You might think this was simply a nostalgic throwback to 80’s extraterrestrial fare like ET, ALF, and MAC and Me. And while it’s infused with some of that fondness, this is not a kid’s flick though. Bloodshed, both campy and tragic push it into R-territory. While throwing out a few choice words, this isn’t a rowdy alien, nor is it in line with crass plush Ted. This far-out fugitive is one who is good hearted, sympathetic, and still fun. Directed and co-written by Adam R. Steigert, the film brings together talent from his previous efforts A Grim Becoming and Not Human (Ombis: Alien Invasion).
Aryn Fitzgerald, who was quite good in A Grim Becoming, shows further growth as an actress here. In a leading role as teen Marissa, hers is a great, grounded performance amid the fantastic goings-on.
Richard Satterwhite gives a memorable turn as the heroic Devon Danger and “real life” counterpart Alex Creed, the character largely modelled after Fred Williamson. He projects an easygoing charm, has a really strong rapport with his fangirl Marissa, and captures the presence of a badass 70’s action lead in the clips of his films (fun recreations themselves). He’s very likable onscreen and I feel his take on the dual characters likely brought more heart to the role than another actor would have. Definitely a standout.
Chris Barbis plays the alcoholic writer Greg Vincent who is menaced by the mob and has an unusually hands-on local library as a site for his book signing. Putting the author up in a nearby cabin, the lodgings place him in the path of an unexpected muse–STAR. Vincent and Creed are aided by recent Troma fave Nicola Fiore, who delivers nicely understated support.
Melissa Jayde, also of A Grim Becoming, plays Angela Branco, the feisty, conniving bombshell Mafiosa pursuing Vincent. It’s a welcome change of pace to feature a crime boss villainess. Guy Balotine makes the most out of a smaller role as Ryan The Terrible, the most convincing and menacing of the gang. I would have liked to have seen more of him.
It was a very wise choice to make STAR a practical character, rather than CGI. There is more life here in this character than with many big budget computer generated creatures. This is courtesy of an effective design and the flick’s Frank Oz–Patrick Mallette, who gives an engaging vocal performance and contributes solid puppeteering work. And importantly for an alien creature, the character is endearing, rather than grating.
There’s a remarkably staged car crash sequence (done in flashes) which has the most gravity of the piece. The other vehicle scenes of alien spacecraft I enjoyed as well.
This is an ambitious flick. One that maximizes its scope and production value on a micro budget. Different genres, eras, and filmmaking styles are explored and delighted in by the cast and crew. With its comedic fantasy sequences, there are shades reminiscent of my beloved A Christmas Story. Enthusiastic and game performances add to these daydreams, especially by Satterwhite and Fitzgerald.
We ultimately have what could have been three separate films in their own right–a girl and her hero tale, a writer battling personal demons and criminals, and a fish-out-of-water alien story. Like our solar system, in STAR, a variety of disparate storyline planets are orbiting and inhabiting interstellar cinema space. While each one might have been worthy of its own visit, there is much to like and encounter here.
–Cory Graham @2017