Monday, October 22, 2012

End Zone: "Zone Troopers" (1986)

This sci-fi/war film is a perfect example of the word "average." This is average in every way.

Tim Thomerson is the Sarge in charge of a squad during WWII in Europe. His men are ambushed and only three others survive: Timothy Van Patten, Art LaFleur, and Biff Manard. Van Patten is an aw-shuckser who reads pulp sci-fi comics. LaFleur is the tough corporal, and Manard is the combat reporter. The group knows they are behind enemy lines, but they do not know where because all of their compasses are out of whack, due to some strange happenings in the nearby forest. LaFleur and Manard are captured by the Nazis and discover an alien as their fellow prisoner. At the same time, Thomerson and Van Patten stumble upon a crashed space ship. Thomerson destroys the craft, they rescue their comrades, and the five now try to get the alien home. A group of aliens lands to get their own back, but refuse to help our soldiers, who are being chased by the Germans.

The film is less than an hour and a half, but it still feels padded by about twenty minutes. The alien they find looks nothing like its rescuers, which made me think they were going to drag in a subplot about warring alien sides as such luck. The four leads are immensely likable, and you find yourself cheering for them. The film makers take themselves a little too seriously, but make up for it with the cast and very good filming locations.

A special mention about the special effects: they suck. John Carl Buechler, my archnemesis in so many other bad horror and sci-fi films, works his special brand of unmagic here. The creature effects are awful, as are anything involving the aliens' weapons, which deteriorate down to weak glowing animation. The only impressive effect comes from the set department, who build a huge crashed space ship that looks big and is totally convincing. Also, listen for Richard Band's musical score, which sounds suspiciously like a few bars from the themes in "Star Wars."

"Zone Troopers" is a harmless, goofy film that has a good cast and a good idea, but no way to make this really outstanding. Close, but no edible Lucky Strike cigarette (the alien eats tobacco for food), and I do not recommend this film. (* * *) out of five stars.