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Not Like Us
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by Chris Parry

"About as scary as when your kid sister says 'ooga booga'..."
2 stars

A low budget ‘aliens among us’ film that left this reviewer squeamish on more than one occasion, Not Like Us is not like most low budget alien flicks. For one, it’s pretty funny. Beyond that, it’s light on the sci-fi, heavy on the ‘ugh’ factor and very aware that its core audience wants torture, sex and goofy laughs, not explosions and gunfights. In fact, Not Like Us doesn’t feature a single car chase, nor does it endure one gunfight, instead relying on characters that are too slow and/or stupid to fight back and alien beings that are too strong to be bothered by these mere mortals. Now that I think about it, this could well have been the slowest moving ‘wacky alien comedy’ I’ve ever seen. But that’s not necessarily a terrible thing.

The town of Tranquility is not unlike any small town in the USA. The permanent population amuse themselves by being gossipy hicks and the transient population amuses themselves by laughing at the permanents and never the twain shall meet. There’s one bar, two lawmen and anyone who doesn’t visit the church on Sunday is deemed a suspicious character. There’s certainly an uncomfortable balance in the community, but at least it’s a balance – that is until two new people, a brother (Morgan Englund) and sister (Rainer Grant), come to town. A little too good looking and sophisticated for the locals, when the sister starts screwing every man in sight (hooray!), she’s scowled at by the local ladies.

But what the local ladies don’t realize is that sister dearest is injecting the local lads with a drug that knocks them out, then taking them back home where brother dearest is performing experimental plastic surgery on them – adding breasts, maybe an extra nose or two, occasionally going so far as de-bone them and use the skin as their own. See, these aren’t people we’re talking about, brother and sister are some kind of disgusting alien beings that are seeking to learn more about plastic surgery so they can make themselves look beautiful. Or at least less repulsive. And being as they’re smarter and stronger than humans, that puts us in the same place on the ‘animal testing’ scale as monkeys are in ours.

And that’s where Not Like Us is at its smartest, when it’s making a valid point. What makes it so repulsive for aliens to perform pointless experiments on us in the interests of perfecting a plastic surgery procedure, while we perform the exact same experiments on animal species of our own?

But where Not Like Us comes unstuck is… well, almost everywhere else. The storyline drifts from ridiculous to beyond the pale, the acting drifts from the competent (Peter Onorati is like a fish out of water in this bunch) to the awful (Joanna Pacula is in way over her head trying to perform comedy) and the screenwriters wouldn’t know realistic dialogue if it was yelled at them by Lawrence Olivier. A Clint Howard cameo is good for a momentary grin, but not much more.

It’s not great, groundbreaking stuff, but there’s something unsettling about the way this film plays out. It’s not that the film is particularly gory – it’s not PG-13, but there’s no brains splattering the screen either. Perhaps the fact that the violence against the city folk is slower, more deliberate and more realistic than most that makes it stomach turning. If someone explodes a head on my screen, it’s just an exploding head. But if someone peels the skin of a woman’s leg while she’s half-sedated, letting her feel the pain but not be able to scream about it, that gets me down deep in the guts.

But that’s how it goes with Roger Corman flicks, and this Corman-backed New Horizons release is right up his alley in terms of schlock, laughs and cheapness. If flicks like The Dentist don’t send you running to the can, perhaps you’ll find something to really enjoy about Not Like Us. But if you’re amongst the 97% of the human population that find torture flicks a little tough to take, you might want to give this a wide berth.

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originally posted: 12/04/02 13:39:14
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  02-Feb-1995 (R)


  02-Feb-1995 (MA)

Directed by
  David Payne

Written by
  Mike Elliott

  Joanna Pacula
  Peter Onorati
  Rainer Grant
  Morgan Englund
  Billy Burnette
  Clint Howard

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