Welcome to Cult Corner where we dive through the bargain bins to determine if a movie is trash or treasure. Today’s pick… Matt Hastings’ Decoys.
Part Invasion of the Body Snatchers and part Can’t Hardly Wait, Decoys follows Luke and Roger, a couple of college freshmen as they go head to head with some gorgeous blonde space aliens. No sooner does Luke get a quick glimpse of their tentacles than the bodies start piling up. These are no normal remains though as they show up completely frozen solid.
The thing with movies like these is that you don’t need to reinvent the wheel to make something worthwhile and for the most part Decoys succeeds. This is a horror comedy and for at least the first half plays out like a standard late 90s teen party flick including some pretty extravagant sorority gatherings. The cast does a good job with this and all feel like they’re having fun with their roles. There are several times where I legitimately laughed out loud, including a few slapstick moments that I found funnier than I’d like to admit. In the second half it starts to go in a direction closer to that of Night of the Creeps, one liners and all.
The cast of this movie is really strong. Corey Sevier plays Luke, the one who spends most of the movie trying to convince those around him that these women are aliens. He plays the part well and it comes off feeling a lot like Charlie from Fright Night. Elias Toufexis plays Roger, Luke’s roommate and your basic horny college dude. He’s the sex comedy sidekick to a ‘T’ and does the comic relief thing really well. Meghan Ory is also pretty strong as Alex, the clearly gorgeous brunette friend of Luke who he doesn’t realize is gorgeous because she’s “just one of the guys.” As you can tell these characters fall pretty firmly into these teen comedy archetypes, but what makes them all special is how the movie plays on these archetypes and twists them. Luke becomes obsessive to a scary degree, Roger’s obsessed with sex but is still a virgin and wants his first time to be special, and hell even Stefanie von Pfetten and Kim Poirier as the alien babes are more fleshed out than you’d expect. They have actual human thoughts and emotions despite being killing machines.
This change up is one of my favorite aspects of the movie. The way it subverts the audience’s expectations and plays with the existing cliches and archetypes is a really interesting turn. For the first half I sat there thinking that it was a pretty funny albeit straight forward b movie that doesn’t take itself seriously, but once we get into the later stuff and it starts to take some risks is where the movie had me. I’m not going to spoil some of the places it goes, but let’s just say it gets a lot darker and paints everyone in shades of grey. That’s not to say the script is perfect however, because it’s not. The first act feels a bit rushed. We get to the action really quick, but there’s a few characters that are introduced rather unceremoniously and it kind of feels like there are scenes flat out missing. There’s also more than a few inconsistencies and leaps in logic. Luke knows these girls are aliens but seems to forget that whenever it’s convenient to the plot. I’m also not totally crazy about the very end of the movie and I wish they pushed some of the ideas that were brought up a bit further, but it wasn’t a deal breaker.
I do have to mention that the film looks really good as well. It’s low budget, but this isn’t another b movie that just seems like it was filmed on a cell phone. It’s directed well and there are more than a few pretty inventive shots including one from inside somebody’s mouth. The alien girls have tentacles that come out and thrash around like something out of The Thing. They’re completely CGI and while this isn’t the best CGI it’s hidden well, either appearing in very quick glimpses, in the dark, or as a shadow on the wall. The aliens themselves appear in full CGI from time to time as well, but these instances are brief. The actual design of the aliens is nice and when they’re a practical effect it looks good, but those moments are also few and far between.
Overall, Decoys surprised the hell out of me. It’s a pretty standard B movie with a sci-fi horror plot that sets itself up as something incredibly cliche, but twists around on what you’d expect. The comedy works a bit better than the horror and the cast all do a great job, despite somewhat of a messy script. Matt Hastings has a couple other low budget movies under his belt as well as a myriad of episodes from various tv shows, and I’m really curious to see more from him, now.
Here at Cult Corner we cover the weird and obscure. Given the low budget that these movies often have we feel the need to recognize that entertainment value and quality aren’t always synonymous. That’s why we have opted for the “trash or treasure” approach in lieu of a typical rating system. After all, Troll 2 is incredibly entertaining but it’s no 8 out of 10.