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The Nostalgic Attic: Inseminoid (1981)

3 December 2014

Inseminoid (1981)


"Somewhere in the Depth of Space ... A Horrific Nightmare is About to Become a Reality."


In the wake of the smash hit, Alien, came a slew of imitators; all with low budgets, but all hoping to get their grubby fingers on some of that sweet, sweet coinage. Like most cash-ins, they mainly lacked the sheer style and imagination that Scott's film carried, and instead focused on the more exploitative aspects. Inseminoid was one of several films that came out during the early 80's that fell into the 'knock-off' category, but does it deserve its scuzzy reputation?



In the distant future, a group of scientists are busy excavating what appears to the the ruins of an ancient alien civilisation. Soon after discovering some crystals and inscriptions in a tunnel, one of the party is injured in an explosion. A few other crew members venture out to the tunnel, but things end badly when Ricky (David Baxt) goes crazy from a pulse from the crystals, and Gail (Rosalind Boyd) kills herself when her foot gets caught in a grill and her space suit malfunctions.

Despite these awful events, two more crew members head out to the tunnel - this time, some unseen creature dismembers one while the pretty Sandy (Judy Gleeson) is knocked out and raped by the alien. She awakens back in the base, where the medical examiner discovers she's pregnant. The alien intelligence takes control of Sandy, forcing her to go on a killing spree throughout the base, drinking the blood of her victims along the way. All of this leads to the monstrous birth of her 'children' - a murderous pair of critters - who want nothing but the survival of their own species, with humans being expendable...


If it's anything, Inseminoid is certainly ambitious. Shot for around £1 million, it attempts to do what most other Sci-fi/horrors do on 3 or 4 times that budget. Saying that, it isn't exactly successful, but it's worthy of praise for at least trying, no? Set mainly between the base and the excavated tunnels on the planet, the film suffers somewhat from a lack of interesting art direction, meaning that every set the actors run through looks the exact same as the last. The Nostromo or LV-426 this ain't. This sense of repetition starts to take its toll early on, as the first act seems to involve a lot of time spent going back-and-forth to the tunnel, just with a different group of actors each time. Shooting in a real cave system on a limited budget can't have been pleasant, so kudos to the film makers for getting anything made at all.  Luckily for us though, it's an exploitation film through-and-through, so it doesn't take too long to get lively...


The film definitely changes gear with the impregnation of Sandy. It's a particularly repulsive scene (reproduced nicely on the video sleeve - trying getting away with that today!), in which she is held down on a table, with an alien appearing between her open legs. As if that wasn't bad enough, we get treated to a lengthy shot of the alien actually 'inseminating' her, complete with disgusting looking eggs pumping into her. Yuck. From this point on, the film becomes nearly a slasher, with Sandy moving around the base, gutting and slicing her way through the crew. We get another lengthy birthing scene before the spawn of man and alien are unleashed on the desolate planet. The special effects and creatures are actually great, considering the low budget, and show a bit more imagination than the set design.


Despite there being little in the way of real 'terror', we get one or two tense moments, the best of which is the scene involving Gail and her malfunctioning suit. It's a pity they weren't able to continue this kind of space horror throughout, but we seldom can be lucky enough to get solid exploitation AND tense horror, all in the one film. The performances are generally weak across the board, with Gleeson probably coming out the best (her screams during the birthing scene are tough to listen to) even with all the mad-eyed gurning she does. The cast seems to be nearly too big, with none of the actors sticking out. Music wise, we get a decent enough electronic score by John Scott, which suits the cheap vision of the future pretty well.

I should probably stop complaining, as the film is actually quite good fun. Directed by exploitation veteran, Norman J Warren (Prey, Satan's Slave, Terror), the film definitely picks up pace after the first act, and he does his best within the budget restraints which are all too apparent. There are several obvious similarities to Alien (plenty more than those that are apparent from my description above) but I won't spoil them here, as most people coming to this will be watching due to its reputation as an Alien rip-off. What I think is the best selling point for the film (beyond the icky title and nasty imagery) is that this was made in the UK, and proves that the Brits could make a disgusting space horror to match even the likes of Roger Corman. Now, that's something to be proud of! 



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4 Comments:

At 4 December 2014 at 03:48 , Blogger Wes M said...

Yep, fully agreed John, this one just about deserves its reputation as a minor classic of British Exploitation Cinema. For me Inseminoid is a perfect example of a film that works as a whole - aside from the insemination sequence, you couldn't isolate any one scene as being particularly effective but add the entire thing up, and it does emerge as a surprisingly disquieting picture. It's a gloomy, even depressing film as well I think, and in this regard the low budget works it its favor - the flat lighting, cheap effects, the stern looking sets and as you said, the very likely uncomfortable shooting conditions for the cast and crew. I think it would make a particularly grueling double-bill with Xtro. The lift of Alien is standard stuff of course, but I wonder had Norman Warren Rosemary's Baby in mind too, as well as Argento's wild color schemes - none of which is a bad thing. I haven't seen this film in 5 years now and my memory is a little sketchy but I seem to recall the 'scope framing lending the film a breadth, and there's a pretty grim sounding electronic score that I liked. I must revisit this one again at some stage !

 
At 5 December 2014 at 01:18 , Blogger JP Mulvanetti said...

Spot on Wes, in your assessment of it not having many individual moments that shine, but as you say, it still manages to stand up on its own overall. You are right on the 'scope, it does give it a somewhat more 'bigger' look, just a pity it's all relegated to flatly lit tunnels and cheap sets. This would be PERFECT on a double bill with Xtro - another scuzzy little film that doesn't get much love but I dig it. I know I joked about it on Facebook, but there is definitely something about the final scenes involving the rescue crew that made me think 'Despite this ripping off Alien, I wonder did Cameron rip off this ending for his starting point with Aliens?'! Nonsensical, I suppose, but it is worth noting the similarity of shots with marines/rescue crew entering the demolished base...

No doubt Warren still had Argento on the brain - didn't he admit that Terror was essentially made because he just saw Suspiria?

 
At 6 December 2014 at 21:07 , Blogger Craig Edwards said...

I pored over the gory pix-laden Fangoria feature on this movie - but thanks I guess to its European origins I never got the chance to see it - until a couple of years ago when I had Netflix send me a nice widescreen DVD to watch. It was actually worth the wait, as I agree with you guys that this one works pretty well overall. I've always found Ms. Geeson and her pouty lips very easy on the eyes, so this one takes off from a positive for me. The bonus for me was getting into the really gory parts of the movie and having my wife and mother-in-law return from a shopping trip. The mother-in-law sat down to take a load off - then decided pretty quickly to take her respite in another room. Score one for Norman J. Warren!

 
At 7 December 2014 at 01:59 , Blogger JP Mulvanetti said...

That's interesting, Craig, I thought this was a reasonable hit in the US under the 'Horror Planet' title? Gleeson definitely had her charms, though it's sad to read she apparently never watched this film after it was completed.

I love hearing stories about awkward 'walk ins', no doubt Warren would have been delighted to hear that! Even the title on the DVD for this was enough to get a 'YUCK!' out of my wife, and I can't say I blame her!

 

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