Friday, April 24, 2020

The Quatermass Conclusion

The Quatermass Conclusion
Piers Haggard

The economy of the UK has collapsed and with it society. Professor Bernard Quatermass finds himself not only searching for his missing granddaughter but racing to uncover the mysterious force that draws young people to ancient places of mystical significance before obliterating them with a powerful beam of light. Does the cult of Planet People know more than they let on?

The decades have not been kind to Professor Quatermass. Gone is the firebrand who held himself and his colleagues to impossibly high standards or the man who shook off an alien invasion and insisted on getting back to work on the British rocket program. The Quatermass we meet here is old, frail, and beaten down by the world. There is a little bit of his old fierce self to be found when he criticizes a joint US/USSR space mission, but his main concern now is to find the whereabouts of his granddaughter.

"Please tell your dog to stop licking the back of my neck."
The Quatermass Conclusion is unrelentingly grim. England has collapsed as a society. Gangs roam the streets and for-profit police are the only thing offering protection. Roving mobs of cultists calling themselves Planet People are gathering at ancient sites in hopes of leaving Earth… and then they do as hundreds of thousands are obliterated into ash by an unseen force from space. The first thing that happens to Professor Quatermass in the entire film is that he is beaten by a gang and threatened with having all his teeth removed. A warning of relentless oppression the characters will find themselves under.

The Quatermass Conclusion was created as an edited down film version of a 4-part television miniseries, but it does so without serious changes to the narrative. The Quatermass series has always dabbled in a mix of horror and science-fiction never turning away from some truly awful fates for its characters. The same holds true for Quatermass Conclusion to the point where I am not certain there is a single character who manages to survive unscathed by the finale. This formula works well in the first three Quatermass films because we are faced with the fantastical in the midst of the mundane. By tossing in this alien conspiracy into an already outlandish setting of a Mad Maxesque UK, both elements feel diminished, and worse both threats together turn the film into an unfun slog.

Changing the vacuum cleaner bag isn't as easy as it looks.
The Quatermass Conclusion does contain some fascinating and terrifying ideas, but it is a chore to watch thanks to a weak central character and no side characters root for. The mobs and cults might have been believable in 1979 but the Planet People or gangs who seem to have no identifiable differences beyond what color headbands they wear have not aged well as concepts and leave the middle section of the movie lifeless. Although Quatermass Conclusion does finally arrive at a bleak yet satisfying ending, getting there is not worth the effort.

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