By Steve D. Stones
Just the title alone of this mid-1980s low budget horror film made me want to seek it out. The theme song of the film is also quite campy, yet very catchy. “Bloodsuckers From Outer Space, there’s something in the air! They’re not in it for the money! They’re not in it for the love! They’re out for blood!” I found myself singing this song over and over again in my head as I sat through the film and wrote this article.
A Texas farmer feeds his animals and tends to his duties as a strong wind blows across his farm property. As the wind dies down, the farmer begins to act as if he has a pain in his stomach. He falls to the ground, throwing up blood. As he lies on the ground, it’s obvious that a tube is placed under his left chin as someone is pumping out gallons of stage blood. A young photographer named Jeff Rhoades arrives to photograph some bloody corpses lying in a field near his Texas hometown. Sam, the sheriff’s deputy, insists that Jeff cannot print photos of the corpses in the local newspaper. He asks Jeff to report the cause of death as “exposure to the elements” to avoid public panic.
Beauford, the local hillbilly, suggests that the deaths were caused by local “devil worshipping homos.” Meanwhile, a group of young scientists are conducting experiments at Research City on some of the bloodsucking zombies. One of the zombies happens to be Dr. Pace, who once headed Research City. It seems he has now become one of the bloodsuckers. Dr. Jeri Jett of the group looks and talks similar to the actress Annie Potts in Ghostbusters and the Designing Women TV show of the 1980s. Also in the group is Dr. Ralph Rhoades, who is the older brother of newspaper photographer Jeff Rhoades. After a failed attempt at photographing the corpses for his newspaper, Jeff pays a visit to his Uncle Joe and Aunt Kate. Joe and Kate raised Jeff after his parents were killed in an accident when Jeff was just a boy.
Uncle Joe is interested in Jeff working for him on the family farm as a diary farmer. Jeff insists that he is an artist, and wants to continue to photograph for the local newspaper. “When you gonna learn that art is sh*t? No one understands it,” says Uncle Joe to Jeff. He gives Jeff an ultimatum to either become a diary farmer and inherit the family farm, or go off on his own and keep being a photographer for the local newspaper. Jeff needs time to decide, so he leaves their home to collect his thoughts. While leaving his Uncle’s home, Jeff’s car has a tire blow out. Jeff discovers his spare tire is flat, so he gets angry and breaks all the windows and lights on the car.
A cute brunette in a Corvette pulls up and offers Jeff a ride. He is very happy to accept her offer. She tells Jeff that she’s wandering through town, trying to get away from her hometown of Dallas, Texas. General Sanders of the U.S. Army visits Research City with Major Hood. The general fits the movie stereotype of a general. He smokes large cigars, has a southern accent, wears sunglasses, and arrogantly talks trash of other people.
Dr. Rhoades and Dr. Jett inform the general that an energy field has descended upon some of the local citizens and has had a bizarre effect on those who were infected by it. They go on to say that the infected have respiratory problems that cause blood hemorrhaging in the blood vessels, causing them to become bloodsucking zombies. General Sanders does not buy into their analysis, and labels them as “scientific wise *sses.” He insists on destroying the bloodsuckers, instead of allowing the scientists to continue to conduct research on them.
After making out at Jeff’s home, Julie and Jeff return to Uncle Joe and Aunt Kate’s home for dinner at the dairy farm. Jeff and Julie arrive, only to discover that his Aunt and Uncle are now bloodsucking zombies. Uncle Joe attacks Jeff. Jeff cuts off Joe’s arm with a shovel. Jeff and Julie flee the home. The two stop by an abandoned home to make a phone call, where another bloodsucking farmer attacks Julie. Jeff finds a chainsaw and cuts off the farmer’s head as he is standing. The corpse continues to walk around as blood pours out of his neck.
Jeff and Julie’s only hope now is to go to Research City to find his brother Dr. Rhoades. When they arrive, they find that Dr. Pace has broken free, and is giving a lecture in an auditorium to the four remaining research doctors. All four doctors are sitting on the front row dead, including Jeff’s brother Ralph. Once again, Jeff and Julie flee the scene. They run out of gas and are forced to sleep in Julie’s car overnight. The next morning, Jeff and Julie go looking for gas in a small town named Enloe.
Jeff calls Sam, the sheriff’s deputy, to tell him about the events he has witnessed. Sam is uninterested and does not believe him. Jeff has called Sam while he is having sex with his girlfriend. Sam and his girlfriend quickly take a shower together before Jeff and Julie arrive. Here they experience a strong wind blowing in the shower that turns them into zombies. They too have become bloodsuckers, and greet Jeff and Julie as zombies when they arrive.
The military arrives in the town of Enloe to kill the zombies. The soldiers fall victim to a trap the zombies have set for them. The zombies corner the soldiers and rip them apart. General Sanders calls the President of The United States to suggest that a nuclear bomb be dropped on the infected area of Enloe. The President answers the phone call with a busty blonde woman sitting on his lap. She looks just like Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction. The President points out that a nuclear bomb cannot be dropped on a town of innocent American citizens. The beautiful blonde stokes his hair and smiles frequently. He continually stares down at her cleavage while talking on the phone with Sanders.
Finally, the President gives in to the general’s demands if he promises not to call or bother him any further. The general has the President’s authority to drop a bomb. This is one of the funniest scenes in the entire film. General Sanders pushes a button on a computer, launching a stock footage sequence of a missile darting out of the ocean and an A-bomb explosion. Major Hood informs Sanders that the bomb came nowhere near the target, but instead landed on a Methodist encampment some 60 miles away from the target. At least he was able to destroy some religious fanatics, even if it was a big mistake. No big loss.
As I watched this film, I thought of so many other low budget films that I have seen a million times. I immediately thought of the 1956 version of Invasion of The Body Snatchers. In that film, it’s giant space pods that take over the bodies of a small California town. This becomes a metaphor for the “red scare” tactics of McCarthyism that was going on in the 1950s.
In Bloodsuckers From Outer Space, it is the wind that impacts the citizens of a small Texas town and causes them to become bloodsucking zombies. General Sanders even refers to the bloodsuckers' problem as a “communist conspiracy.” This is where I drew the connection of Bloodsuckers From Outer Space to Invasion of The Body Snatchers.
However, I consider Invasion of The Body Snatchers to be a masterpiece of science fiction cinema, and I would never suggest that Bloodsuckers From Outer Space is on the same level of quality as Invasion of The Body Snatchers. Also, Bloodsuckers From Outer Space was made the same year that George Romero’s Day of The Dead went into production. Although Bloodsuckers From Outer Space is not even close to the quality of Romero’s Day of The Dead, there are some interesting similarities. For example, in both films, scientists are trying to discover a reason for the problem of the zombie infestation. In both films, there seems to be a conflict and disconnect between the military and science.
Like all of Romero’s zombie films, the characters in Bloodsuckers From Outer Space inevitably have to confront and kill some of their loved ones whether they like it or not. If you want to survive, you can’t be too sentimental and particular about which zombies you kill.
If you are a fan of Romero, you may want to check this film out, if only to see some of the similarities between Romero’s films and what is going on in this film. It’s often been said that imitation is a form of flattery. I’m not sure if George A. Romero would be flattered by obvious imitations in Bloodsuckers From Outer Space, but it’s still worth a viewing.