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Plot: Spaces Babes crash-land on Earth. Hilarity ensues!

Apparently quite a few people are longing for the halcyon days when exploitation cinema catered to every discerning taste that Hollywood couldn’t or wouldn’t. In this day and age of superheroes and multiverses something like this is a breath of fresh air. Space Babes From Outer Space, if the title wasn’t enough of a giveaway, is a tribute to 1950s/60s science-fiction. Whereas the most accomplished and best remembered examples of the form were tightly-scripted and smartly written cautionary tales warning about nuclear annihilation and the importance of foreign relations usually in the guise of Cold War parables and Red Scare metaphors Space Babes From Outer Space has none such lofty or heady aspirations. As the scion of StarCrash (1979), Galaxina (1980), and Earth Girls Are Easy (1988) Space Babes From Outer Space has one thing on the mind and that is… boobs. Instead of pushing some or any kind of important message Brian K. Williams has made it his sole mission to have as many girls as humanly possible shake their boobs for the camera. Channelling the spirits of Russ Meyer, Andy Sidaris, and Jim Wynorski (which is pretty damn impossible considering Wynorski is still alive) Space Babes From Outer Space is just as outrageous and kitschy as its title suggests. Besides, the title just rolls off the tongue. Williams might just have made the favourite movie of every horny 15-year-old edgelord Redditor.

The creative force behind Space Babes From Outer Space is the husband-and-wife team of Brian K. Williams and Ellie Church. Williams and Church are the mavens behind the Indiana-based boutique production company Bandit Motion Pictures and with Space Babes From Outer Space they have taken to producing nouveau retro exploitation on the model of Bring Me the Head Of the Machine Gun Woman (2012), Plan 9 (2015), The Love Witch (2016), and Commando Ninja (2018). Williams has been employed in just about every aspect of filmmaking before venturing out on his own. He’s an associate of and frequent collaborator with James Bickert from Work in Progress and both men seem to be on similar missions and creative plateaus. If interviews around production are to be believed Williams had an old script idea that he and Church reworked after a particular memorable night of heavy drinking. As with many of these ventures Space Babes From Outer Space was the subject of a successful crowdfunding campaign and delivers exactly what you want it to. According to a 2018 Idol Features interview with Church, and co-stars Alyss Winkler, and Allison Maier Space Babes From Outer Space was allegedly helmed in a brutal 10-day production schedule. Not only did it include principal photography but also the usual behind-the-scenes interviews and a glossy photo shoot. Written by Williams and co-produced by Church and Winkler Space Babes From Outer Space stars nobody you know or have ever heard of and “a bunch of strippers” from the Indiana nightclub scene. Considering how short the production time Space Babes From Outer Space looks incredible.

Exploring some remote quadrant of deep space Space Babes Carrieola (Ellie Church), Vanassa (Allison Maier), and Ragyna (Alyss Winkler) suddenly find themselves under attack by their sworn enemies, the repugnant Scrotes. In their desperation they open up a wormhole and are transported to that mythical planet they heard so much about, this Earth. Having sustained considerable damage to their ship they accidentally crash-land into a farmhouse somewhere in the wilds of Indiana. With their power cells depleted during their impromptu escape the three Babes need to find a source of energy to recharge their vessel. Marooned on a planet they know nothing about and in search of enough sexual energy to return home, the Babes deduct that they are left with no other option but to make first contact with the planet’s lifeforms. This happens quicker than they think when kind-hearted, socially inept Charlie (Brian Papandrea) comes to check out the ruckus and is instantly smitten with buxom blonde Carrieola.

