Written by: Tim Curnen (screenplay), Jim Wynorski & R.J. Robertson (story)
Directed by: Allan Holzman
Starring: Jesse Vint, Dawn Dunlap and June Chadwick
Reviewed by: Brett Gallman
ďWelcome to the Garden of Eden. We play God here."
Iíll say this for Forbidden World: itís nice to see an Alien knock-off with a trippy, weird sex scene that actually doesnít involve extraterrestrials for once. So many films took the underlying rape and sexual subtexts in Alien and made them overt, but this second of two Corman-produced derivatives at least leaves that much alone. Likewise, it leaves behind the campiness that beset a lot of its contemporaries, as Forbidden World might be the best replicant of the bunch since it plays out like a grungier, grittier version of Ridley Scott's film; however, unlike its fellow knock-offs, it takes the gory kernel of Alien and brings it out, as itís a film soaked in gore and sleaze.
After an opening space battle that actually is reminiscent of a campy, fantasy laden Star Wars rip-off, ship captain Mike Colby (Jesse Vint) is summoned to a distant desert planet to investigate a science experiment thatís gone horribly wrong. A group of scientists have been developing an experimental life form called Subject 20 that has no intentions of serving its purpose as an intergalactic foodstuff. Instead, it decides it wants to feast on its creators and begins terrorizing the lab where it was created.
If nothing else, you can say this about Roger Corman: the King of the Bs knew how to stretch a premise (in this case, ďletís cash in on Alien!Ē) into more than one movie. Forbidden World actually recycles sets and crew from the other Alien-inspired production, Galaxy of Terror, but, despite this, itís almost remarkably different in a lot of ways. Whereas Galaxy is full of high fantasy tropes and plenty of weirdness, Forbidden World is a little bit more grounded, perhaps in a clumsy attempt to recapture the relatively realistic quality of Alien. The result is something raw and gritty, as, outside of a few flourishes (such as the cheesy android assistant), Forbidden World is mostly serious and wickedly trashy to boot.
It goes without saying at this point that all of these movies thrive on gore and effects, and this one is no different. At times, Forbidden World is actually quite marvelous on this front, as it features an early effort from maestro John Carl Buechler, whose knack for devising memorable gags is evident even here. He and his construct horrifically visceral fates for the characters--one poor guy is literally reduced to a pile of sludge on an autopsy table, where he writhes in pain for the entire film as his genetic makeup gets co-opted by this rampaging mutant (or something like that--thereís lots of goo, that much is certain). The inspiration for the creatures themselves obviously owe a lot to Alien--thereís one that looks a lot like a giant face-hugger, and the full-blown Subject 20 is like a xenomorph if it were made out of papier mache, but both work. Despite its obvious low budget, the effects soar, and, thirty years later, Forbidden World is still a fantastic effects showcase.
Perhaps more remarkably, Allan Holzmanís film manages to have more going for it; believe it or not, itís sometimes genuinely creepy, as Holzman makes great use of the sparse but claustrophobic setting. With the exception of a handful of sequences, most of Forbidden World is hemmed up in the lab thatís low-rent but believable, and some of the filmís best sequences take advantage of the close quarters. One sequence recalls the unnerving scene in Alien where the xenomorph has crawled into the corner of the escape pod and just eerily sits there; in Forbidden World, Subject 20 similarly has marked its territory, and two of the characters attempt to actually communicate with it. The attempt is successful, at least until Subject 20 cuts the conversation short by insisting that no, it cannot coexist with its creators, an insistence that comes with a blood-sprayed exclamation mark. This scene is actually skin-crawingly great, and might be the most genuinely effective moment to come out of any of these films.
But donít let me mislead you too much--there are still plenty of bad elements here, between the cornball dialogue and silly performances that inject a B-movie charm. A lot of this is filtered through Vint himself, who is playing an intergalactic troubleshooter who is actually pretty ineffectual most of the time; heís obviously supposed to be a Han Solo style space cowboy, but all he seems to be good at is charming the clothes off of the female crew (then again, some of them also like to get naked with each other, so maybe this isnít much of a feat). He beds one of them in a super-gratuitous sequence thatís seemingly scored by one of the crew memberís space flute. As always, there are other faces familiar to B-movie and exploitation fans, and Fox Harris emerges as fun, frazzled scientist who cooks up a most unusual method of dispatching of the beast (you wonít be surprised that it ultimately involves vomit).
You have to give it to Corman--he may have ripped of Alien twice, but both are certainly memorable, and Forbidden World is the one to go to if you want a stripped-down, nasty version of this sort of thing. Itís got a cool, moody electronic score, heaps of gore, and plenty of gratuitous sex. Interestingly enough, Corman actually cut the film to remove some of the humor, which resulted in the 77 minute cut landed in theaters and on home video over the years. Thatís the version that received the pristine restoration and special edition treatment from Shout Factory, who delivered a two disc set thatís full of special features that include interviews with Corman and the rest of the cast and crew, a look at the special effects, and the typical promo material (trailers, posters, stills, etc.). However, the real gem is on the second disc, which houses the directorís cut (carrying original title, Mutant) thatís presented in a rough VHS transfer form. Director Holzman does drop in to provide a commentary on this version of the film, though. It goes without saying that anyone who boasts the presence of Cormanís other (and many lesser) films in their collection will want Forbidden World on their shelf too. Buy it!
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