Everything about Alien From L.A. screams the 80s. Along with the aforementioned special effects, I’ll add a synth-heavy soundtrack, futuristic steampunk costumes, and one of the most iconic 80s supermodels in the gorgeous Kathy Ireland. When I look at the underground world of Atlantis envisioned by director Pyun, I’m reminded of Terry Gilliam’s Time Bandits and Brazil and even The Dark Crystal and Labyrinth. Pyun similarly builds his fantasy world but with a vastly smaller budget.
I submit for argument that the cheesy, handmade props and sets feel more real and authentic than anything a computer can generate. Our brain expects to see the imperfections of our analog life, and perfection always feels out of place.
“Pyun similarly builds his fantasy world but with a vastly smaller budget.”
So let’s get real. Alien From L.A. is a tough watch at times. As a teen, I had a massive crush on Kathy Ireland, and I almost lost those feelings when I first saw this movie when it came out. I appreciate Ireland’s attempt to act like an annoying nerd, and she nails down “annoying” in incomprehensible ways. Her voice is high-pitch shrill with a heavy dose of whiny. At the start, she wears glasses, and her hair flies all over the place. Then guess what happens to her appearance, when she falls down the hole and breaks her glasses. I suppose her lost glasses turned into a hairbrush.
The other problem I had with the film is the story. It comes off as a little bland. Essentially Wanda goes to an underground world to find her father. She meets out-of-this-world allies and villains, goes on an Indiana Jones-type adventure, and reaches her destination with a twist at the end. What’s missing are clues planted along the way that guide her path, lessons learned about being human, answers to why this underground world hates them, or how the underdog heroine, Wanda, learned some life lesson to outsmart the evil villain in the end. In the end, it’s all just a story that’s pretty much a road trip from Point A to Point B, and our protagonists are merely sitting in the car enjoying the ride.
I believe Alien From L.A. does find itself in the cult movie classic camp. There’s a lot to love and marvel at that the filmmaker never anticipated. Kathy Ireland’s acting and character choices make for an incredible conversation with friends. If that wasn’t enough, the film boasts one of the best episodes of Mystery Science Theater 3000 in its vast catalog. If Pyun and company ever decide to release a remastered version for the big screen, I’m there.
"…a lot to love and marvel at that the filmmaker never anticipated."