Without Warning (1980)
WRITERS: Lyn Freeman, Daniel Grodnik, Ben Nett, Steve Mathis
DIRECTOR: Graydon Clark
STARRING: Jack Palance as Taylor
Martin Landau as Dobbs
Tarah Nutter as Sandy
Christopher S. Nelson as Greg
Cameron Mitchell as Hunter
Kevin Hall as Alien
QUICK CUT: A group head out into the woods, where they run afoul of an alien from another world, hunting them for sport.
Taylor - A wizened older man, working at the local gas station, but who knows there are things lurking in the woods. He's full of grit and determination
Sarge/Dobbs - Another older man, a veteran of the war, and suffering from PTSD and who knows what else. He's paranoid, a loose cannon, and probably HAS a cannon.
Greg - A young man out for a good time in the woods with his friends. He's friendly, and fun, and not at all prepared for what is coming.
Sandy - Greg's girlfriend, who is pretty much in the same boat. She's very much your typical 70s/80s love interest, and not much beyond that.
THE GUTS: Welcome back, Triskelions! We are finishing up February with a movie featuring Kevin Peter Hall in a lot of makeup as an alien creature, stalking a group of characters through the woods, and killing them with deadly discs of doom. And I only wish this was Predator. Nope, this week's movie is Without Warning, from seven years before the very similar and more famous movie. Oh, and also directed by Greydon Clark, who directed several movies featured on MST3K. But let's see what this movie has to offer...
It has Cameron Mitchell! Martin Landau! Jack Palance! How could this possibly go wrong?? Well, as we all should know by now, in so so many ways. Especially when Mitchell gets killed off not five minutes into the movie, but I am getting ahead of myself...
We start off with a hunter and his son trying to reconnect. Mitchell's hunter is your typical man's man from the country, hearty stock, and his son is more of a city boy, and thus a wussy disappointment to dear old dad. But they're trying to find some common ground!
They wander around looking for something to kill, the kid, who is in his 20s probably, dumps out his shells to not kill a harmless bunny or something, but then a strange thing in the woods finds them, and kills Mitchell with fleshy discs of death.
And now that we've had the canon fodder get killed off, we cut to our actual stars of the movie, which include a young David Caruso. I guess you could say he's...gotta be green before he's blue.
Greg and Tom are heading off for a fun camping weekend in the woods with their girlfriends, and I'm sure this will all be fine.
They stop to get some gas, as one does in these movies, and they run into Jack Palance in the gas station, giving them dire warnings of going into the woods. Wait wait, I thought this was WITHOUT Warning! They had plenty of warning!
While the kids finish up there, we head over to a scout troop traipsing through the woods, just begging to be our next set of victims. Well, only the scoutmaster gets killed. The movie isn't quite up to the challenge of killing children. Wussies. The NotPredator recognises them as not fair game, I guess...
The troop gets lost, the scoutmaster finds the hunter's RV and asks for help he isn't gonna find, but the creature finds him, and more fleshdiscs attack.
As he dies, the kids see the creature, but all we see is shadow, and they run off, to get even more lost, probably.
Back to the main group of twentyteens, they reach the lake and do the typical hanging out type stuff, swimming and the like, and pair off to have fun.
Greg and Sandy figure Tom and Beth have had enough alone time, and done what they needed to do, but once they arrive at the beach, they can't find their friends.
I guess you could say Tom is a real...son of a beach.
They wander through the woods for a bit, find a clearing with at least one pit trap that Sandy falls into. They worry their friends fell into one themselves, but before they can look for more, they see a small shack in the middle of the clearing.
Greg and Sandy enter the cabin and finds...everyone the creature has killed so far, including Beth and Tom. I guess you could say...Tom didn't see his death coming.
That's a pretty solid way to cap off the first act. By the time they get back to the van, night has fallen, and they struggle to get the van running.
Fleshdiscs fling through on fishing line, slapping onto the windshield. And they make the most creepy wonderful clackclacking sound as their teeth clatter against the glass, trying to get to their prey.
They get the van running, which gets them away from whatever is out there, but the critter on the window remains. At least until they remember windshield wipers.
After driving away, they find a bar, to hopefully get some help. Greg heads in and leaves Sandy in the van. Greg tries to explain what happened to him, and of course no one believes his crazy story. He should've left things simple and not mentioned the aliens.
There is ONE person who believes them though, and that's Sarge. The local crackpot who's been spouting off conspiracy theories and ranting about aliens for years. He may be right, but he may be crazy, and it just might be a lunatic they're looking for.
Meanwhile, Sandy's getting antsy in the van and sees a shadow pass by. She bolts off into the woods, and runs into Palance. When the others come out to get Sandy, Palance carries her over like, "I think this is yours".
They take a bit of a pause in the bar to regroup, get some food, and chat about the possibility of aliens once the power goes out. It's a bit of a slow point, but watching Landau and Palance act against each other is good.
While they wait for power to come back, the door creeks open, and paranoid Sarge thinks it's the alien come for them, and fires.
He ends up shooting one of the local cops, and fortunately he seems to be fine, as they rush him off to the hospital. But the paranoia continues, and he starts to blame Greg, since this all started when he arrived. Now that he's maybe taken a life, Sarge becomes ever more unhinged with each passing moment.
