Mac and Me and Me

I think I lost progress on my Gunblast review at some point because I noticed a handful of typos/repeated words I swore I took care of. Oh well, it happens. I fixed a few things, but I’m not gonna go crazy revising that shiz. Maybe one day I’ll publish a Special Edition.

UFOs, or UAPs as they’re now commonly known, are making headlines again, with many armchair enthusiasts convinced that disclosure is imminent. It’s been an eventful five or so years, that’s for sure. To recap, the Pentagon leaked videos of UFOs outmaneuvering Navy fighter jets to the media, Blink-182 started researching the phenomenon, and a Mad TV cast member made a movie about it. Who would have predicted that back in the 90s? Last month, three mysterious objects were shot down over US airspace, excluding that spy balloon. Now, the Pentagon is saying it’s possible alien motherships are stationed around our solar system. I’m glad the veil of secrecy and stigma surrounding the subject are lifting. It’s not a laughing matter anymore. Witnesses are no longer discredited en masse as hoaxers and kooks. For the most part, they’re free to discuss their sightings without fear of ridicule.

But what are those strange lights in the sky? People want to know. The way I see it, if even one of the countless UFOs described throughout history was an extraterrestrial craft, aliens exist, and that doesn’t bode well for our species. The implications are frightening. We’re fairly certain there’s no other planet-bound life in our solar system. Therefore, it originates elsewhere. I’ve read that it would take tens of thousands of years to reach the next closest star using current technology. We’d be dust by the time we arrived. Visitors capable of completing the voyage no doubt possess weaponry so advanced they could wipe us out in the blink of an eye.

Credit: The Ren & Stimpy Show

On the bright side, such a death would be painless. The fact that we’re still kickin’ suggests these hypothetical aliens (Who am I kidding? They’re real) are nonviolent. To quote former Arizona governor Fife Symington, “If they wanted to do us in, they coulda done us in a long time ago.” Accounts of UFOs disabling nuclear missiles and environmentalist warnings reported by contactees further suggest they’re more than just passive observers, they’re actively working to ensure our survival. Unless they have some evil, ulterior motive, they’re basically guardian angels protecting us from ourselves, guiding our development, leading us into a brighter tomorrow. It sounds good on paper. But living up to their lofty expectations is stressing me out. Ditto the constant nocturnal probings. I’d rather chill with the dopey, carefree aliens in Mac and Me.

By now, you’ve probably all heard of Mac and Me (1988). It was a box office bomb and has since gained a reputation as one of the worst movies ever. It was kept alive as a running joke by Paul Rudd, star of Halloween 6, who played a clip from it whenever he guested on Conan O’Brien. I finally caught up with Mac and Me last year, or maybe the year before that and had fun. It’s a wonderful, magical movie I would have loved even more as a kid. Disregard the hate spewed by Mystery Science Theater 3000 wannabes trying to sound cool.

Yes, it ripped off E.T., the highest-grossing movie of all time at that juncture. Its title is one word away from “E.T. and Me”, an early title for Steven Spielberg’s film sewn on hats worn by crew members. A portion of John Williams’ score bears the name, as does a junior novelization. In both movies, an alien stranded on Earth befriends a young boy. Anybody with two eyes and half a brain can see the similarities. Presenting them as proof of Mac and Me being awful is like smugly pointing out wrestling is fake. It’s just not a good argument. Everything is influenced by something. E.T. itself is said to resemble an unproduced screenplay by Satyajit Ray. As Richie Tozier and Ray’s lawyers would say, “Get some new material, champ.”

And yeah, Mac and Me includes product placement for Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, and to a lesser extent, Skittles. So what? If the goal was to replicate E.T., the job would have been incomplete without enough in-your-face advertising to make Wayne Campbell and Garth Algar question their integrity. Let’s not forget, the beloved summer ’82 blockbuster is somewhat notorious in its own right for shilling Reese’s Pieces, among other crap. All major Hollywood productions are in it for the money. Entertainment is a business. Stop pretending your favorites have the moral high ground.

Credit: Entertainment Tonight

Producer R.J. Louis (The Karate Kid series) “came up with” the premise of Mac and Me and brokered its sponsorship deals. Co-writer/director Stewart Raffill was hired to fill in the blanks. He was given little time to prepare, putting him in a tough position. So, he only deserves partial blame from the haters. He displays an aware sense of humor about the whole thing in a special feature produced for the Shout! Factory Blu-ray. “I was trying to entertain children…” he smiles. “I had to do something that 5, 6, 7, 8, 10-year-old kids would be watching. So, it gets a little corny… for adults, but it’s fun to make fun of.”

