December 27, 2012

Endangered Species (1982)

Directed by Alan Rudolph. Starring Robert Urich ("Ruben Castle"), JoBeth Williams ("Harriet Purdue"), Paul Dooley ("Joe Hiatt"), and Hoyt Axton ("Ben Morgan"). Rated R. Body Count: 4 people and a bunch of cows.

Source: DVD-R (Warner Archive)
Running time: 01:36:55
Country: USA

Ruben Castle is a recovering alcoholic and retired New York City detective who wants to rekindle a relationship with his estranged teenage daughter. Castle was a very "hands-on" kinda cop if you know what I mean, and it's clear that the apple doesn't fall too far from the tree when it comes to his daughter, who's a bit of a loose cannon in her own way. They take a road trip across the country and eventually find themselves in a small Colorado town, where a string of unexplained cattle mutilations are taking place. Not intending to stay long, Castle crosses paths with the town's sheriff, Harriet, who's in charge of the investigation surrounding the cattle deaths. Castle and Harriet become romantically involved, circumstances lead Castle to reluctantly join in on the investigation, and interesting discoveries are made.

What a nice surprise this was. ENDANGERED SPECIES was one of the few titles I bought from Warner Archive during their Black Friday sale, and I pretty much went into this movie blind. Truth be told, the only reason I sought it out was because I kinda developed a thing for JoBeth Williams when I re-watched POLTERGEIST a few months ago for the first time in years. And, as usual when I develop a "thing" for an actress who I find to be attractive, I have to watch more movies that she's been in. In some cases, I actually find some pretty awesome movies that way. This was one of those times. Turns out she didn't really do a lot of genre films, so the pickings were slim and this was one of the films that stood out.

The first things that stood out about ENDANGERED SPECIES were the editing and the music. As far as the editing, there are a lot of slow dissolves at weird times, which reminded me of David Lynch of course. As far as the music, it's very ominous and keyboard-driven without sounding like your standard 80's synth score. There are even a couple times where the music sounds very proto-Industrial, which is not what I was expecting at all, namely for the fact that this isn't the type of movie that would warrant such music. It works though. Very well actually. More often than not, the music is so subtle that you barely notice it, only for it to slowly kick in at the strangest times. Come to find out, the music was composed by Gary Wright. Yeah, the guy who sang "Dream Weaver"! It makes sense though, because I've always found the opening keyboards on "Dream Weaver" to be sort of eerie. Have I completely lost your attention yet?

In terms of pure enjoyment and how much it really hit the sweet spot for me, ENDANGERED SPECIES is hard to beat as far as films I've seen in the last year. The first two-thirds of the film are quite intriguing, nicely paced, and very watchable. Unfortunately it loses a lot of steam in the final act, and the big reveal in regards to the cause of the cattle mutilations is pretty underwhelming to say the least. The first two acts, though, are very reminiscent of X-FILES, believe it or not, because of the relationship between the two lead characters, their chemistry, and allusions to extraterrestrial activity, military cover-ups, and even a Satanic cult at one point. Whether or not aliens or cults are indeed responsible, you'll have to see for yourself to find out, but I'll just say the direction that the film ultimately goes is disappointing to an extent. It should be said, though, that the title cards at the beginning of the movie sort of hint at what's going on. Plus, it's supposedly based on a true story, or at least "real events". On the other hand, you could view the build-up to the reveal as a clever use of misdirection that actually works. Either way, this a neat little thriller that I highly recommend. On a side note, Bill Moseley makes his first ever appearance in this film as "Cab Driver".

Score: 7.5

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