Hangar 18

December 23, 2010 at 3:25 am (7 Heads, Hangar 18) (, , , , )

Hangar 18 – 1980 – United States

“Now the truth can be told”, claims Hangar 18’s based-on-a-true-story disclaimer. In actuality, Hangar 18 is a speculative yarn providing fuel for UFO paranoiacs’ wild conjecture. Excellent! Beyond that, it’s a well-made flick mixing mystery, humor, and UFOlogy clichés into a rousing thriller. Those uninitiated in the greater mysteries might even learn something.

A NASA flight crashes into a UFO and our seedy government scavenges the flying saucer from Arizona’s desert. In a brilliantly cynical touch, the government fears the discovery will upset the upcoming election and sequesters the saucer in top-secret Hangar 18 for study. Two curious astronauts uncover the secret and begin a crusade for the truth. Men in black hound them, resulting in four exciting car chases and one tragic death. Meanwhile, Hangar 18 scientists weave typical alien theories, citing ancient pictographs and Nazca Valley-like earthworks. Sensing the breakthrough won’t stay quiet, the government crashes a jet into Hangar 18, massacring the research team. But a crew working inside the indestructible UFO is protected, going to on to share their new truths with the world…

That’s Hangar 18’s end. It proposes that man descended from alien demigods and soon the aliens will return to be Earth’s masters, then it’s over, leaving you to imagine how the mess gets resolved. Hangar 18 asks plenty of questions, never answering one. Since it’s the “truth”, a neat conclusion is impossible, but Hangar 18’s mysteriousness borders on sloppiness. Example: the researchers find a comatose Earth woman aboard the UFO. While in an ambulance, she jolts awake screaming, and that’s the last she appears. Presumably an abductee, but how about some elaboration on this interesting and key evidence? Nope.

Hangar 18 is a thriller above all else, emphasizing suspense over scientific speculation. Thankfully the action is engrossing with the aforementioned car chases ending in spectacular pyrotechnics. The superb sets, models, and optical effects are a few steps below Star Wars. Or perhaps not, but the opening credit roll is (purposefully) reminiscent of A New Hope. Also don’t miss the chilling beheading scene where a headless astronaut spins through space.

Hangar 18 is enjoyable despite being an easy cash-in on an evocative subject. Ignoring staggering logical inconsistencies (clueless men in black, terrestrial looking alien ship), the shocks and thrills are absorbing. Its silliness discredits its UFO theories, but at least it’s not boring. Consider it Contact’s feisty kid sister.

Rating: 7/10 Shrunken Heads. The truth is out there, but this isn’t quite it.

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