That is exactly what happened when I watched They. Also known as Hell Fire and perhaps best known as Invasion From Inner Earth. They is a Bill Rebane film, so you can understand why I would be a bit apprehensive. After all Bill is responsible for such flicks as Blood Harvest, The Giant Spider Invasion and The Demons of Ludlow. Of course he also did one of my favorites....Rana: The Legend of Shadow Lake!
This flick starts things off right by ripping off the theme from The Good, The Bad and the Ugly in a bizarre synth score over the opening credits. It's actually rather perfect because the music in They is all over the place. On minute you've got the weird GBU cover/ripoff synth music, the next your listening to some classical guitar...then you've got some clarinet music....then you've got strange tones that aren't even necessarily music....then some stock classical music. Mix and repeat. Weird stuff man....and it keeps you off balance.
They follows a group of people trapped up in a lodge in the remote wilderness. Jake and Sara run the lodge and a small plane ferrying business. Jake is bringing three science majors back to civilization after they spent a month studying up in the wilds. As Jake tries to land at Hightower airport his friend Sam, who runs the airport, tells him not to land. Muttering that everyone is dead and it's not safe. Jake tells Sam to hold tight and attempts to land, but Sam lays down on the runway. Jake pulls up and decides to try landing at Bear Creek and trying to contact someone to find out what's going on.
|THEY are not going to get very far.....|
Which searching for gas, two of the students, Stan - who is clearly the most intelligent and open minded of the group and Andy - the resident dill-hole, search the empty cabin and find a radio. They also see a strange red light glowing on the wall that seems to move under it's own power. Now when I say a red light, I don't mean like a pinpoint of light or something like that....oh no. Nope. This looks like someone put a red gel over a flashlight and shined it on the wall. This is what we're dealing with for special effects here! Anyway, the red light really wigs them out.
Jake is able to make contact on the radio and finds out that there are people dropping like flies from a mysterious disease. He then contacts Sara to tell her that they will be returning to the lodge to figure out what's going on. Meanwhile, Sara gets an unsettling radio transmission from a strange voice asking her where she is.
|Andy. Only an asshole would wear a hat like that!|
Sara is happy to have Eric (the third science student) back with her, because they've grown close over the past month. I dunno if it was like working the bed springs close or what.....the relationships in this movie are a bit weird. Such as Sara's relationship with Jake. It just seems.....odd. Could be bad acting.....could be bad writing.....it could just be the insanely bizarre vibe that this movie puts out.
|Stan. Easily my favorite character. Dig that crazy plaid!|
Anyway, as the group tries to figure out what to do, Stan proposes that the cause of everything may in fact by UFO's. Apparently he's got some Ufology books with him and he starts to explain to the group about incidents that he's read about. I'm not even going to try to explain the first theory that he whips out because quite frankly, after watching the film twice, I still have NO idea what the friggin hell he was talking about. Ah well.
|Killer Smoke! Nyarrrgh!|
There are the few odd scenes of folks in town running through red and green colored smoke. Fire trucks and police cars driving about.....mass hysteria! Oh yeah....and a couple of paper plate flying saucers. I wonder exactly what these peeps were running from, because they were running right INTO the smoke! Just part of the bizarre charm of the movie!
|Looks nice and peaceful don't it?|
Things go from odd to strange to weird in this movie. Through radio chatter and an odd television show, we learn more about the invasion that is taking place. Stan throws out more facts about prior UFO cases and then people start to die. Andy is the first to go when he decides he's had enough after they finally manage to tune in a radio station only to find that there is only one song playing on repeat. He steals the plane and it apparently blows up under alien influence.....or something like that.
|Does she love Eric? Does she love her brother (ew?) Who knows!|
Jake and Stan decide that someone has got to try and get to town. They are running low on supplies and soon they will starve to death. Jake volunteers to take the snowmobile and try to find some help. After much footage of Jake blowing through the wilderness, he succumbs to the aliens when some of that strange smoke starts to blow out of the snow. He starts to get sick. Then he doubles over and vanishes right off the snowmobile! WTF?!???
|Flying Saucers Rebane Style!|
Three days later and Stan, Eric and Sara are back at the lodge, wondering if their friend is coming back. They are just about out of food and they decide that they need to make a trek out into the woods themselves and take their chances in the wilderness or stay where they are and starve to death. Eric wants to stay but Stan and Sara convince him to come with them.
|Aliens attack with Christmas Smoke!|
As per usual, I'm not going to ruin the end of the movie. Our trio sets out for a LOOONG trek through the snowy woods in search of civilization and salvation. As they make camp and sit around a campfire trying to keep warm, Stan unleashes the rest of his theory on Eric and Sara. His theory is all at once chilling and a bit on the ridiculous side. The alien forces are not coming from outer space, but rather from inside the Earth. Okay so far, right? Hollow Earth theory and all that....I can dig it. Here's where it gets a bit wonky: He states that about eight thousand years ago, Mars came in close proximity to Earth....closer than our own moon. This close proximity caused havoc with the electrical fields causing stuff like floods and earthquakes. All of this was too much for Mars to handle and the Martians knew it, so they jumped ship, so to speak and found that the interior of the Earth closely matched their own atmosphere. So they hid inside the Earth. Yep. So yeah.....odd....yet creepy. It would have been more creepy if he was telling them this at night....but it was a daytime campfire story. If you can believe it, it gets even STRANGER from there!
|Ahh...like a Norman Rockwell painting.....FROM HELL!!!|
You can see the influence that They may have had on future films that take a pinpointed remote view of apocalyptic events. Films such as Signs, in which everything we know about the invasion comes from news reports and in one scene, the aliens can be heard communicating through a radio. In the film Pontypool, a zombie apocalypse plays out through a series of chilling phone calls that a early morning radio DJ receives. While these films may not have directly taken any ideas from this movie, the seed was there. Was this the first time that a film tried this approach? To be honest, I don't know. But what I DO know is that if you give it a chance, this movie is a slow burning creeper that will leave you feeling unsettled. This movie is a true gem and deserves to be watched.