Peter’s Retro Movie Reviews: The Killings At Outpost Zeta (1980)

May 15, 2012

The Killings at Outpost Zeta (1980) Movie posterby Peter Nielsen

This week, ladies and gentlemen, I’ve found an obscure little sci-fi thriller for you. I’ll bet most of you haven’t even heard of it, much less actually seen it. It’s an extremely low-budget movie, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it has to be a bad one, right? In this case, however… it does, because The Killings at Outpost Zeta is by no means a good movie. Oh, no, no, no… far from it! The premise is ok though and I actually thought the alien landscape looked pretty decent. But let us dive into the story now, shall we?

The rocky and inhospitable planet Zeta is a strategically important one for Earth, so they send an expedition of “Pathfinders” to prepare it for colonization. When contact is suddenly lost, a second expedition is sent to investigate and the movie opens just as contact is lost with the THIRD expedition too. It’s supposed to be a tense scene, but the cutting and the BAD acting almost makes it look like a parody on itself.

And Holy Crap… Who the hell holds a mug like that whilst drinking from it? The movie has barely started and I’m already laughing out loud to myself. It’s decided to send a FOURTH team to find out what the hell IS happening on that Godforsaken planet. The colonization is to begin within six months, so time is short.

What follows is an introduction of the team-members, with their open files being thrown onto a table, one on top of the other. Cue the theme-music from the TV-show Mission Impossible because that’s how it plays out. There actually is a drum-beat type of music playing over this scene! I kid you not! I mean, come ON! Really? How the hell could this movie EVER scare the crap out of me? Wait… What? “Scare the crap out of me”? Yeah, just hold on… I’ll get to that, ok?

Walking through a barren landscape...

Walking through a barren landscape…

We then get to meet the crew and get the basic lowdown of the mission before setting off for Zeta. On their way they intercept a small rocket containing a message sent from the last survivor on the planet. It’s a warning not to send more people and to basically abandon the “Zeta-project”. A bit late for that now!

The ship sets down on the surface and the crew walks through a barren and very inhospitable landscape to the Zeta station. But they’re not alone here, as we see, in first person perspective, someone watching them. At the station they find the bodies of the previous teams, all dead and “emptied” out. The newcomers immediately begin an investigation but unfortunately for them, time is not on their side and they very quickly start to get killed off one by one.

The Killings at Outpost Zeta had two directors, Robert Emenegger and Allan Sandler and I haven’t heard of either of them. The same goes for the cast… never heard of them! Well, maybe Jackson Bostwick who played Captain Marvel on the TV-show Shazam! from the mid 70’s and Jacqueline Ray who was married to Tom Selleck for a while.

To call them actors might be stretching it a bit because the acting is absolutely non-existing and in the scenes where they DO show emotions, they over-act more than Jim Carrey on a sugar-rush! And I actually like Mr. Carrey! The sets are small and the way they’re shot (unintentionally, I’ll bet) makes them look cramped and slightly claustrophobic.

It looks like the camera is right smack in the middle of the action and to its defense THAT is actually kind of effective. It gives it a bit of a frantic feel. Their weapons are nothing more than red plastic tubes with black and white stripes running along their sides and they LOOK as light as I imagine they really are. And neither the prop department nor the actors has put, or puts any real effort into making them look “real”.

A collage of images from the movie

A collage of images from the movie

The “volcanic rock monsters” are only shown in wide shots or in extreme close-ups, so we only get glimpses of them and the killings are only shown through the creatures’ P.O.V. The reason for this is of course monetary. They had no budget to spend on a “realistic-looking” monster, so this was, God help us, the best they could do I suppose. Had they had a bigger budget I actually think this could have been ok.

You’re probably wondering why I chose this flick to review, right? There’s a pretty simple reason for it and that is that I have a vivid memory of watching it, even though I’ve only seen it once before. That time was way back in 1982 and we were on vacation, visiting my grandparents in Denmark, as we were pretty frequently back then. Danish television showed The Killings at Outpost Zeta as part of a series of movies in the thriller/horror genre.

One other was a werewolf-flick called Death Moon starring Robert Foxworth and Joe Penny, which I also remember watching. I don’t remember the others and I probably didn’t watch them either. As I stated earlier, The Killings at Outpost Zeta scared the crap out of me and I kept my poor dad up for most of the night, because as I remember, I was afraid to even close my eyes. He was a very patient man, my dad was. Bless his heart!

