Young-doo Oh’s second film. Invasion of Alien Bikini, was a film that I missed at last year’s Fantastic Fest. At first it made me a wee bit sad, considering I tend to have a soft spot for strange Asian cinema, especially when it comes to South Korean film. But then I heard nothing at all about this film from my colleagues at the festival, which confused me. Even the horrible films (like Human Centipede II) had people waxing poetically about their horribleness, but this film had nobody talking. Which worried me toward the end of the festival and prompted me not to throw it on my ticket list of films I had to catch up with.
Flash forward 5 months later and the Portland International Film Festival was doing a screening of it and it landed on my doorstep for review. And after viewing it, I felt lucky that I didn’t divulge in my curiosity in September at the famed Alamo Drafthouse to see it with other film fans. This was one of the poorer films I’ve seen in quite some time, not because of ineptitude but because of sheer waste of a cool concept that truly goes nowhere. And for a film with a 75 minute running time, I kept looking at the info screen on the DVD to see how much more time I had left to go in this film.
Going into this film as blindly as possible was the best and worst case scenario. I knew nothing of the plot but just the title itself and the country of origin. Right away I knew it wouldn’t be the hyper gore-filled nonsense of the new wave of Japanese extreme films (such as Machine Girl and Tokyo Gore Police), but with this title promising an ‘alien bikini’, I thought this might be a sex-filled genre film. Instead we have a ‘hero of the city’ who is out on patrol, sees a young pretty woman getting attacked by a group of men, and he goes in to rescue her. With some of the more poor (yet, realistic) fight scenes I’ve seen before, he brings her back to his place so she can rest from her attack.
Unknown to our hero Young-gun (played by Young Geun Hong in a wasted role, even with his manly fake mustache), Monica (the beautiful Eun-Jung Ha) is an alien on the run and has a limited time to survive to procreate with a male. She needs the ‘sperms’ of a man and will stop at nothing to acquire them. This all sounds like it could be a fun time at the movies, but what I got instead were very slow scenes (especially one not so exciting Jenga scene that felt much longer than it was) that really feel like they go nowhere. It’s a shame because the two main leads have some chops and I hope to see them again in a film, but this sci-fi romantic comedy feels like it skimps on all of those genres and throws in a healthy dose of torture in its short running time. It had a feeling of too many ideas and not enough enforcement in them. Any sort of dread or sadness we’re supposed to feel is tacked on just because the characters are trying to show it to the audience. There’s no build up for us to truly feel anything for this hero or this possibly wronged alien being body hopping to keep itself alive.
A film called Invasion of Alien Bikini should have some sort of quirk to it. Or is that too much to ask? This film felt like a perfect one to throw on and have a good time, but at certain points, it didn’t even feel like anybody was having fun. I’ve been told already that I missed the point of the film and I should have just ‘had fun with it’. I tried that and won’t blame a bout with pneumonia as perhaps tainting my time with this film. I won’t be revisiting this anytime soon and also can’t recommend it to anyone either. Here’s hoping the next Young-doo Oh film has a sense to reign in a few of the ideas that got away from him in this one.
Previously was featured on CriterionCast for PIFF 2012 coverage. You can see more at www.criterioncast.com