(1998, SciFi/Drama, color)
Bill Corbett and Mary Jo Pehl
The movie so dry it actually cleans up spills and messes.
In a nutshell:
Iconic FBI investigators of the supernatural run around and mumble.
How do you summarize a film constructed solely of dry, disjointed, paranoid nonsense? Would you just lay out the events in sequential order, allowing the reader to draw his own conclusions? It seems to me that writing sentences like, “A caveman fights an alien in prehistory Texas, leading to the explosion of a government building in modern-day Dallas” would lead the average reader to assume that I’m some sort of kook. Then again, you might look at the hundreds of thousands of words on this site relating to MST3K and its offspring and draw that conclusion that anyway. Perhaps I’d better just press on.
FBI agents Mulder (David Duchovny) and Scully (Gillian Anderson) found the bomb in a soda machine and were unable to prevent it from going off, leading to the deaths of several firemen and one child, leading to an investigation into their competence. Scully contemplates quitting the bureau while Mulder takes advice from a conspiracy nut named Kurtzweil (Martin Landau). On Kurtzweil’s advice, Mulder and Scully break into a government morgue to examine the bodies of their alleged victims, discovering that they actually died of exposure to a virus that eats the bodies of its victims from the inside, gestating ravenous alien babies that then infect others to reproduce themselves and so on.
Yes, I know I’ve gotten pretty far ahead of the movie. Mulder and Scully don’t discover this until much later, but I don’t have the patience for this “gradually revealed mystery” nonsense, especially when all the important parts of the mystery are either frustratingly obvious or maddeningly non sequitur. But I digress.
Kurtzweil gives them one more tip before outliving his usefulness, sending them to Texas where alien sympathizers work in concert with secret government organizations to cover up the discovery of the virus released by the alien/caveman altercation many millennia before. (See how it all fits together? See? See!) This is where the supposed bomb victims actually died. The implication is that the conspirators blew up the building on purpose to hide the bodies. Our intrepid heroes follow tanker trucks filled with conspirators through the night to a cornfield with unlocked lighted domes filled with virus-impregnated bees.
(It makes total sense in context, I swear!)
(If you believed that last parenthetical remark, I have the deed to a prominent New England bridge that’s available for sale or lease at reasonable terms.)
They escape and return to their hearing in Washington D.C. This does not go well, in a vague, Salt Lake City-ish sort of way. Mulder and Scully meet for what they assume to be the last time after the FBI Powers That Be dissolve their partnership, but an alien virus bee has hidden in the collar of Scully’s suit, waiting all this time to sting her. Conspirators swoop in and snatch her up in the guise of paramedics, shooting Mulder in the head when he tries to intervene.
Meanwhile, Cigarette Smoking Man, Well-Manicured Man and a variety of Heavily Accented Mans meet to have a vague discussion about recent vague events. Well-Manicured Man takes vague issue with their vague decision and vaguely rebels against his vague, alien-sympathizing cabal. With Kurtzweil too dead to propel the plot any further, Well-Manicured Man gives the wounded Mulder coordinates and a cure for the virus before killing himself and his chauffeur.
Mulder follows the coordinates to an Antarctic base on top of an alien spaceship. He discovers Scully in an alien breeding pod and gives her the cure, which revives her while somehow contaminating all the other alien breeding pods on the ship. The conspirators flee while our heroes extricate themselves from the ship just in time to see it fly off into space.
In the denouement, Scully triumphantly presents the hearing committee with virally damaged bone fragments and an alien virus bee. Apparently confused into submission, the committee head allows her to renew her partnership with Mulder and reopen the X-Files.
Let me see if I understand. The alien conspirators want to hide the bodies of several alien virus victims, but rather than doing something discrete—like, say, burning the corpses—they decide to draw attention to it by bombing the government building that houses them. Then they try to deflect attention away from themselves by framing the one man who both a) believes they exist and b) has the resources to investigate them. If they want what I think they want—what this sequence of events seems to indicate that they want—then it would have been a whole lot cheaper in terms of manpower and resources to just take an ad out in a national newspaper explaining the details of their plot against humanity. Maybe throw up a website allowing people to submit comments and suggestions on their plan to sell out all mankind to murderous extraterrestrials.
But seriously, if they want Mulder dead, why don’t they just kill him? Not even Scully believes him—at least, not until they abducted her and held her captive in an alien saucer. (Good one, guys). There was some talk of terminating him at the Meeting of Vagueness, but then someone said that they can’t because they would risk “turning one man’s crusade into an obsession.” What does that even mean? That Mulder would somehow become even more obsessed after his death? Last time they met, Mulder probably said, “You can’t win, Cigarette Smoking Man. If you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you can possibly imagine.”
This particular Rifftrax Presents commentary reunites Bill “Brain Guy” Corbett and Mary Jo “Pearl Forrester” Pehl. Mary Jo always sounds like she’s pleased as can be to make fun of horrible cinema, and passes this on to Bill to some extent. Early on, Bill acknowledges Mulder’s poor diction and Scully’s uptight demeanor with “Mumbles and Sister Pete, they’re cops!” As our staid, deadpan heroes stare solemnly at a passing train, Mary Jo says, “I never believed trains existed... until now.” When Mulder breaks into the alien ship at the end and sees pods full of alien virus victims, Bill shouts, “The truth is made from people!” This dry, flavorless, nonsensical film would be frustrating to watch for anyone not already invested in the characters. Fortunately this is one of those cases where superior, consistently funny commentary lifts the movie up to make it far, far funnier than it deserves to be. This is the best Rifftrax Presents track thus far.
(1998, SciFi/Drama, color)