October Horrorshow: Invasion from Inner Earth, aka Hell Fire, aka They

Invasion from Inner Earth movie posterOnce upon a time, in the far distant past, AD 1974, filmmaker Bill Rebane asked a simple question. “What if I made an alien invasion movie without the aliens?” I’m joking, but at some point during production, Rebane (who has graced the Horrorshow in the past) had to have noticed that all the action in his film was taking place hundreds of miles away from the plot. What we’re left with are five 20-somethings in an isolated cabin in northern Manitoba, whiling away the time by playing with a ham radio and eating beans. It turns out that it’s important for a filmmaker to place their characters near the action in a film, so that something, anything, happens to ease the pain of the audience. Who knew?

Working from a screenplay by Barbara J. Rebane, Invasion from Inner Earth (also released as Hell Fire and They — titles that make as little sense as Invasion from Inner Earth) starts off slowly, and that’s how the whole thing goes.

Nick Holt plays Jake, a bush pilot who lives in a remote cabin with his sister, Sarah (Debbi Pick). Jake’s next flight is ferrying a trio of university researchers, Stan, Eric, and Andy (Paul Bentzen, Karl Wallace, and Robert Arkens), back to civilization. But, while circling the airport before landing, they are contacted by the control tower and warned away. Something down there has made the entire population of the town sick, and it’s spreading.

Playing it safe, Jake turns the plane around and lands it at a hunting lodge that has been closed up for the winter, in the hopes that there is some airplane fuel at the small, private landing strip. There is not, and it was around here that Rebane remembered that Sarah was left alone in a one-room cabin, so the whole production moves back there.

And that’s about it for this movie’s forward movement. The rest of the film is little more than the ensemble talking to each other in the cabin, and trying to figure out what is happening out in the world. Some scattered radio transmissions and wild leaps of exposition provide audiences with the answer.

UFOs are taking over the world. They are using a mysterious disease to aide in their invasion. Rebane either didn’t have the budget to show any aliens on screen, or didn’t bother with them (seeing as how some aliens turn out in ultra-low-budget cinema, that might not be a bad thing). The closest viewers get to seeing aliens on screen are some 1950’s-style flying saucer F/X shots. Dinner plates on strings looked stupid when Ed Wood did it in the ’50s, and they still looked stupid in the ’70s, only this stupid is in color.

Rebane fleshed out the movie with a little location work and some newsroom scenes, but for the vast majority of this flick, viewers are just as stranded in that cabin as the protagonists. And we have to listen to them talk, and talk, and talk. It would be much more endurable had the dialogue been interesting, or if the cast was able, or if the film stock wasn’t crap, or if the sound wasn’t muddy, or there weren’t weird cuts, or if the score didn’t sound like some strange mashup of Tchaikovsky, Ennio Morricone, and funeral parlor organ. None of those things happened, though. It’s in keeping with this film’s overall incompetence.

So, what about this film’s title? Where does it come from? What relation do alien invaders have to inner earth? None! The underground origin of the aliens is simply wild speculation from Stan, who spends most of the movie theorizing, with little to no evidence, about what’s happening back in society. But, that was enough for Rebane. The other titles must represent attempts to introduce a little sense into the movie by distributors, but Hell Fire and They sound like titles picked out of a hat.

This is a hard watch. This is one of those shitty films that is so far away from general standards of quality that at times it feels like a joke. They couldn’t possibly have thought they were making a real movie, right? Wrong. Invasion from Inner Earth is a real movie. It lacks just about everything that would make a film entertaining, despite having one of the more hilarious endings ever featured in Shitty Movie Sundays.

That ending isn’t enough to recommend it, though. Invasion from Inner Earth is one for hardcore shitty movie junkies only. It falls into the lower depths of the Watchability Index, displacing Mazes and Monsters at #288. Those with fragile artistic dispositions would do well to stay away.

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