Friday, September 13, 2019


John Coats

Foes plays out slow and ominous as the story starts out with a sense of impending doom and gradually brings that implied threat to realization. There isn’t much of plot, it comes down to characters trying to survive against an unknowable force. I can see the slow pace being a turn-off for many viewers, but it allows the dread to seep in and the building of a tension that has virtually no release or answers by the end of the film. Since most of the story is set on an island with only a few characters, there is a sense of dreamy emptiness as well, the surroundings consist of little more than an ugly little island and a vast dark sea.

Upon my first viewing of the film, I considered the aliens to be malevolent. They are creatures that arrived on Earth to maim and kill people for reasons all their own. Later viewings, I’ve changed my perspective on that, these strange beings aren’t being deliberately malevolent, it is merely by interacting with an environment completely alien to them that they bring unconscious death and destruction. The story becomes even grimmer from this angle. We can’t hope to even grasp what something alien might be, and to do so is to invite oblivion.

The effects of eating a Hot Pocket™ straight out of the microwave.
This is a low budget movie, that seemed largely aimed at airing on US television. Its look is often flat, earth-toned, and bland. The film often has a grainy, dirty quality that comes from filming on 16mm and blowing it up to 35mm. The UFO effects are basic but work well enough to communicate without being distractingly shoddy. The aliens themselves are a small triumph, rather than traditional big-eyed greys or something more monstrous and pulp-inspired, Foes gives us howling shafts of light that manage to frighten more than any rubber-suited monster could manage in the same situation.

The human cast is fine if not exactly exciting. There is an attempt to render all the human elements of Foes in the most naturalistic way possible, the downside of this is that we don’t really get to know these characters very well, much less feel something when they are in danger. There is a sort of numb shock when we find one of them dead on occasion, but this feels more by accident than design. X-Files fans can keep an eye out for Deepthroat himself, Jerry Hardin, as an Air Force officer investigating the aliens, which obviously make this film canon in the X-Files universe.

Ed Wood would be proud.
Foes is a weird little obscurity that hits all the right buttons of 1970s SF for me, it’s quiet, slow-paced, and filled with an encroaching doom. It is a film that offers little in the way of explanations just the surety that these events herald some kind of apocalypse. If you are willing to give it the time it needs to tell its simple story, I think you will be pleasantly surprised. Foes is a grim little work of UFO horror.

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