Raffill captained another movie I also recommend called Tammy and the T-Rex (1994) AKA Tanny and the Teenage T-Rex. In that one, Paul Walker is dumped in a drive-thru safari by girlfriend Denise Richards’ ex, where he’s mauled by a lion. A mad doctor then implants his brain in a robotic dinosaur. Walker bites back at those who contributed to his death while Richards and her gay bestie race to find him a new body. The cheesy comedy was filmed with explicit gore scenes that ended up on the cutting room floor and were finally restored for the twenty-fifth anniversary Blu-ray. Keep an eye out for John Franklin (Isaac, Children of the Corn) as the mad doctor’s assistant.

Today, I want to talk about two overlooked moments within Raffill’s largely plagiarized family sci-fi adventure flick that stuck with me more than all the rest. They’re so insignificant you could miss them if you’re not paying extremely close attention. First, I’ll run through the plot. Spoilers ahead.

Shouldn’t it be Mac and I?
Credit: Tubi TV

Mac and Me opens on a rocky planet or moon. Saturn looms in the background. Four humanoid aliens (the hip terminology these days is “EBEs” — extraterrestrial biological entities) stumble across our field of view. I say “stumble” because they move like they’re drunk, especially the tall one. He jabs a straw in the ground and sucks out what I’m assuming is alcohol. The smallest of them is dubbed Mac. Though it officially stands for “Mysterious Alien Creature”, it’s no coincidence “Mac” is the first syllable of McDonald’s, as well as the name of their signature sandwich. Mac is later shown wearing McKids clothing. It’s all a bit much. Ronald McDonald, who appears in the movie (and earned a Razzie for it!), introduced the trailer in at least one instance. Even the celestial object from the artwork looks suspiciously like a hamburger bun.

Mac’s homeworld goes unnamed in the movie. However, his family members are listed as Mars Father, Mars Mother, and Mars Sister in the credits. They were portrayed by mimes in costumes whereas Mac is a puppet. The freaky part? Skittles are manufactured by Mars, Inc.

On the subject of theme music, Mac and Me was scored by Alan Silvestri, award-winning composer of Cast Away, The Polar Express, and Gerard Damiano’s Let My Puppets Come. It wasn’t a cheap, direct-to-video production. Per IMDb, Mac and Me had a bigger budget than Star Wars, E.T., and Poltergeist. I can see a fraction of the $13 million on screen. My question is, where did the money go? It certainly wasn’t to recognizable actors. Sure, the mom was in Amadeus, the older brother played the middle child in Season 1 of Charles in Charge, and a few of the characters who barely speak had respectable résumés, but by and large the cast was unknown. Perhaps if there had been a big star, they would have used their sway to say “Let’s change X ” or “How bout Y?”, resulting in a “better” movie. Thankfully, that didn’t happen. I wouldn’t change a thing about Mac and Me.

Well, maybe just one. The Martian designs are honestly pretty ugly. I get we’d look weird to them too, but this was made for kids, so I feel like they should have been cuter. They have gangly, tan bodies, big, bulging eyes, pug noses, tiny mouths, puffy jowls, elf ears, and little giraffe nubbies on top of their heads. They communicate by pressing the heels of their hands together and whistling.

I guess Mac is ok. His family makes my skin crawl.
Credit: Tubi TV

A NASA research probe lands next to the Martians. Intrigued, they examine it. A camera short-circuits when touched. A claw collects several rock samples. Then, a suction tube activates, inadvertently sucking the family inside. Their bodies stretch like cartoons. As the father is pulled in, he grabs the hand of the mother, who’s holding the sister. What an asshole. If I’m going down, I’m taking you with me! The probe ascends back to Earth, having spent less than four minutes on Mars, or wherever they were. Great use of a billion dollars!

In a control room at what might be an Air Force base, scientists, military personnel, and federal agents watch as technicians in hazmat suits dismantle the probe. A scientist keeps telling his boss about a discrepancy. Nobody mentions seeing lifeforms on the video feed before the camera malfunctioned. One of the technicians removes a panel. Mac hops out and runs off. The rest of the Martians just slowly wander away. Lights flicker and spark wherever they go. The father taps his hands on a rolling steeling door. Ka-boom! It explodes! Into boards! The Martians exit a hangar. Armed soldiers surround them, however, an officer orders the soldiers to hold their fire. The Martians keep going.