Like any redblooded male Earthling Charlie is pleasantly surprised to find a trio of comically large-breasted Babes in pastel-colored spandex leotards in his home. Carrieola almost immediately ravages him once she her sensors detect his arousal. He’s charmed by a girl this straightforward and with the three insisting that they’re “not from here” he figures they must be tourists. His father Chuck (Josh Arnold) and mother Margo (Susan M. Martin) are happy enough to see Charlie finally bring a girl home. The way Charlie sees it the quickest way for the Babes to harness the sexual energy they require is to take them to the nearest stripclub, Night Moves. As luck would have it two strippers were just fired and before long Vanassa and Ragyna are gyrating around the stage. Things seem to be going their way until the Scrotes (Shane Beasley and Arthur Cullipher) launch a frontal attack on the Space Babes and each and every Earthling that happens to be in the crossfire. As the night deepens and the Scrote attack reaches its apex it will be up to Charlie to save his Space Babes from peril and imminent death. Charlie and the Babes manage to make it back to the barn and the Babes are able to recharge their vessel, only then does the malign Scrote Daddy emerge. Fated, championed and now hailed as their tellurian savior Charlie’s transported to the capital as an emissary of Earth and tasked with repopulating Titty City in what’s described as be an eternity of fornication with all of the planet’s most bosomy Babes. Would you believe this unbelievable tale is all a bedtime story that little Charlie (Drake Carter) is told by his foulmouthed grandfather (G.P. Bailey) while his mother Flow (Kelsey Carlisle) is called in to work the evening shift at Booty Bettie’s Fish and Tits?

If the plot synopsis wasn’t enough of an indication Space Babes From Outer Space is a free-for-all reach-around of plot elements borrowed from Barbarella (1968), Zeta One (1969) and 2069 – A Sex Odyssey (1974) with a dose of the puerile humour of Meatballs (1979), Porky’s (1981) and Revenge Of the Nerds (1984). Since this is a nostalgia-driven feature it lays on the references and puns on pretty thick too. First, there’s a portal-jump plot contrivance is straight out of Vampirella (1994) and the Babes crash into a farmhouse just like Marty McFly in Back to the Future (1985). In tradition of kitsch as Flesh Gordon (1974) the Babes’ aerodynamic spacevessel is, of course, boob-shaped replete with a virgin-white console decked out with tinfoil, colorful lightbulbs and (what else?) an ovary-shaped steeringwheel. The comparison to Plan 9 from Outer Space (1957) and its economic ship/cockpit design is easy and obvious. The Scrotes are penis-shaped monsters modeled on the Rock Eater from Galaxina (1980).

Of the three Church comes to closest to resembling the late Dorothy Stratten in and as Galaxina (1980). Obviously that was the biggest inspiration behind Space Babes From Outer Space and if the costumes don’t sell it, Church certainly will. Daddy Scrote is an abomination somewhere between the pleasantly clumsy Ordric from Galaxina (1980) and the overzealous Lord Crumb from Bad Taste (1987). The fish-out-of-water comedy is very much in vein of Sorceress (1982) and the much expected (and usually odious) slapstick does, thankfully, not materialize. The Spaces Babes’ formal greeting is worth a chuckle or two. While not all of the jokes land (some of them are just plain vulgar) the Babes’ names are a hoot by themselves. Carrieola is an obvious contraction of Carrie and “areola” (or breast tissue), Ragyna may not be an anagram the way Angvia was but the idea is pretty much identical. Unbelievable as it may sound, Vanassa doesn’t have any superpower emanating from her ass. For shame, mr. Williams, for shame. Which is perhaps a good time as any to discuss where Space Babes From Outer Space falters.

The cringy dialogue is way too try-hard in its edginess and while the barrage of double-entendres, racy witticisms, and unrelenting sexual innuendo from the Babes is both cute and side-splittingly hilarious; the constant profanity and expletive-laden banter is not. A strategically-placed F-bomb can completely liven up a static scene, constant profanity is cheap, juvenile and speaks to a dire lack of imagination. The dinner scene in particular is cruel and unusual torture for exactly that reason. Equally frustrating but true, wall-to-wall frontal nudity and an avalanche of jiggling boobs of just about every shape, size and form grows exhausting too. While we’re about the last to complain about female nudity in a feature some moderation would perhaps have helped here. As producer and headlining star Ellie Church abstains from any nudity and has the most dialogue. As such the brunt of the nudity falls on Winkler and Maier who wonderfully rise to the occassion. Since the majority of the cast is best described as “a bunch of strippers” it almost makes you wish they dug up Julie K. Smith or Ava Cadell for the matronly role of Sandy and hired a recognizable (more cross-marketable) name like, for instance, Ava Addams, Jelena Jensen, Bella Brookz, or Korina Kova for the kink-specific role of Momma Milk. If TomCat Films can afford Veronica Ricci and Rene Perez veteran Jenny Allford certainly the average adult star must be within an indie’s reach.

