Saturday, January 8, 2011

Howard The Duck (1986)

A renegade laser fired from an astrophysics lab on Earth accidentally pulls in an unwilling extraterrestrial traveler from a parallel world where men evolved not from apes but from ducks. He befriends the singer of an all-girl rock band called Cherry Bomb (no fooling), and then fights to save the universe when instead of sending him home, the laser ends up bringing one of the dark overlords of the universe to Earth. Did I mention this was a live action film?

I remember this film from my childhood, but I probably hadn't watched it in at least fifteen years, before tonight. I'm surprised it's only rated PG. I'd think it would be at least PG-13 for "thematic content", and sexually suggestive material. God, how protective we've become. The eighties fashion is strong in this movie - and wow, if I didn't know any better, I'd think Earth in the eighties was a different planet. Lea Thompson (who played mom in Back to the Future) looks great as the rock singer, though. She even gets a surprisingly sexy scene in her underwear, half-jokingly trying to seduce Howard (yes, the duck).

Seems there's a lot of talk about this being one of the worst movies ever made but it's mostly hype. You know how people like to joke about those things. It's an absurd premise, absolutely. But it's not a bad movie, it's just an absurd movie. If you go into it expecting a talking space duck's adventures in Cleveland trying to save the universe from an evil monster, then you're bound to enjoy it for what it is.

And for what is more or less a comedy, I really enjoyed the dark overlord twist. The sushi bar scene, when the transforming scientist goes ape with his newfound superpowers, is exciting, and even the cheesy fx are effective. And when the overlord reveals his true form - it's incredibly terrifying. It's not as sleek and stylish as the Alien Queen, or as Lovecraftian as The Thing (in John Carpenter's adaptation), but the fact that I'm even making those comparisons is significant. Everybody loves CGI these days, but I still think the old-fashioned ways are more entertaining. This creature is a whole lot scarier than, say, the Cloverfield monster, for example. I'm tempted to leave you in suspense, but the fact that this movie is already twenty-five years old, and that you're probably not going to go watch it anyway, if you haven't already, means that it's probably safe to just show you the monster here.

Truly, the stuff nightmares are made of.


  1. Tangent re: CG monsters vs. clay model monsters. I feel like, with advancing technology, filmmakers are more and more concerned with achieving realism. Creatures that look and move like real animals, that follow recognizable biological patterns, and such. And while this is great for the Discovery Channel's speculation on how dinosaurs could have moved, or what life would be like on another planet, I think that creating a movie monster requires a different approach.

    The truly nightmarish is not what is understood and recognizable, but something that makes you think, "that can't be". It shouldn't make sense, because confusion feeds off of the unknown, and not knowing is what is really scary.

    Granted, there's a difference between a monster looking unreal, and a monster simply looking fake, which tends to take you out of the movie experience, but I think the scariest monsters are the ones that defy all logic and understanding of what creatures are supposed to look like and how they're supposed to act.

  2. I read up about this on wikipedia. Sounds pretty awesome.

    I couldn't agree more about CGI. I just think it sucks. It ranges from decent to bad. I doubt I've ever seen a CGI monster that I truly appreciated.

    Give me puppets. Give me Carnosaur. That shit scares me. And what you said about realism is spot on.