Taylor and the kids head off to find the shack, and get some proof of the alien's existence, or at least murders. Good to have that before getting the cops involved.
Our heroes find the shack, Taylor investigates it and finds all the bodies. They're about to leave, when more flesh discs come after him. He gives the kids the light and tells them to run.
The kids make it to the road, flag down a cop car...and it's actually Sarge driving it. He's still certain the kids have been replaced by pod people, and he's going to be zero help whatsoever.
Meanwhile, Taylor cuts the critter off his leg, limps back to the gas station and stocks up on explosives to take care of the problem.
Sarge takes Greg and Sandy out to the middlest of nowhere to take care of them, and Greg decides to play along. He tells him all about their non existent invasion plan, to by some time and look for an opening.
Greg and Sandy run off and hide in the woods, and they get chased by Sarge in the car. They end up on a bridge and leap into the river below. They manage to find a cabin not far from shore, and sneak in there to get warm and catch their breaths.
Once again, the plot grinds to a halt as they sit around, get changed, and wait for trouble to find them. Also, they seem to be running more from humans in this movie than aliens.
While in the cabin, Sandy finds a music box that brings back memories and nooo, don't open it, that will summon Ricky!!
Greg puts Sandy to bed, and keeps watch, as the movie continues to wait for things to happen. The door bangs open, but everything seems fine, so it must have been the wind, ha ha!
Sandy finally dozes off, wakes up after a nightmare, and goes to check on Greg...who died while she was sleeping. Stop killing people off camera!
But at least we finally get to see the creature standing in the corner, threatening Sandy. She runs off, but sneaks back in through another door to hide and hopefully the creature thinks she's in the woods.
The creature is smarter than that though, and starts clawing through a wall. Fortunately, Taylor has found his way to the cabin, coincidentally, to take a few shots at the monster and help the girl get away.
Sandy and Taylor head back to the death shack to rig up the explosives and lure the alien back to his trophies and blow him up good.
Unfortunately, Sarge shows up to throw a spanner in the works, and holds the two at gunpoint and stop the aliens.
The two guys get into a scuffle, and Sandy is actually about to do something proactive, by picking up a log to clobber Sarge over the head...but she stops when she sees the NotPredator standing by the cabin, probably wondering what those fool humans are doing at the edge of his property.
On the upside, that distracts Sarge enough to have him go up to the alien and say hello, which is good for our heroes.
Taylor rushes to the detonator, hoping Sarge lures the creature close enough to the shack. He has zero problem with the collateral damage of Sarge.
But instead, the Predanope flings some of his fleshdiscs at Sarge and kills him where he stands. Taylor makes an attempt to shoot him, with little effect.
Now it's Taylor's turn to be hit with critters, and he does a good job of keeping them off him with his knife. But he turns away briefly, and gets one on his back he can't reach. And Sandy is useless.
He lunges for the creature, shouting ALIEEEENNNNN! like he's Leeroy Jenkins, and lures the monster closer as he planned. But the plunger wires are disconnected, and nothing happens.
Sandy manages to get the wires tied back on, pushes the plunger down, and things go boom. Which is always a satisfying way to end a movie.
Video: It looks pretty good for its age, thanks to Shout! Factory, I'm sure.
Audio: It's got a solid stereo mix.
Sound Bite: "That alien, he came down here for the sport! He wants to pick himself up a few trophies! And you know what? Right now, you, and me? We are the prize game!" And this is again NOT Predator...
Body Count: Most impressive, actually. Although many of them are off screen.
1 - 7 minutes in, and Mitchell gets attacked by flying fleshdiscs
2 - Another takes out his son.
3 - Scoutmaster gets disced
4 - Tom dies off camera
5 - So does Beth
6 - Greg dies off screen too.
7 - Sarge gets killed by the discs
8 - Taylor gets blowed up
9 - Along with the alien
Best Corpse: Oh, I'm gonna cheat, and go with all the dead bodies in the shack. They did some decent effects work on their wounds and mangled heads.
Blood Type - B: There's room for improvement, but the movie isn't shy about some blood, and a lot of the effects are good. Yeah, you can see the fishing line on the discs. Yeah, they look like rubber, and are a bit silly. But for the time, not bad. The alien makeup stumbles, but not too far.
Sex Appeal: Zilch!
Drink Up! Every time you hear a disc coming, or an out of place, cartoony sound effect.
Video Nasties: I decided to use the van attack scene, since its a fun tense moment, and that clacking is unnerving as heck.
Movie Review: It's high HIGH camp, to be sure. But it's actually fairly well made high camp. For something that was filmed in '79? With not a large budget? And clearly just for the drive in crowd? It's almost exactly what you would expect. It's a simple plot, but it has a plot, and even some mild character arcs. It's well made, and the direction isn't bad, if basic. Three out of five fleshdiscs.
Entertainment Value: I love the cheesy effects. They're exactly what I want from this kind of movie, and this period. Palance and Landau are exactly how you want them to be. This movie works for what it is, and is fun, and is a perfect drive in movie. It's not great, there's nothing so hilariously bad that you roll your eyes, but it's loads of fun. Four out of five explosions.