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STRANGE ON STRANGE INVADERS & BEHAVIOR DOUBLE FEATURE

A Look at Strange Invaders & Dead Kids YEARS: 1981-1983
"Do you feel like going to the gym or working out?" young SUPERMAN photographer Marc McClure says to future young TRON byte warrior Dan Shor. "I feel like I'm in a dream or something..." And how!

DEAD KIDS, from 1981, has that very title in the opening credits, proof that STRANGE BEHAVIOR is obviously a studio retitle, which, until the Blu Ray release, it's been known as, beginning with the video rental along with the popularity of its near-namesake, the 1983 bizarre yet more conventional and (comparably) mainstream STRANGE INVADERS...

Plus the fact director Michael Laughlin and writer Bill Condon planned for a STRANGE trilogy that never came to pass, the DVD (or in this case, Blu Ray) title was finally altered back to the original. And like how poor Marc felt, DEAD KIDS does have a dreamy aura and aesthetic. Filmed in the lush region of New Zealand and supposedly taking place in small town America (which is never that green and lovely!), the scenery is beyond-gorgeous while the vibe seems as if the very film were somehow cursed (a similar feeling derives from THE EXORCIST, THE LAST PICTURE SHOW, KISS ME DEADLY and several other vehicles), or as if the mind-altering, experimental heavies had made the film instead of an ambiguous "middleman" i.e. filmmaker.

Smoking Hot Dey Young in DEAD KIDS
The DEAD deaths are, like the zombie genre, extremely slow, nightmarish and meticulous. The aggressors, in this case altered KIDS turned into knife-wielding lunatics from a mysteriously funded research center where various high school students take part in B.F. Skinner style experiments, can run fast enough when necessary to catch their prey, who are fellow classmates (and some others), but in the actual slasher deaths they work at the slow, eerie pace of a concentrating doctor performing surgery – in reverse!

Scott Brady investigates
The terrific adult actors, one an Oscar Winner from a masterpiece also about altering brains but within a CUCKOO'S NEST asylum, includes Nurse Ratched herself, Louise Fletcher, as a faithful love interest of a stalwart (and vengeful) Michael Murphy playing the main sheriff, and standout beauty Fiona Lewis is the active-lead scientist...

All providing what seems like deliberate dialogue, making the audience feel like a voyageur into real people's often mundane conversations instead of watching actors dramatically punching certain important words, making the people secondary to the overall spell as the KIDS are either doomed or dangerous. Meanwhile, veteran actor Scott Brady, along with a chain-smoking, smoky-voiced Dey Young (ROCK N' ROLL HIGH SCHOOL), add a Noir touch along with a taut investigation bathed in night shadows and puzzling mystique.

Paul LeMat & Nancy Allen hide away in a strange small town
A memorable scene has a group of house party teens dancing to a classic yet obscure Motown track, at one point all on cue, like AMERICAN BANDSTAND in a pallid trance, befitting the entire film and making it tough to distinguish what's real and/or otherwise...

She's a DEAD KID
So in STRANGE INVADERS, made by the same director and writer, Michael Laughlin and Bill Condon, along with a few returning actors, a familiar hypnosis occurs but with only one actress – MOMMIE DEAREST starlet Diana Scarwid, as the divorced wife of Paul LeMat's charming New York City University professor (an expert on bugs)... So monotone from the start, you'd think she forgot to act altogether. A week and a half later, she has the same droning delivery and maybe even worse – for a reason, which might also explain her rudimentary stonewall countenance.

Louise Fletcher as Mrs. Benjamin
What's in-between both visits are far more adventurous than spooky, and yet, in attempting a mainstream appeal exceeding the unknown DEAD KIDS, that film's monotone curse is replaced with an intriguing alien investigatory yarn where LeMat drives a long distance to his ex wife's rural small town, after she'd not returned from a quick two day trip (to visit her mother)...

A Clockworkish Image Indeed
This locale is highlighted in the prologue featuring the two young DEAD KIDS/STRANGE BEHAVIOR leads, Dan Shor and Dey Young, in an important kickstarting cameo...

The one-horse stopover feels straight from the 1950's, when sci-fi cinema was in its original hey-day, and ironically... or perhaps not so much... that's when the Shor/Young intro takes place, ending as a bustle of very STRANGE things are happening...

Elizabeth Cheshire in DEAD KIDS
Twenty minutes or so into the picture, we catch a full glimpse of the alien, perhaps sooner than what would have made LeMat's return trip to New York more mysterious to the audience. But it's in The Big Apple where the action begins, full of last-minute getaways involving Fiona Lewis, in a much more "active" role, not just standing in a lab but, along with several human-skinned agents in search of the Sole Witness (LeMat) of their town's secret, she's to INVADERS what an armed lethal goon is to a mobster flick.

A Strange Invader
LeMat's Charles Bigelow eventually meets an Alien-Sighting "expert", horror/suspense scream queen (from CARRIE to BLOW OUT) Nancy Allen as Betty, a columnist for a NATIONAL INQUIRER type magazine who, guilty by suspicion and tailed just like LeMat, becomes a more vulnerable and appropriate target (for the woman-stalking genre) by the impending foe... This is a science-fiction horror with a fairly equal balance, starting with a lavish UFO opening (pictured at the top), separating it from the DEAD KIDS thriller slasher template, which had "real science" as an underline.

Signed by Louise Fletcher & Marc McClure
Of the two STRANGE features, INVADERS is more of an entertaining ride and... although going off in a bland and pointless direction with the 11th hour narrated story by an otherwise great actor, Michael Lerner... does successfully combine cult and mainstream ingredients, though not always balancing the two in an altogether flowing manner...

Some other drawbacks occur when the film tries too hard to cover the Spielberg-style fanbase against the relatively low budget, drive-in appeal: Steven's even brought up along with a photo shown by alien expert Louise Fletcher, whose role of Mrs. Benjamin, unlike her contented middle-aged fiancee in the first venture, is far more suited to her talents: a person who can't be altogether trusted...

Dey Young sstill smokin' in DEAD KIDS
Meanwhile, DEAD KIDS aka STRANGE BEHAVIOR is tighter, more sparse, mysterious, eerie and, while scenes can drag too long, it all blends within the dazed nightmare tone and is a better Slasher Horror flick than INVADERS is a Spacey Creature Feature Homage... And as both work within their own style and rhythm, using different yet similar alluring and creative scores...

Nancy Allen in STRANGE INVADERS
The first a Tangerine Dream synth with a Mark Knofler vibe classical guitar and the other providing gallant John Williams-like fanfare, and, judging on the merit of what's more of a quirky curio to possibly grow more and more intriguing with time, DEAD KIDS is a filmmaking risk since it feels completely unique and contained despite several obvious body count slasher influences – taking the prize if judged upon an overall cult cinema basis and not an attempt to stray safely from it i.e. BEHAVIOR speaks its mind while INVADERS tries to win the moderate vote.
Dey Young surprised by Dan Shor in DEAD KIDS aka STRANGE BEHAVIOR
And here's Dey Young and Dan Shor a year later in STRANGE INVADERS
Elizabeth Cheshire DEAD KIDS Elizabeth Cheshire STRANGE INVADERS
These strange Sesame Street Big Bird Slippers from STRANGE INVADERS
Dey Young in STRANGE INVADERS
Dey Young in STRANGE BEHAVIOR AKA DEAD KIDS

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