Screening Log #67: Inseminoid (1981)

Written by Nick Maley and Gloria Maley
Directed by Norman J. Warren
Starring Judy Geeson, Robin Clark, and Stephanie Beachem

 

 

 

From the very dawn of its self-awareness, humankind has been, on some basic and intrinsic level, entirely creeped out by the idea of reproduction. The notion that there can be an organism of you, but most definitely not you, gestating inside your body, feeding off your food, growing, always growing, is a very peculiar horror, at once immediately personal and universally human – as long as you’re female, anyway, or residing in your own personal hell playing Schwarzenegger’s role in Ivan Reitman’s Junior. Being that this gendered horror plays an essential role in the propagation of our species, it falls to the male to construct scenarios through which an understanding of this experience may be gained. The xenomorphs that populate Ridley Scott’s Alien and its cinematic progeny, for example, gestate in any old warm body, exploding chests regardless of the sort of accompanying mammary gland atop it.

Norman J. Warren’s Inseminoid (Horror Planet in America) seems to largely lift the conceit of its horror from Scott’s picture, and its scenario broadly predicts the scenario of his Prometheus (which, in the spirit of disclosure, I must hang my head for having still not seen). A group of scientists have descended on an alien planet to study the ruins of an ancient civilization based on duality whose planet orbits a binary star and was ruled by a pair of twins. From the outset the film schematizes itself along the lines of gender, along the concept that two distinct identities are joined in their mutual reliance on one another to continue life. The exploration of the ruins naturally comes to catastrophic result, with an expedition to recover strange crystals from inside a cave leads to an explosion which renders one member catatonic. Following this, another crew member is affected by the crystals, which seem to have their own intelligent will, to re-enter the caves and destabilize the station’s atmospheric controls. This leads to a strange chase scene and an even stranger moment when crew member Gail, Rosalind Lloyd, has her foot caught while her suit is compromised. Rather than attempting to rationally escape, Gail panics and opens her suit while simultaneously trying to relieve herself of her foot with the aid of a chainsaw.

Following the resolution to these events, two other crew members enter into the caves to obtain more crystals and are attacked by an alien creature that kills the male and attacks Sandy, Judy Geeson, in a manner that suggests rape. Sandy is impregnated via what looks to be a giant clear straw and some equally giant and seriously out-of-date bubble tea, despite being of a different species from the alien attacker. Sandy is then brought back to the station with the rest of the crew and proceeds to lose her mind as the alien creatures inside her grow at an accelerated rate. Sandy goes about dispatching the remainder of the crew in variously gory and cheesy fashions, whittling them down until she is left with her prior paramour, Mark, Robin Clark, and Kate, Stephanie Beacham. Sandy endures a relatively gross and low-rent birthing process before moving on to attack the remaining crew members. The film ends with a coda taking place a month from the climax of the film and carries an unsurprising twist regarding the alien twins birthed by Sandy.

The film’s general aesthetic is shoddy, its acting – with the exception of Geeson – ranging from mediocre to poor, its set design looks cheap and its effects, while suitably gross, suffer as well from the limited scope and economics of the project. Warren employs visual tricks, such as a fish-eye lens at several points, in an attempt to mask the smallness of the set. In other places he works to misdirect the viewer from the film’s shortcomings; his direction moves the action along briskly enough that one is unable to linger on any particularly poor element for too long before something else crops up. This pace keeps the film mildly entertaining if not entirely well constructed and put off. There is also a certain amount of camp humour to be mined from the proceedings, should one be so inclined.

Written by a married couple, Nick & Gloria Maley, Inseminoid‘s decision to apply its science fiction conceit of forced pregnancy to a female alone both limits and complicates what the film is able to achieve. It is unable to open its exploration of the horror of generating otherness beyond traditionally familiar gender roles and its depiction of a pregnant woman – even if she’s impregnated by an alien rapist – as a murderous and unhinged maniac is problematic to say the least. Perhaps, though, there is a certain maximal logic working behind the decision. Once one accepts the paternal figure involved in the generation of a child as an other, carrying it out to include an alien life form is a logical extension of otherness.

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