Color, 1977, 90 mins. 18 secs. / 72 mins. 47 secs.
Directed by John Coats
Macdonald Carey, Jerry Hardin, Jane Wiley, Alan Blanchard, Gregory Clemens Garagehouse Pictures (Blu-ray) (US R0 HD) / WS (1.78:1) (16:9)
The indie horror and sci-fi scene in the 1970s was filled with oddities that seemed to spring up out of nowhere. Sometimes shot on 16mm and blown up for 35mm exhibition, titles like Equinox, The Giant Spider Invasion, or The Alien Factor were the kind of thing that could catch a dedicated fan off guard in the right frame of mind. Definitely in line with that tradition is the 1977 California-shot Foes, a one-shot directorial effort for future Hollywood visual effects supervisor John Coats. As much a dreamy art film as a genre piece, it's also a calling card for his skills given the ambitious and often striking nature of the effects on display as it depicts a coastal alien invasion in simple but creepy cinematic terms.
When a flying saucer causes a sudden engagement with the military over the coast of California, maneuvers are put into place to find it anywhere in the vicinity courtesy of McCarey (Carey) and General Mason (The X-Files' Hardin). Attempts to evacuate the closest island of Pershing prove to be complicated when the craft hovers immobile in the air outside a lighthouse near the home of ranger Larry (Coats) and his wife, Diane (Wiley). With the beach area surrounded by fog and a strange electromagnetic force field preventing anyone from coming their aid, the the couple, along with a pair of skin divers (Slithis' Blanchard and Clemens) who didn't get the warning in time, are left to fend for themselves against alien invaders that can burn anyone to a crisp.
Though it may not be overflowing with budgetary resources or powerhouse acting, Foes makes a strong impression instead through its melancholy, isolated beach atmosphere and sense of lingering doom, which was even stronger in Coats' preferred 72-minute cut of the film before the distributor decided to add the 17 minutes of military footage that adds a little bit of name value and a whole lot of chatter. Either way though it's a strangely haunting little film, particularly when it occasionally turns into a hallucinatory light show that wouldn't be out of place in something like Phase IV.
Barely released anywhere outside of a minor British run from Satan's Slave distributor Brent Walker and U.S. TV airings, Foes got the special edition Blu-ray treatment in 2019 from Garagehouse Pictures in an edition that sheds quite a bit of light on how it came to be. The transfer looks great considering the released version of the film is clearly a patchwork of 16mm footage (the bulk of it) blown up to the 35mm with native 35mm for the military scenes. The DTS-HD MA English mono 1.0 track sounds quite nice for what amounts to a fairly simple mix outside of the throbbing electronic score (which, incredibly, earned a vinyl release). A new audio commentary by Coats is fairly low-key and features a lot of dead space, but he sheds a fair amount of light on how the film was made with a lot of scrambling for funds and attempts to wring as much production value as possible out of the available resources including the great island locations. And believe it or not, they originally went after Orson Welles to star. Also included is his original shorter cut, which might be a better option for first-time viewers since it cuts to the chase a whole lot faster. A bonus short film by Coats, Tales of L.A. (17m20s), features him starring again in an episodic look at how a prospective drug deal in the City of Angels sends some young men bouncing on a nocturnal journey across town, complete with some great B&W gritty footage of the streets in their '70s prime. Also included on the disc (which comes with new cover art by Stephen Romano) are a photo gallery of production shots and promotional items, plus bonus trailers for Ninja Busters, The Intruder, The Dismembered, The Satanist, Trailer Trauma, and Trailer Trauma 2.