Mac grabs onto a fence. I can’t tell if he’s zapped or blown away by a helicopter hovering overhead, but one way or another he rolls into traffic, causing a pile-up. A truck jumps an identical truck and smashes into a car. The driver of the car catches fire. He has to be extinguished by his fellow motorists. Amidst the confusion, Mac sneaks into a van occupied by wheelchair user Eric (Jade Calegory), his older brother Michael (Jonathan Ward), and their single mom (Christine Ebersole) who works for Sears and has somehow afforded to move them from Illinois to the mountains of California, where houses start at a million dollars. She could have stayed in the Midwest and bought the same house for a fourth of the price. I suspect the only reason she works for Sears is because they carried the McKids clothing line. The family’s last name is Cruise, which I pray was a wheelchair joke!

A motorist walks past the family’s driver-side door. “Anybody hurt?” Eric’s mom asks.

“Oh, nothing serious, lady.” the motorist responds. A man nearly burned to death. What does it take to concern to this guy?

The van is searched at a checkpoint. Mac avoids detection by sitting in back sipping Coke. From beginning to end, he subsists entirely on the soft drink. I’m more of a Pepsi guy myself.

Meanwhile, Mac’s family ventures into a desert. Presumably, it reminds them of home. The women clothe themselves in brown fabric, even though we’ve already seen them naked and Earth is on average 140° F hotter than Mars.

Eric wakes up the next morning and says California looks nice because there are cars on the interstate. Don’t they have cars where he’s from? I see plenty in Illinois. And I prefer having less where I live. Soon, the family arrives at their new house. Neighbor girl Debbie sees Mac exit the van. Her older sister Courtney, Michael’s eventual love interest, is a proud McDonald’s employee. As the family unpacks, Mac reveals himself to Michael, but Michael attributes it to a trick of the sunglasses he’s wearing. Mac then manipulates Eric’s electronics. Eric is puzzled when his unplugged TV works. He investigates sopping wet footprints leading from his shower to his backyard. Debbie is on her deck. She asks who his friend is.

“He’s my brother.” Eric blurts.

“Your brother?! Where are you from?”


Credit: The Simpsons, Disney

The first night, Mac turns the living room into a greenhouse. He also drills holes in a wall and saws through the front door. Strangely, Eric is blamed for the botany/damage instead of the son who can walk. Eric goes outside to cry over being yelled at. If you haven’t seen this before, what happens next will catch you off guard. While following Mac’s construction worker-esque whistling, Eric loses control of his wheelchair, rolls down a hill, and plummets off a cliff into a lake. An obvious dummy free-falls for what seems like a mile before hitting the water. It’s ok to laugh. Mac jumps in and saves Eric. It’s the least he can do after luring the poor boy to his doom. Debbie watches in horror. I love how Mac swims without moving a muscle. He can also elongate his limbs and revive the dead. Is there anything he can’t do?

The second night, Eric and Debbie bait Eric’s house with cups of Coke and catch Mac by sucking him into a vacuum. It’s basically the scene in E.T. where Elliot leaves a trail of candy. If getting sucked is Mac’s weakness, keep him away from your mom. Mac is so powerful, his capture causes a blackout, attracting the attention of those pesky federal agents from earlier. Mac is too homesick to keep sowing chaos. He leaves an ad for a furniture store and some pictures of horses on a table. He also puts flowers in straws. These turn out to be clues as to where his family is located — past a billboard where a herd of wild horses roams, by a bunch of windmills. The kids find him sitting in a chair looking sad. Their bright idea is to bring Mac to a birthday party at the McDonald’s where Courtney works, dressed as a teddy bear. What follows is the most shameless promotional scene in the movie.

There have to be a hundred people inside and outside the restaurant. Ronald McDonald is there doing lame magic tricks. So is a football team. Jennifer Aniston makes her film debut as an uncredited extra sitting on a curb. I always thought her debut was Leprechaun. Now I feel lied to. Some asshole announces a dance contest over the loudspeaker. Half the partygoers break out into a synchronized dance routine. How is that a contest? Mac flips through the air in slow-motion, defying all laws of physics, then busts a move on the service counter (this part was clearly performed by a child). The crowd eats it up. The employees in the kitchen snap along. Who cares why that toy is alive?!

