Forbidden World (1982)
"Part alien... part human... all nightmare."
Intergalactic trouble shooter Mike Colby is given orders to head to a genetic research lab on a distant planet to find out why they sent out a distress signal. When Colby gets there, the science team informs him that their latest experiment has mutated into some form of bizarre life form which has an insatiable appetite for protein. In order to accommodate its needs, it starts infecting any human beings it comes into contact with, turning them into gelatinous piles of protein which it can harvest.
Infamous B-Movie producer Roger Corman pulls the purse strings for Forbidden World, his second foray into Alien knock-off territory after the 'slightly more ambitious but less entertaining' Galaxy of Terror. Cheap schlock doesn't come any more pleasurable than this one as Forbidden World wears its exploitative heart on its sleeve. At a lean seventy seven minutes long, the film sheds any real sense of originality and reverts to type: cheap monster attacks, buckets of blood and lots of naked flesh. In a sentence: the ultimate B-movie formula and arguably the best of the slew of Alien knock-offs that came along in the 80s.
Though Forbidden World is obviously trapped within the confines of its low budget, a terrific job has been done to make sure that every ounce of cash has been used wisely. Instead of blowing loads of cash on space effects like in Galaxy of Terror, the terra firma approach works wonders, as the remote research facility makes for a suitably ominous location. In fact most of Forbidden World is ominous - originally featuring a lot more cornball humour, Corman apparently cut a lot out after a test screening and the results are rather sinister and depressing. This is not a film which trades on hope and happiness but rather death and bleakness. The script is decent, way smarter than you'd expect for such a derivative title, and whilst the plot doesn't really throw in too many twists and plays itself relatively predictably, the film never once threatens to bounce into tongue-in-cheek territory (again thanks to Corman's cuts). On the flip side, it rarely manages to create any real scares and there's a general lack of tension. But in the hands of low budget auteurs, such meticulous planning is thrown out of the window in favour of the easier-to-manage alternatives.
Let me tell you that Forbidden World thrives on the trashy essentials: gore and naked women. Effects guru John Carl Beuchler has worked on many horror films since this one and it's easy to see why. The very nature of the alien wanting to turn the human scientists into food is guaranteed to make for some icky scenes: the particular highlight is the progressive wasting away of one character who, over the course of the film, is literally reduced to a pile of goo on an operating table. It's a gross effect, one which even had me squirming around a little, and was reminiscent of the 80s remake of The Blob for its body-melting horror. There are plenty of other moments where the red stuff is squirted and sprayed across the screen with great abandon and its easy to see why Beuchler got plenty of work across his long career.
And as for the naked women, well the script dishes out a bum deal to the likes of Dawn Dunlap and June Chadwick. The only two females on the research station, it isn't long before Colby (played as a rather useless character by Jesse Vint) manages to get them both into the sack for the requisite sex scenes. Then just to complete the circle, the females get cosy in an overlong shower sequence (possibly the most gratuitous sequence I've ever seen - they're discussing how to communicate with the alien at the same time as soaping each other up too). It's nudity for nudity's sake and whilst you'll get no complaints for me (as they're both attractive ladies), its shamelessly cynical. However, Forbidden World knows its target audience well and plays to them with its exploitative elements.
The alien design is solid enough to warrant it getting more screen time than the laughable monster in say Creature, but it is given a cumbersome, almost immobile body which renders is more or less static at times. It unfortunately sticks to the traditional 'black skinned alien with long white teeth' made so famous by H.R. Giger's xenomorph in Alien and there are plenty of close-ups of the head in action to reinforce this image time and time again. Though I guess with the body being too big to move around, head close-ups are about the best that could be hoped for. The creature's motives are either more sinister or sillier than the norm depending on which way you look at it - pulping down humans into protein for it to survive is a lot more interesting a concept than just using human bodies as hosts for its offspring.
Forbidden World isn't a 'good' film by any stretch of the imagination but it is incredibly entertaining for what it is meant to be. The love and affection, and sheer skill to work on such budgets, is evident in everything from the sets to the screenplay and as a result, it turns into one of the best, if not the best, of the Alien knock-offs from the era. Embrace the sleaze and cheese and you're in for a trashy trip into bargain bin territory. Ones of Corman's best and arguably his most fun.
Director(s): Allan Holzman
Writer(s): Tim Curnen (screenplay by), Jim Wynorski (story by), R.J. Robertson (story by)
Actor(s): Jesse Vint, Dawn Dunlap, June Chadwick, Linden Chiles, Fox Harris, Ray Oliver, Scott Paulin, Michael Bowen
Duration: 87 mins