Only in the isolated scene here and there (be it through amateurish scene composition, cinematography, or wobbly acting) does the feature betray its independent roots. The overall production value, acting and cinematography is surprisingly decent for a crowfunded feature like this which, sadly, isn’t always the case. At least nobody’s expected to do accents here. In Amazon Hot Box (2018) it was impossible to tell whether Church’s accent was supposed to be German or Russian, for one. Since this is supposed to be a 1950s sci-fi throwback we’ll never understand the black metal kid gag during the dinner scene. The Scrotes are funny enough by themselves but they never really pose much of a threat the way the aliens in Bad Taste (1987) did. Space Babes From Outer Space caters to a bunch of fetishes but the actual sex (and erotica) is pretty limited. This actually looks like a semi-professional product which is not something that can be said about the median TomCat Films or The Asylum flick. We can’t for Brian K. Williams to take on the Andy Sidaris spy-action romp, the Albert Pyun cyberpunk action, the Cirio H. Santiago topless kickboxing movie, a Jean Rollin lesbian vampire epic or a Pete Walker knickers and knockers terror-suspense spectacular. If Space Babes From Outer Space is any indication, Bandit Motion knows their exploitation and it’ll be interesting to see what they produce in years to come. Hopefully they’ll pick up Rene Perez babes Eva Hamilton, Stormi Maya, Nicole Stark, Emily Sweet, Spring Inés Peña, Sierra Sherbundy, Omnia Bixler, Gemma Donato, or Raven Lexy along the way.

Plot: the sins of a young man’s past come back to haunt him in the present.

Revenge of the Pontianak sees yet another classic Asian horror monster resurrected for the modern age. The movie is part of a recent and larger mini-trend in Asian horror cinema that sees young filmmakers looking nostalgically towards the past (typically the much simpler days of the 1970s/80s and sometimes even earlier) and modeling their own horror epics after established properties and beloved icons of the past. Indonesia celebrated the life and work of Suzzanna with Suzzanna: Buried Alive (2018) and Thailand resurrected its own classic horror monster with Inhuman Kiss (2019). Malaysia couldn’t possibly stay behind and Revenge of the Pontianak (or Dendem Pontianak back at home) is very much - even if it’s never officially acknowledged as such – a cordial tribute to Malay horror queen Maria Menado and a liberal remake of Revenge of the Pontianak (1957), the second in her loose Pontianak cycle. Ostensibly the name to watch here is Nur Fazura as the titular sanguineous seductress. Her performance is alternately quietly understated and searing with rabid intensity.

Maria Menado, the Queen of Malaysian horror

The twilight years of the 2010s have given way to a veritable wave of nostalgia-driven Southeast Asian revivalist horror. In this cycle young filmmakers paid tribute to the old masters and celebrated long forgotten genres and icons of yesteryear. Italy had Barbara Steele in the sixties and Edwige Fenech in the seventies, Spain had Soledad Miranda and Nieves Navarro, and in Indonesia Suzzanna was the undisputed Queen of Horror. Maria Menado was a contemporary of Suzzanna back in her home of Malaysia.

