Review: Alien 2 – On Earth (1980)

ALIEN 2: ON EARTH (1980)
Rated R / Color / 85 minutes
Directed by Ciro Ippolito
Also Known As: Alien Terror
Purchase it: Amazon.com (DVD) | Amazon.com (Blu-ray)

WARNING: THIS REVIEW CONTAINS MINOR SPOILERS!

In preparation for the theatrical release of Ridley Scott’s ALIEN: COVENANT, yours truly decided to watch some alien-themed films. But rather than work my way through the Xenomorph-populated franchise, I decided to watch a variety of other extraterrestrial movies. Along with John Carpenter’s GHOSTS OF MARS (a definite guilty pleasure), Tobe Hooper’s INVADERS FROM MARS, LEVIATHAN, and the Corman-produced FORBIDDEN WORLD, I also finally dug out my copy of Ciro Ippolito’s ALIEN 2: ON EARTH!

I purchased this sequel-in-name-only back in 2011 from the now defunct Midnight Legacy Blu-ray label, and I had pretty much forgotten that I owned it until several nights ago. And now here I sit, wishing it remained unwatched, because ALIEN 2 is an endurance run to say the least. Not since Joe D’Amato’s DEEP BLOOD have I struggled to survive watching an Italian horror film!

ALIEN 2 opens at a news station where the big breaking story is a space capsule’s impending return to Earth. In an attempt to fill time until the capsule splashes down, cave explorer Thelma Joyce (Belinda Mayne) is interviewed on television. As she answers a few questions about her hobby, she is suddenly overcome by a psychic vision, and completely shuts down on live TV. After a quick recovery, she is whisked away by Roy Ward (Mark Bodin), for a weekend of spelunking with their friends.

Spelunking is for lovers.

And then, for almost an hour nothing happens, even after the aliens arrive on our planet. Transported by the aforementioned space module, the creatures look like pulsating blue stones. (I like to think of them as mini, face-eating Monolith Monsters.) Utilizing surprise tentacle attacks, the aliens invade human hosts, then later come bursting out to infect other victims. One by one, everyone succumbs to a messy end, leaving only Thelma and Roy to escape the labyrinthine system of caverns, and warn the world of the bloody alien invasion!

ALIEN 2: ON EARTH is eighty-five minutes of torture Vault Dwellers, and I stupidly watched it twice because I thought that maybe, just maybe, I missed something crucial the first time around. (Guess what? I didn’t!) Ciro Ippolito’s directorial debut contains roughly ten minutes of exploitation goodness, wrapped in layer after layer of filler. That translates into long stretches of boredom that will have you fighting the urge to hit the eject button on your remote.

This is quite disappointing because this film actually had a lot going for it. The vast majority of the camerawork is (surprisingly) competent, and the caverns that Ippolito filmed in are used to great effect. While the film clearly takes place on Earth, the Castellana Caves give the proceedings an otherwordly feel. As an added bonus, the cast isn’t terrible (keep an eye out for Italian horror director Michele Soavi in the role of Burt!), and the English dubbing is actually very well done.

But the big reason to watch ALIEN 2: ON EARTH is to see the practical makeup effects (courtesy of Ciro Ippolito and Lamberto Marini), which are impressive, but far too sparse. Besides a faceless little girl on a beach, we get one exploding head, and a very cool sequence where a gestating alien bursts out of a woman’s face, then latches onto a man’s neck before decapitating him.

Good thing he was wearing his helmet!

Though these moments proved to be a welcome spark of life that the movie so desperately needed, it was too little, too late. Any goodwill generated by ALIEN 2’s few memorable scenes of carnage are squandered by several poorly executed alien attacks, and an excessive amount of padding. This film is so tedious to sit through that not even the musical stylings of Guido and Maurizio De Angelis (aka “Oliver Onions“) couldn’t help save it.

Honestly, the making of ALIEN 2: ON EARTH would make for a much better movie, as there was apparently some behind-the-scenes drama during production. Initially, Biagio Proietti was hired to direct, but after a week he was given the boot. Ippolito then approached Mario Bava to helm the film, only to be convinced to do the job himself. (Under the pseudonym of “Sam Cromwell.”) It is also alleged that Ippolito used a significant chunk of the film’s budget to purchase a new (and expensive) car for himself!

And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that ALIEN 2: ON EARTH was at the center of two lawsuits. The first resulted because 20th Century Fox felt that this little Italian schlocker was infringing on their copyright for Ridley Scott’s ALIEN, citing that Ippolito’s movie used “Alien” in its title. In the end, Ciro Ippolito was victorious against Fox because it turns out there was a novel from the 1930s that had already utilized the “Alien” moniker.

It was an eye-popping win to say the least.

A second lawsuit cropped up in 2013 against the producers of Neil Marshall’s awesome THE DESCENT. Ippolito attempted to sue because he claimed that Marshall’s film had a similar plot to ALIEN 2. However, this suit never went anywhere, most likely because there are major differences between both films. But part of me wants to believe that the lawsuit fell apart after the lawyers suffered through Ippolito’s snoozefest while prepping their case.

Despite containing all of the necessary ingredients for a perfect Italian exploitation film, ALIEN 2 is a complete failure. It lacks energy and enthusiasm, and commits the ultimate cinematic sin of being a complete bore. I cannot in good conscience recommend ALIEN 2: ON EARTH at all, and banish it to lowest depths of The Vault with a rating of: