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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