All through the fifties and sixties Menado starred in her most enduring works and was bestowed prestigious titles as “Malaya’s Most Beautiful” by Times Magazine and the “Best Dressed Woman in South East Asia” by United Press International. Her most iconic role would be that of the Pontianak in Pontianak (1957). It was so lucrative at the Cathay cinema box office that it not only spawned three sequels with Revenge of the Pontianak (1957), Curse of the Pontianak (1958) and The Vampire Returns (1963) but also launched the Pontianak subgenre of made-in-Singapore, Malay-language ghost horror in Singapore and Malaysia in the process. Its box office success inspired Hong Kong’s Shaw Bros to launch their own rival Pontianak trilogy. With their Revenge Of the Pontianak directors Glen Goei and Gavin Yap pay tribute to the ghost horror of yore now that Paranormal Activity (2008) and The Conjuring (2013) seem to have become the new international standard. Goei and Yap aim not for a direct remake but rather to capture the essence of vintage Malay fright cinema and its foremost international ambassador.

To Western eyes the Pontianak (Kuntilanak in Indonesia or the similar Tiyanak and Churel in the Philippines and India, respectively) is the halfway point between the vampire of European folklore and white ghost maiden omnipresent in Asian folk tales. As such the Pontianak typically takes the form of a beautiful woman with pale skin, red eyes, long black hair and long fingernails in a blood-splattered white dress. Hiding in banana trees during the day she typically died in childbirth and her vengeful spirit roams the material world because she was not given the proper burial rites. The arrival of the Pontianak is foretold by the barking of dogs, sudden illness among infants and a strong scent of either flowers or decay pervading the air. The Pontianak has been a staple of Malaysian horror cinema at least since the fifties and just like vampires, ghosts and slashers in Western cinema continues to inspire Malay filmmakers to this day. Perhaps the biggest innovation that Revenge Of the Pontianak offers is taking painstaking work to humanize the Pontianak and the woman in question. In doing so Goei and Yap change her from an antagonist into a victim of circumstance. Here the true villain is not the sanguineous ghost but the man condemning her to said fate. Just like how Inhuman Kiss (2019) was a coming of age story and doomed romance wrapped in Thai folklore this is a tragedy masquerading as a vintage ghost horror. What Suzzanna: Buried Alive (2019) did for Indonesian horror Revenge Of the Pontianak does a concerted effort to the bring old school sensibilities to contemporary horror cinema. It might not be exactly tense but it certainly looks and sounds the part

Malaysia, 1965. In a small kampong young aristocrats Khalid (Remy Ishak) and Siti (Shenty Felizaina) are preparing for their wedding. On the day of the ceremony his brother Reza (Hisyam Hamid) and his wife Aisha (Nadiah m Din) welcome Siti to the family. Also present is Khalid’s 9-year-old son Nik (Nik Harraz Danish) as well as his old friend Rais (Tony Eusoff). At the party Rais courts wedding singer Ida (Nadia Aqilah) and before long the two are in each other’s arms. On the way home Rais and Ida encounter the silhouette of a woman standing in the distance. Back in the kampong Nik claims he caught the glimpse of a ghost in the jungle around the house. Khalid brushes it off as childish imagination and retreats to the bedroom with Siti. He has a rude awakening the next morning when he sees the mutilated corpse of Rais strung up in a banana tree. “Darkness has descended upon this village,” dukun/bomoh (shaman) Su’ut Din (Shahili Abdan, as Namron) ominously intones striking mortal dread into the hearts of the superstitious villagers. Village elder Penghulu (Wan Hanafi Su) encourages the villagers to remain calm until the perpetrator is brought to justice.

At night Khalid is haunted by recurring nightmares and Nik is drawn to a comforting, familiar voice emanating from the nearby jungle. When small infants suddenly fall into inexplicable sickness, dogs devolve into fits of barking and a foul smell starts to permeate the air Su’ut Din fears the worst. It is not until Reza shows signs of possession and briefly speaks in tongues that it dawns upon Khalid that his sordid past has finally caught up with the blissful present. His erratic behavior forces Siti and Reza to corner him to come clean about his youthful indiscretions. The Pontianak is a maiden by the name of Mina (Nur Fazura) who Khalid was arranged to marry some nine years earlier in 1956. At the dawn of Malay Independence he reneged his vows and send her packing to Singapore. When she returned a year later she not only expected him to marry her but also to sire the child she was carrying in her womb. He’s soon to learn that Nik (to paraphrase Shakespeare in the Merchant Of Venice) “for the sins of (his) father, though guiltless, must suffer" and that ghosts of the past sometimes are indeed quite literal ghosts. Who or what will be able to repel the fury of an undead woman scorned?

