It’s ironic that Full Moon’s two biggest stars — in the literal sense — are easily their most obscure. You’d think it’d be the various puppets, living cookies, and miniature space cops that would fall into the cracks, not two titanic lizard monsters. But dig a little deeper into the monster sized shit pile that is Full Moon’s library and you’ll find a drunken movie night’s double feature waiting to happen. The first half being Zarkorr! The Invader.
ZARKORR! THE INVADER
USA, 1996, Michael Deak & Aaron Osborne
The story is simple, snarky, and facilitates plenty of cardboard buildings getting punched over. It’s about a mailman named Tommy Ward whose home is invaded by the obligatory Full Moon tiny woman — in this case a holographic representation of an alien AI — who drops a five megaton truth bomb. Tommy is the most average human being on the planet Earth. No, that’s not a turn of phrase, dude is literally the most bland motherfucker in existence with no discernible skills or traits. This makes him the perfect candidate for an intergalactic test to see if humans are worth a shit to any all powerful aliens who might have cool space stuff to share with us. His only hint is that the monster’s destruction lies within the beast itself. Armed with vague alien advice and the knowledge that Zarkorr is programmed to make a b-line in his direction, Tommy heads out to do everything he can to stop a giant monster and save Earth.
By that I mean he holds up a news station with a pistol, takes a scientist hostage, and has a stand off with the police. This leads to possibly the funniest scene in the movie. I don’t wanna spoil it, but the sight of two cops scared of a guy going postal on a science lady while one of them ties the magical space fairy Tommy is babbling about to every conspiracy theory available at the time really sells the movie’s tone. Eventually Tommy and his semi-willing hostage enlist the ability of a pro hacker and conspiracy cop to find out what the space Barbie was trying to tell him and destroy the monster. Nothing special, but the tone is really different for a monster movie and I kinda love it.
If you can’t tell from the above write up, Zarkorr(!) is a cynical movie. The most average every-man in the world is told he has a massive chance of failing and letting humanity get eradicated by a space lizard by a pixie. Dude is so desperate he kidnaps a woman at gunpoint because she seems to have minute knowledge of how the monster might work, and the only reason he gets away with it is because he happened to get a cop who’s absolutely insane on his tail. In the end the heroes accomplish what they do due to sheer luck and accidental problem solving. That’s what makes it so cool, though. There’s a dark comedic tone to the whole thing that’s really hard to compare to any other movie in the genre. If I had to make a comparison, I’d say the US script for Godzilla 2000 comes close. It’s not often that giant monster movies strike a good balance between the goofs and gaffes and earth-shattering destruction, usually the scale tips one way or the other just enough to change the feel of a movie. So despite its low budget and the seams in its suit, it’s a fun story with likable characters and sharp dialogue. Cool stuff.
But it’s a giant monster movie, so fuck the last three or four paragraphs, story doesn’t matter. But, again, despite its pedigree, Zarkorr manages to go above and beyond and deliver a fun monster movie. If you watch the trailer for Zarkorr and its sister film Kraa! The Sea Monster, it’d be easy to assume the movies aren’t much more than poorly green-screened dives away from a rubber suited beast on a sound stage. That’s fairly accurate, and unfortunately Kraa, despite not being quite as cool a movie, seemed to win the draw on the budget, because Zarkorr appears almost exclusively at night and the walls of the stage seem like they’re closing in. It looks rough and it sucks because Kraa gets a fair amount of daytime screen time if memory serves. But the suit is cool and the miniatures look okay and explode nicely, which makes sense considering one of the directors still works in special effects for much, much bigger movies.
Whether you’re a fan of Full Moon or kaiju, Zarkorr is a great movie. It’s not too often you see non-Japanese monster movies going down the practical effects route so it’s nice to see what lower budget suit makers can achieve when they really set their minds to it. I’ll leave you with a fun bit of trivia. Fans of pretty much any cartoon or video game ever: you may recognize veteran voice actor Steve Blum’s sultry tones as a radio host in the movie. Not only does his voice appear, but when I asked him about it on Twitter a few years back he mentioned that he also doubled for the lead in one of the final scenes. So check out Zarkorr to see Steve Blum try to be a stunt man.