Friday, July 10, 2015

Zarkorr! The Invader (1996)

Those in the know (i.e. people who watched low budget cinema in the 1990s) probably recall a company by the name of Full Moon Entertainment. They were known for making some rather popular horror films like Puppet Master and Subspecies. They often had a decent enough budget in their early days while still under the Paramount umbrella and did actually make some non-horror films. They even had a kid-friendly line called Moonbeam. Yes, they dabbled in a bit of everything. Even in giant monsters, it seems.

Let's see the Andre Toulon puppets take that bugger on.

Yes, Charles Band seemed to be a fan of extreme size differences. Just ask Dollman or the girls from Bad Channels. But the thing is that he mainly always stuck with making small things, so this kinda surprised some folks out there. But me? I felt like it was only natural that Full Moon finally take the plunge into kaiju territory. They already had a catalogue of films that went into some many genres that I found myself just wondering why it took them so long to make their very own giant monster movie. It turned out to simply be the first of two films cranked out under their Monster Island Entertainment line, which is a shame. America doesn't have the easiest time cranking out kaiju films, what with many of us generally treating the idea of a guy in a suit wrecking a model city as something to be openly mocked rather than appreciated.

Meanwhile I'm fairly certain that mocking a certain oft requested American film would get me death threats. Oh joy.
But you know me, I adore giant monsters and the people who wear the suits to bring those monsters to life. I'll take an awful rubber suit monster over a melodramatic story of hope (or disturbing racism) any day. And Zarkorr there sure looks a lot like he just sauntered off of the set of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, so we're good here. Let's get to the plot, shall we?

"I'll find that plot, even if I have to destroy all of Angel Grove!"
Our story begins as some local gents happen to notice an avalanche being caused by a mysterious red led within a mountain. They handle it rather calmly, as I would've already been miles away. I prefer to proceed with caution when it comes to most things. Our very slow avalanche continues and Full Moon does not beat around the bush. Barely 3 minutes into the film and out pops Zarkorr like he's the Kool-Aid Man here to peddle sugar water to the thirsty public.

"OHHH YEAHHHH!!"
I would so drink some kaiju Kool-Aid. I'm calling you out, Kool-Aid! Get on that! Now that it's clear that we're not going to get monster blue-balls here, we can admire the immediate destruction of property as the big guy stomps out and we then get tossed into what appears to be HBO's old opening before their programs. The HBO thing informs us it's meant to be Newark, New Jersey, because who cares if it gets destroyed, right? Here we meet our hero, a young mailman named Tommy.

Yeah, I know. Just go with it.
He then sees a tiny woman appear on his kitchen table that then informs him that a bunch of aliens chose him to save the world and that she's simply a mental image, so no one else can see or hear her but Tommy Boy here. Our planet is soooo fucked. He then asks the pixie girl questions that are a bit too heavy for this movie before she reveals that half the people on Earth are better suited to fight the giant monster than he is. I guess the aliens just like taking a gamble, yes? He looks at the news, seeing the giant monster stomping across California and he asks himself the most important question of all.

Why doesn't Giantkiller just go handle this instead?
Tommy flips through channels, including a Japanese news channel (because he has the strangest cable package ever), and finally the pixie girl starts explaining stuff to him. No Earthly weapon can defeat the big ugly, but something here can beat it, but she won't tell him what it is. Also she tells him that Zarkorr is not just stomping around on Earth...he's coming for Tommy. He's literally programmed to kill Tommy. He takes this information about as well as expected. Pixie girl poofs off and we then see Zarkorr destroying more property as he continues towards his ultimate goal of eating and pooping out Tommy Boy.

