Released during the height of the new wave era, I thought this artsy peacock of a sci-fi film would be rather interesting, and to be fair it was, but it wasn’t necessarily a good film. It’s essentially a Warholesque art film with an edgy avant-garde ethos in mind, attempting to channel the eerie, coldly futuristic sci-fi films of the 1970’s. It’s quite experimental in nature, and certainly has the makings of a cult film, but while the idea for the film sounded good on paper, it wound up being a rather disjointed, trippy mess in practice.
The film takes its title from the word people in New York used in the ’70’s and ’80’s to refer to heroin, a recurring drug throughout the film. Though it might not seem like it, the film does have a plot. Set in New York City in the early ’80’s, the story revolves around invisible aliens who land their spaceship atop the roof of a drug dealer named Jimmy and his lover Margaret, a promiscuous fashion model. They came in search of opiates like heroin, but eventually found the pheromones released in the brain during orgasm more preferable, and start feasting on Margaret’s casual lovers. The bizarre series of events that ensue are observed by a woman living across the street, an androgynous male role model, and a German scientist working to solve the mystery.
This sounds like a rather interesting premise, and it wouldn’t have made a bad sci-fi novel, but the problem is that the film moves a rather slow pace, with a disjointed plot in tow. A lot of the story seems to have been buried in drugs, sex, low-grade special effects and hip new wave fashion. In other words, it’s a prime example of a film that’s more style than substance, not that the substance made a whole lot of sense.
The characters weren’t terrible, and in fact, I liked Anne Carlisle’s dual role performance (which, in retrospect, might have been cast due to the film’s low budget), but I found that most of the characters acted like high school kids in a drug-induced clique. Sometimes the characters were a bit soft spoken, and Anne’s performance might have been a bit corny at times, but in an overall sense, at least the acting wasn’t terribly campy.
Right off the bat, this is a film that focused more on how it looked and sounded than the writing and acting, but on a budget of only $500,000, it looks as if it might have looked great in 1972 rather than 1982 (it may yet have had a shot of edging out the competition back then). The costumes actually like quite nice, even if they can be a little too over the top. The special effects make the film look like you’re looking at the film while doped up on drugs, but most interestingly, they’re mainly used when the aliens are looking at the human characters, and conveys the sense of psychedelic overwordliness. Too bad this wasn’t the 1960’s, otherwise it would have been a smash hit.
If anything was a miss, it was the music, composed on a Fairlight CMI. The opening song, which is repeated throughout the film, sounds like a bad video game track from the late 1980’s, but at least you’ll get used to it. The rest of the soundtrack actually conveys a nice atmosphere, but I still get the impression that the producers cut corners everywhere, and the end result, suffice it to say, is a less than stellar film that falls well short of its dreamy goalpost.
- Score: 61%
- Grade: C