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Wednesday, November 19, 2008

VHS Vednesday: Uninvited

UNINVITED (1988). Directed by Greydon Clark. Starring Alex Cord, George Kennedy, and Clu Gulager.

Dear lord, there's more than one George-Kennedy-on-a-boat horror movie!
Unlike Death Ship, Uninvited begins far away from the sea, opening with the escape of an experimental test animal--an adorable fluffy tabby cat--from a laboratory. Whatever was done to this kitty, it's hard to imagine any practical use for the result of the procedure: When provoked, Fluffy pukes up not a hairball, but some kind of parasitic/symbiotic second cat. After the mutated creature (which varies in size from scene to scene, frequently appearing even larger than its host body) wreaks its havoc, we're left with the cute widdle kitty, looking harmless as ever. We never get to see how it returns to normal--does the mutant go back into the cat? Is it actually a series of creatures, with the host generating one mutant after another, and the creatures disintegrating some time being expelled? The mere fact that I'm asking these questions suggests that I've put more thought into it than writer/director Greydon Clark did.
After the cat's escape, we meet crooked businessman Walter Graham (Alex Cord) and his associates Mike (George Kennedy) and Albert (Clu Gulager). Absconding with a fortune in cash (after eliminating a potential blackmailer/squealer), Walter decides that his fleeing the country would look less suspicious if he appears to be taking a pleasure cruise, so he invites two young women (Clare Carey and Shari Shattuck) he had met earlier that day. However, the girls arrive with some guests of their own--a jock (Beau Dremann), a preppie (Rob Estes), and a handsome brainy guy who has "I'm the hero" stamped all over him (Eric Larson). Oh, and this cute fluffy kitty that one of the girls found. You can see where this is heading...
While the premise of a killer cat has some potential for a horror movie--what happens to the cliche fake scare of "Oh, it's only the cat" when the cat IS the monster?--the execution is hilariously botched. With its one-dimensional characters and ludicrous mutant puppets (and occasionally visible puppeteers), Uninvited is a true bad-movie treat.
Who's Leaving This Off Their Resume?
While most of the cast members have established their talent elsewhere, none of that talent shows through in this movie. Alex Cord hams it up shamelessly, Clu Gulager's drunk act is absurdly over-the-top, and George Kennedy simply looks uncomfortable and embarrassed. Perhaps the most shameful performance, though, is the script's one attempt at an actual character arc, as Suzanne (Shari Shattuck) degenerates from bubbly party-girl to raving paranoid...I've liked Shattuck in the few other roles I've seen her in (particularly her guest appearance on Babylon 5), but her histrionics here are almost painful to watch.



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