That's right, Tommy. You're going to be in deep doo-doo. Literally.
Our intrepid hero heads to the local television station to meet up with the woman who is the closest thing there is to an expert on the giant monster. She notices his uniform and...well, let's just say that mailmen acting in an erratic manner was a bit of a touchy subject in the 90s and she doesn't want to be a statistic. When he explains about the tiny pixie alien and his destiny...yeah, she screams for help. He holds the security guard off with a stand and they feel threatened enough to tell him they're going to shoot and kill him. Wow, that must be one dangerous stand if they think killing a guy for aiming it at them is reasonable.

"WATCH OUT! HE MIGHT USE IT TO HOLD UP SOMETHING!"
He then manages to get the guards' guns and takes the expert hostage, because this whole situation wasn't bad enough. This feels sorta like Taxi Driver but with a giant monster. The cops show up and do a whole lot of nothing while Tommy slips further into madness, which is perfectly understandable given the situation. He talks to the cops and tries to explain everything which goes better than he thought as one cop actually does believe him. He takes his partner's gun, cuffs him, and they take the lady to go save the world.

Meanwhile, Zarkorr continues remodeling the USA to look more like Tokyo post-Godzilla throwdown.
Our heroes listen to how much our asses are being kicked on the radio, because the movie doesn't have the budget to show what is being described, and Tommy finally lays it out to the lady to get her to at least try pretending he's telling the truth and not nuttier than a can of Planters. They decide to all work together, ending up in a warehouse where they stash the cop car and we get some "witty" banter. Tommy struggles to understand what the pixie girl meant when she said the key to Zarkorr's destruction is within itself, George grabs a bag of assorted firearms, and Dr. Stephanie tries to pretend this isn't the best date she's had in years. She then leads them to the only place they can go...

The lair of Lewis Skolnick!
Nah, this guy is way more annoying. He's a hacker friend of the doc's and he's supposed to help, but mostly he just makes shitty lewd jokes and acts vaguely insane. We see them watching television where some idiots are arguing that the monster is protected under the Endangered Species Act and then we see the endangered animal break some more stuff while they group tries to figure out how to stop it. They repeat once more what we already know and then come to the conclusion that the monster has a literal off-switch and that it needs to be found and flicked. Seriously. That's the plan.

Highly intelligent beings...made a monster with a friggin' off-switch.
The figure out where to go, the place where the behemoth woke up, heading there they find a strange capsule-thing which turns into a sort of shield in Tommy's hands. He uses it to block Zarkorr's rays, which then reflect back and hit the kaiju causing it to turn into glowing ball that then flies into space where it will probably destroy some other innocent civilization those aliens want to test. In the aftermath, while in the hospital, Tommy mentions he may run for president. The guy who called a tiny alien pixie girl a "mall tramp" might run for president. Wonderful.

Who wants to vote for a guy who doesn't even get the girl in the end?
In the end, this movie wasn't really all that great. But it also wasn't too bad either. Sure, it's campy as hell, but I think that's sort of the point. Full Moon wanted to make a campy giant monster movie and they did just that. And you can never accuse them of not being unique in their approach, as Tommy is probably the last person you'd ever pick to be the hero and he's rather terrible at it too. If the movie had actually ended with a reveal that it was all an elaborate delusion on his part, I wouldn't have been surprised. Hell, I may have liked it more.

Reveal that he's really just obsessed with fucking the teenager next door (who he hallucinates as a pixie) and I will applaud.

As it stands, it's a very mediocre kaiju film and there's a reason no one really talks about it. After sitting through it I can see why Full Moon only made two giant monster flicks. I still commend them for trying though and I will say I quite like the design of Zarkorr himself. He could easily fit in right alongside Godzilla's troupe of big-ass bruisers. Zarkorr! The Invader was a goofy movie and rather odd-paced at times, but ultimately the best thing I can ever say about it is that it didn't make me fall asleep like a certain other film did. So, until Toho buys the right to Zarkorr and we see the Big G take him on, I'll be here wondering what the point of tiny pixie teenage girl even was in this movie. Later days, bleeders!

Next time someone should call Tommy Oliver instead. he has a giant dragon robot made to take these sorts of things on.

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