As for what it was that scared me that bad, I can honestly say that after watching it again… I have no idea! If I had to take a guess, I’d say that it was probably the death scenes seen through the monster’s eyes. They really ARE quite effective and I can see why they would appear scary to a kid.

Especially a young and easily affected one! But before you start calling me a wuss and Mr. Scaredypants, I must tell you that I’ve read up on this movie on the internet and… uhm, apparently I’m NOT the only one being scared shitless by it. So there!

The Killings at Outpost Zeta is not a complete piece of crap, but it is damn close and I have to say that I actually ENJOYED watching it again, since I’ve only seen it that one time before.

So until next time my friends… I would LOVE to hear if any of YOU have seen it and, if so… What did you think about it?

UPDATE! I still couldn’t find a trailer for this movie, but I did however find the entire movie uploaded on YouTube and decided to post it here for your viewing pleasure!

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10 comments on “Peter’s Retro Movie Reviews: The Killings At Outpost Zeta (1980)

  1. I too remember the Killings at Outpost Zeta (or Farlig Planet as it was called in Danish). I was also pretty scared but I was only 10 at the time.
    The other movies by the way was Farlig Mission (Once upon a spy – USA 1980) and Farlig Frist (Deadline – Australian TV movie 1982). I also remember seing SST: Death Flight at around the same time.

    • Peter Nielsen Feb 28, 2014

      Hi, Flemming
      Thank you for commenting on this forgotten movie! Though I knew others had seen it, I never thought I’d actually get to have a “chat” with someone who had, let alone someone from my home-country! 🙂
      And also… thank you very much for refreshing my memory of the other movies as well. After checking up on both “Once Upon A Spy” and “Deadline”, I do have memories of watching those too, especially the labyrinth scene in “Once Upon A Spy”. As for “SST: Death Flight”… though it does seem vaguely familiar, I’m not sure about actually watching it.
      Again, thank you for commenting and be sure to check in again, if you like.

  2. Dear Nielsen,
    I just watched this movie on youtube then looked for any reviews on the movie, and found yours. It’s acting and script are akin to Captain Scarlet and New Captain Scarlet, animation series, which I also have been watching on youtube. This is more like a low budget tv movie, but it is not so bad as some of the rubbish on tv these days. It is also like an episode of the original Start Trek series, The Horta. I liked it, the actors did not look like they had not washed for two years, and as stilted as the dialogue was it was not a series of grunts and the “f” word. As for the scary bits, well I never watch those even now when I am closer to 60 than 50. Some of the scenes are reminiscent of Aliens, so someone thought it was worth watching and copying! Thank you for posting your review on this movie and one more comment. Most of the movies these days are based on comic strips and the dialogue, plot and acting reflects that, this movie has nothing to be sorry about.

  3. Dear Peter Nielsen, sorry I missed the Peter in my previous comment.
    The episode of Star Trek is “The Devil in the Dark” and the creature is called the “Horta”.
    Thank you again for you interesting review, I enjoyed it.

    • Peter Nielsen Mar 3, 2014

      Hi Lyn
      Thank you very much for your kind words and for commenting.
      I’m a Star Trek fan and has seen the episode you mention, and yes… I suppose you could say there are some similarities. Never thought of that! I need to go back and check that particular episode again. 🙂

  4. Carlos Jun 22, 2014

    I saw this movie in Argentina in 1985, when I was a kid, and it scared me a lot, too. When the internet come, I tried to identify the name of the movie, and only a week ago I was able to find which movie it was.

    It wes very cool to see it again, altought I don´t know why I was so scared back then.

    It has a very strong 50´s vibe. So for a while I thinked it was a movie made in the fifties.

    • Peter Nielsen Jun 26, 2014

      Hi Carlos
      Thank you for your comment! I’m glad to hear you finally managed to identify the title of the movie AND that you still liked it, when you watched it again. 🙂

  5. I don’t have too much to add about this, other than that Boards of Canada used a screenshot from the movie as the cover to their release Twoism (1995). Sorry bout that.

  6. Sergi Dec 17, 2014

    Dear Peter,

    I’ve just found the movie…and watched while I’m working doing translations..and..shame on me….but I like it…it is very funny to see what some people is capable of filming with no money..:-)))
    Bty, I have also discovered your website….you have a new fan..thank you!

    • Peter Nielsen Dec 19, 2014

      Hi Sergi
      I’m happy you enjoyed the movie, even though it’s not one of the best movies ever made! 😉
      I’m also glad that we have a new fan of the FF site… Please leave comments on some of our other movie-reviews too, if you like; we love hearing from other movie-fans, like yourself.
      Thank you! 🙂

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