Friday, April 2, 2021

The Arrival

The Arrival
David Schmoeller

The Arrival shows a lot of promise from the start. We are introduced to Max Page on his 72nd birthday, a blue glowing meteor crashes into Earth and we are off to our story, or so we think. In defiance of most b-movie conventions where efficiency is the goal, The Arrival takes it time in getting around to engaging its central premise. It is not wasted time either, we spend it getting to know Max Page (Robert Sampson/Joseph Culp) as he undergoes his transformation from old man to middle aged vampire.

The Arrival sets up a lot of interesting concepts. We have Max’s slow descent into vampirism coupled with his increasing alien nature. The most intriguing element is Max’s reoccurring dream of a strange woman in all white environments that often involve blood. Both elements are introduced early on and serve to lift the story up above most direct to video films of the time, both visually and narratively. It is a pity they are all but forgotten by the end of the film.

Old Man Gawps at Cloud

After what looks to be a slow burn to get to the blood drinking, The Arrival starts to make big time jumps so that we can get to a young Max as he meets up with various women, seduces them and then slices them open with a scalpel to get to their delicious blood. He’s also become extremely strong and very resistant to bullets. Max’s characterization falls apart at this stage. Half the time he’s a cold machine who acts the Terminator without the charm and the rest of the time he’s a warm caring guy who can save children from car accidents and fall in love with a nurse he met earlier.

There is seemingly no pattern or narrative tell as to why this happens. A key element to tracking Max down comes from the fact that he’s attracted to estrogen and I think it would be easy to tie his increasingly strange behavior to when he gets hungry, but the story is too muddled to pull this off. By the time John Saxon’s detective gets involved the film turns into basically another story of a serial killer and the woman he loves. The police procedural takes over and we get a convoluted means of stopping Max which amounts to poisoning him and then shooting him a whole bunch.

Thelma and Louise and... Steve

Aside from an effective final moment the entire alien element of the film feels wasted. Max’s newfound youth, the visions he has, and even his growing alien nature are all intriguing but eventually they are all eschewed for yet another detective drama. I was waiting for further alien things from him, perhaps even some kind of final transformation but nothing like that ever comes. The third act is well paced but it feels like a letdown after what set everything in motion. A man in the throws of alien induced vampirism is a great premise and if anyone if look for something remake, The Arrival is a good place to start.

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