He’s floating, Ronald!
You’ll float too!
Credit: Tubi TV

The festivities are interrupted by feds. They never state their intentions, but are assumed to have Mac’s worst interest in mind. They serve as obstacles for our heroes to overcome in the absence of a true villain. Was the Hamburglar unavailable? Eric puts Mac in his lap and leads the feds on a foot chase through traffic reminiscent of the bicycle scene in ET. By some stroke of luck, he hits downward hills at every turn, giving him the advantage. He’s pursued through his mom’s Sears, where Mac helps by tripping the feds with RC cars. Michael, Courtney, and Debbie drive up in a van and grab Eric (and Mac) off the street.

Michael heads toward the furniture store from the ad. Mac points a different direction. The heroes are like Oh my god, wow, he’s bringing us to his family. How do they know? He could be leading them into a trap. He already tried to kill Eric. The heroes locate Mac’s family in a mine. The moribund Martians are quickly revived by — what else? — the sweet elixir of life, Coca-Cola. Please tell me I don’t have to explain Coke’s medicinal properties to you. All eight of the babyfaces pile into the van. Michael stops at a gas station. The Martians wander over to “Thompson’s Groceries”.

“Daaaaad.” a boy whines offscreen.

“It’s alright, son.” a man’s voice assures him. “It’s just a promotional gag.”

You’re telling me!

This is where the movie really gets crazy. The first moment I want to talk about is when Mac’s mom and sister walk by a woman holding her daughter, shopping a pallet of cat litter. The Earth mom gives Mac’s mom a skeptical look and moves on. The girl in her arms is wearing nothing but underwear. The fact that it’s not a diaper means the girl is at least three or four. Actually, she’s roughly the size of my five-year-old son. That’s beside the point, though. Her age is irrelevant. No child except maybe an overheated baby having a meltdown should ever be undressed in public. It’s plain trashy. Mac has more clothes on than she does! If I ran this store, I’d enforce a strict “no shirt, no shoes, no service” policy to prevent this from happening again. I mean, what if someone took a picture, or, God forbid, filmed a movie? That would be embarrassing.

Credit: Tubi TV

I usually refrain from judging people on their appearance. That said, I get the feeling this mother wasn’t an actress. She looks like a small-town simpleton who’d think this is fine. I have so many questions. Was Thompson’s real? If so, was this woman a shopper who was asked to serve as an extra? Was her daughter already naked, or was that a request? In either case, why? One day, I hope to have answers.

The cashier pages customer service to the checkouts. A manager walks up in time to see Mac’s mom accidentally knock over a Coke can display. Mac’s dad rounds a corner holding a watermelon. The manager yells for security. While the camera is fixed on two n00bs, Mac’s dad lets go of the fruit. You can hear the splut of it breaking open. The cashier makes another page for Buck the security guard, played by George “Buck” Flower. Flower had bit parts in everything from Nick Millard’s Criminally Insane to Back to the Future.

Credit: Tubi TV

Moment #2: Buck points a gun at Mac’s dad. “Alright, alright, now you put that down right now!” he commands.

Put what down? Mac’s dad isn’t holding anything. Is this in reference to the watermelon? It’s on the floor in the chemical aisle, behind his feet. He dropped it before Buck even responded.

Now, now, put it down!” Buck repeats.

Again, what the Hell is he talking about?

Y’all gonna make me lose my rind.
Credit: Tubi TV

Michael begs the dumb son of a bitch not to hurt his weird friends. I’ve come this far. I might as well finish the movie. Mac’s dad grabs the gun out of curiosity. Police swarm the building. While evacuating the bystanders, they order Mac’s dad to drop his weapon. He and his family casually exit the supermarket with boxes of groceries in hand. Where they go is kind of confusing. They walk in a seemingly straight line across the parking lot, but wind up at the gas station, perpendicular to their trajectory. I know it’s the gas station because the van is still at the pump and the neon Coors sign in the window is the same. Eric rolls after the Martians. A clumsy cops trips over his own cruiser, license plate IKRE855 (the only way to interpret this is that Raffill’s creations are 5s out of 5 — I agree!). As he hits the ground, he accidentally discharges his gun. The rest of the cops open fire, setting off a massive, multi-burst explosion. The entire building goes up in flames.