If anything Revenge Of the Pontianak is custodian to some absolutely idyllic cinematography and locations on top of being masterfully scripted and tightly-paced. Each of the six main characters has a classic Arabic, Persian or Egyptian name corresponding with their designated archetype or function. The women are uniformly and universally beautiful. Nur Fazura gets to wear some beautiful pastel-colored robes and in each of her scenes she wears a different color reflecting her state of mind. In that capacity she can be seen in shades of green and yellow. Later when she’s turned into a Pontianak her red sari turns white as her hair loosens and fingernails grow. Some might recognize the Chinese sleep chant that Siti sings to Nik as Coldplay used it as a coda to ‘Yes’ on their “Viva la Vida! Or Death and All his Friends” album. Wicked tongues might claim that Revenge Of the Pontianak is hardly ever scary (and they would be right) but at no point does it ever promise anything else. This is a drama first and foremost – and any and all horror elements are secondary at best. The fact that Revenge Of the Pontianak goes to such incredible lengths to humanize its monster is just what makes it so interesting than any run off the mill Asian ghost horror. At heart Revenge Of the Pontianak is a human interest drama about a dysfunctional family – and that it just so happens to pay tribute to the life and work of Maria Menado is a neat bonus.

Glen Goei and Gavin Yap’s maiden foray into horror is one of unexpected surprises and benefits. Coming to the genre from the realm of comedy and drama the two bring that human touch to a genre usually bereft of such finesse and subtlety. Perhaps that is why Revenge of the Pontianak focuses so much on the romance and places the concept of the scorned woman up, front and center. After all what else was the parable of the Pontianak in Malay folklore than a dire warning to all men to keep their spiel in their pants and stay faithful to their wives? It’s also refreshing that for once the Pontianak is portrayed as the victim and that the woman for whence she came is not vilified for her alleged wrongdoings. Mina is by far the most sympathetic character and Khalid - no matter how you spin it - is an egocentric, opportunistic, entitled douche canoe of the highest order that so richly deserves the royal, infernal comeuppance he’s given. As the obedient, subservient wife Shenty Felizaina is pretty much an enchantingly robed nonentity until the third act when she suddenly becomes a key component in the resolution; and as the voice of reason Hisyam Hamid portrays the only male character worth rooting for. The uncontested star of Revenge Of the Pontianak is Nur Fazura. Fazura is able to convey so much with what for all intents and purposes is very little. Her final scene alone is the ideal showcase of her incredible range as an actress. That she’s barely known in the Western world says enough about our collective ignorance.

Revenge Of the Pontianak is neither a direct remake nor a tribute in the way Suzanna: Buried Alive (2018) was to the life and work of Suzzanna. While it captures the essence of what made the Maria Menado Pontianak horrors so timeless this never is a tribute to her specifically. Instead it touches upon a variety of human interest topics including, but not limited to, the importance of family, the place of women in society in Southeast Asia (specifically Malaysia and Singapore); the importance of religion, folklore and superstition; the Islamization of what then was still a Buddhist nation, the incursion of first world modernity upon third world nations - and what greater example of the ill effects of rampant toxic masculinity? It’s hardly a feminist manifesto or anything but the Pontianak is the central character here – and it are the women who play a pivotal role in the eventual resolution. That being as it may Revenge Of the Pontianak is not some great vanguard of innovation. Asian ghost horror is too limited in its conventions to really allow for much innovation or deconstruction. Like We Are Not Alone (2016) and Verónica (2017) before it Revenge Of the Pontianak is at its best when it focuses on the human aspect, although at least here the ghost is something different.