Friday, March 13, 2020

Alien Lover

Alien Lover
Lela Swift

Alien Lover is a telefilm that was presented on ABC as part of the series, The Wide World of Mystery. The series often featured conventional and supernatural mystery stories, but science-fiction was less common. Alien Lover is even rarer in that tosses in a healthy dose of horror into the mix creating an unsettling little hidden gem.

Kate Mulgrew plays Susan, an orphaned teenager who has suffered some mental illness in her recent past. She has come to stay with her aunt and uncle. Almost immediately she starts hearing a voice whispering her name. Unsure if she relapsing back into illness or not she searches around the house until she finds a strange-looking television in the attic. She turns it on and sees a man who calls himself Marc (John Ventantonio). Marc claims he is not a human but in fact a being from another dimension. Susan fights with herself over what is real or not, but the fact is, she is falling in love with Marc.

No, I'm not married, baby, I'm uh... from another dimension.
Perhaps it is the low resolution of 1970s television or the cramped and often gloomy interiors of the house but Alien Lover manages to create a very eerie atmosphere. Also of note, is the soap opera-like staging of the story which creates another level of unreality that helps bring home the undercurrent of horror. The video effects surround Marc during his broadcast have not aged well but the final imagery I found delightfully unnerving. If online reviews are to be believed, it seared itself into the mind of many teenagers who stayed up to watch it.

Kate Mulgrew of Star Trek Voyager and Orange is the New Black fame makes her first on-screen appearance here and she’s already great. Susan is sympathetic and we get a very clear understanding of her need to be wanted and her inability to trust her own senses. If you had to pick a platonic ideal of ‘New Age Looking Guy from the 1970s’ Marc would fit the bill complete with a leotard and questionable haircut. I’m normally not one to really criticize a movie for looking like the era in which it was made, but Marc's appearance is the only thing that doesn't really hold up over the years.

Animal lovers, I wouldn't get too attached to that cat.
The writing for Alien Lover is quite strong, creating a situation that is indeed slowly escalating but you aren’t really sure where it is heading. The first two acts are languidly paced but I found myself enjoying the sparse yet troubled atmosphere. The third act really brings it together with some plot developments that not only address why an alien would appear on an old television but also begin to signal that there is a real danger here and the characters are either unable or unwilling to see it.

Alien Lover is a low-key yet very satisfying bit of horror-SF ephemera that still manages to convey both surprise and horror in its brief runtime. The complete film is available on Youtube and I would recommend it to anyone who likes the aesthetics of 1970s television or weird TV movies in general.

1 comment:

  1. I just rediscovered this gem!

    Half-remembered, I've been asking sleuths of weird media for years and years. Finally got an answer the other day, and watched it again as an adult. Definitely unsettling and 70s kitsch!