Director – Roger Duchowny, Screenplay – Jim & Ken Wheat, Producers – Roger Duchowny & Tony Dow, Photography’– Robert C. New, Music – Shirley Walker, Visual Effects – Flash Film Works (Supervisor – William Mesa), Special Effects Supervisor – John Hartigan, Production Design – Anthony Tremblay. Production Company – MTE Inc/Duchowny Dow Films/Finnegan-Pinchuk
Brian Kerwin (Jack Putnam), Elizabeth Peña (Ellen Fields), Jonathan Carrasco (Stevie Fields), Adrian Sparks (Alan Paxson), Bill McKinney (Roy Minter), Lauren Tewes (Carolee Minter)
Photographer Jack Putnam returns to a small desert town. The town is falling into economic decline after Jack did a photo expose that caused the plant to close down. While out at Diamond Back Ridge, Jack and young Stevie Fields see a strange storm cloud appear. The cloud appears to collide with the cliff and afterwards they find strange blue rocks littered around the area. The town is plagued by a rising heatwave, which destroys any vehicle that tries to leave. Jack discovers that townspeople are returning from the ridge strangely changed. He realizes that an alien spacecraft is buried beneath the ridge and that the inhabitants are shapechangers who are abducting the townspeople and taking their form. He comes to understand that the aliens are only trying to recover their lost brethren – the blue rocks. He attempts to overcome the mounting fears of the remaining townspeople and help the aliens depart.
It Came from Outer Space (1953) is a classic of the science-fiction genre – in fact it was one of the first 1950s science-fiction film to deal with the theme of aliens duplicating humans. It is also one of the handful of science-fiction films from that decade not to have been remade up until this made-for-cable film. It Came from Outer Space II purports to be a sequel. Despite the II after the title, it is not a sequel to It Came from Outer Space but in fact a very loose remake. It retains the basic idea – the desert setting, someone seeing an alien ship come down, the aliens duplicating human bodies and the discovery after much human prejudice that the aliens proving are benevolent and only want to return home. The lead male and female have the same names as their counterparts in the originals but other than that the two films chart different paths in telling their stories.
It Came from Outer Space II is an utterly flat disappointment. Despite the replacement of the original model spaceship with a CGI storm cloud, the crashlanding of the alien ship in this version is utterly unconvincing and the original film’s crash scene, despite its technical inferiority and visible wire, contains far greater majesty and effect. In the original, director Jack Arnold did an exceptional job of evoking the desert as a moody alien landscape but here this is replaced by Roger Duchowny’s depiction of a dreary nowhere redneck town socio-economically suffering from primary business withdrawal. The second unit scenes of Brian Kerwin’s truck driving through the desert accompanied by stock twanging bluegrass guitar is surely the complete antithesis of any of Jack Arnold’s atmosphere. The duplication theme lacks any of the eeriness it did in the original. This aspect is barely even played for any mysteriousness – the theme has been so played out in subsequent films that Roger Duchowny does not even seem interested in it. What we have instead is the addition of the wholly uninteresting business with the shape-changing blue rocks and the heatwave.
As substitute for Arnold’s superb atmosphere, one cannot express what a total betrayal of the original that It Came from Outer Space II is. That is the double-edged sword that the film is lumbered with. It wholly trashes anything to do with the original film, yet with the Roman numerals placed after the title the only real interest it can have is to anybody who liked the original.
Brian Kerwin makes for a fairly thick hero. Elizabeth Peña, an actress who one always thought should have gone onto greater success than she has (and who went through a not dissimilar plot playing a comparable character in another alien invader paranoia remake The Invaders (tv mini-series, 1996) around the same time), plays competently.