In Slava Tsukerman’s ‘Liquid Sky’ (1982) tiny aliens come to New York city in a little flying saucer looking for heroin only to discover a better source of drug might be the crystalline residue excreted by bi-sexual nymphomaniac fashion models as they reach orgasm during sex. “Oooh, sounds like ‘*batteries not included’ (1987) directed by David Cronenberg,” I thought. “This should be pretty interesting.”
And ‘Liquid Sky’ starts out pretty promisingly as post-punk, new-wave types dance and drug it up in a Studio 54 kinda place whilst a UFO secretly lands on an apartment belonging to model and cocaine addict Margaret. Margaret comes under constant hassle by men, abusing her for either drugs or sex. However, Margaret soon discovers that anyone she has sex with ends up dead with a crystal protruding from the back of their head. Meanwhile, a German scientist is attempting to observe the aliens from the building opposite as he theorises the mysterious entities are not after heroin but the endorphins released by the brain during sexual climax. It’s not long before the drugs start flowing, people start fucking and the bodies start piling up.
On paper ‘Liquid Sky’ looked great, a sort of mash-up (roughly speaking of course) of ‘Rabid’ (1977), ‘From Beyond’ (1986), ‘Under The Skin’ (2013) and a load of other alien/sex/virus films but set in the world of early 80’s fashionistas and all shot in a low-budget, experimental, art-house manner, maybe along the lines of Bidgood or Jarman, whilst dealing with a subject you can imagine springing from a Vonnegut story.
Yet despite all the art-house leanings and trippy visuals the acting here is so bad, the script so appalling and the dialogue delivered so awkwardly that what it reminded me of the most was ‘Samurai Cop’ or ‘Troll 2’ or any of those other ‘they’re so bad they’re bad’ films. So yes, there are some interesting stylistic flourishes and cool conceptual stuff going on but the rest of the movie can be so god-awfully annoying that it stopped me from connecting with the film in any way. The feeling of annoyance is only amplified by the electronic soundtrack which is deliberately grating, often sounding as though Wendy Carlos and Laurie Anderson had had a kid together but it had inherited none of their talent.
Not that ‘Liquid Sky’ is totally without merit as, much like an invisible alien, there is something lurking here although I’m not quite sure exactly what. You can feel the movie trying to provide the cinematic and philosophical goods but it’s maybe trying a bit too hard, often pushing the shock factor a bit too far as well as having a run-time of almost two hours; cut this movie down to 90 mins, beef up the soundtrack and I’d would’ve had a much more positive response to the film.
‘Liquid Sky’ isn’t unwatchable but I didn’t find it that great either, coming saddled with too many deficiencies both technically and artistically. Then again, it was made for peanuts and, apparently, ended up the most financially successful independent movie of 1983 so what do I know.