gareth Evans — a promis­ing con­cept shrunk by its own con­fused vi­sion. We’re in the Middle East now, where Marines are bat­tling aliens and in­sur­gents. “Who are the real mon­sters?” the movie asks. “Where are the real mon­sters?” you shout back as its squidzil­las are rel­e­gated to a back-pro­jec­tion cameo. It’s five per cent sci-fi, 95 per cent com­bat char­ac­ter-study à la Hurt Locker, but its squad­dies are as sludg­ily drawn as the brown-hued cin­e­matog­ra­phy. What­ever tan­ta­lis­ing ideas it does have (a pit­bull-ver­susalien dog­fight, a be­nign herd of equine mu­ta­tions) are lost to shouty war-is-hell ni­hilism. With no­body to con­nect to, it’s more like an alien­ation-in­va­sion. The film’s fi­nal shot is an un­holy scream of de­spair. Af­ter two frus­trat­ing hours of hol­low ma­cho grunt­ing, it’s im­pos­si­ble not to join in.

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