Credit: Tubi TV

Obviously, it’s unsafe to have actors, especially children, near unpredictable pyrotechnic displays, so what they did here was drew a silhouette of Eric’s slumped-over body on the film. I love it. Somebody should have taught John Landis this method. Eric dies, which doesn’t really make sense to me. Does the force of the blast stop his heart? The original version, released in Japan, found on YouTube, is even more disturbing. The stray bullet hits Eric, killing him. How anyone thought a cop fatally shooting a boy in a wheelchair was a good idea for a kids movie amazes me. A doctor pronounces Eric dead at the scene. Quick, give him a Coke! Eric’s mom arrives via helicopter (!). Sensing she might be of some relation to the corpse on the pavement, a Sheriff’s Deputy informs her “A boy has been hurt!”, shirking all responsibility. There is lots of crying until the Martians emerge unscathed from the blazing inferno and resurrect Eric. Add invincibility and necromancy to their list of talents. I was expecting Eric to walk. That would have been corny. His disability is handled well overall. On the other hand, it’s fucked up of the Martians not to fix Eric’s legs while they’re at it.

The tears in the crowd turn to tears of joy. The doctor’s expression screams “Welp, I’m out of a job.” Officer Oopsy-Daisy breathes a sigh of relief. Not so fast, you buffoon. There were six cars besides the van parked in front of that building, one with its hatch open. They were clearly being used. Many people are dead. That’s a problem. I think Raffill or whoever tried to address this by recording the lines “Get those people outta that building!” and “Leave this building now!”, the latter in a comical German accent, but let’s be honest, there wasn’t enough time for that. Mere seconds later, kablooey. Goddamn this is dark. Serious question, what kids movie has a higher body count?

Nobody gives a fuckture about this structure or its occupants.
Credit: Tubi TV

The ending is a blatant commentary on immigration. The “aliens”, who entered our country illegally, couldn’t speak English, and took whatever they wanted, are granted American citizenship, just like Johnny the robot in Short Circuit 2, released the month prior. The message is one of acceptance. Those intolerant MAGA fucks could learn a thing or two from it. They always seem to forget their ancestors were immigrants too. If humans evolved in Africa, technically anyone who’s not a native African is an immigrant. The word is meaningless. People are people. And apparently so are Martians. They drive away in a pink Cadillac wearing their Sunday best. The mom has a pillbox hat on. A pillbox hat, for God’s sake! A preposterously large gum bubble blown by Mac promises “We’ll be back!” Unfairly, there is no sequel.

What do you think? Have you seen Mac and Me? Did you notice these things? What are your favorite parts? Let me know in the comments section below. Whether you’re bowing to corporate sponsors or alien overlords, Mac and Me is a welcome distraction. It turns thirty-five this year. Time to show it some love!

Do You Like Scary Movies?

Yesterday marked the start of a new year full of new possibilities and hopefully the beginning of the end of this COVID nonsense. The only mask I want to wear this year is my Roy Burns replica from Friday the 13th Part V. I’ve been thinking lately about how there seem to be more horror bloggers than ever before on this platform and yet the engagement is down. How does that work? I don’t know, but let’s fix it. I’ll get the ball rolling by reintroducing myself. I’m always hesitant to put my real name on here, so I’ll just say I’m an average guy. I grew up in a place called Crystal Lake and my grandparents who babysat me lived on Elm Street. That was freaky. I’m married to my best friend, and have two beautiful kids. We live in a small town of a thousand people in the American Midwest. I’ve been watching horror my whole life and writing about it for nearly ten years. God that makes me feel old.

Credit: Scream, YouTube

In my teens, I found myself gravitating away from mainstream horror toward alternative types of movies — cult, exploitation, drive-in, B, Z, boring, bad, so bad it’s good, surreal, foreign, softcore, hardcore, softcore with hardcore inserts, shot-on-video, shot-on-8mm, gas station surveillance footage, you name it, I’ll watch it. The weirder and more obscure, the better. If it has less than five user reviews on IMDb, sign me up. However, most of my all-time favorites are horror from when I was younger. Here are some of them in no particular order to give you an idea:

  • The Last House on the Left
  • The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
  • Halloween
  • I Spit on Your Grave
  • Phantasm
  • Friday the 13th
  • The Evil Dead
  • Happy Birthday to Me
  • Ms. 45
  • Basket Case 1 & 2
  • The Thing
  • Sleepaway Camp 1-3
  • A Nightmare on Elm Street
  • Demons
  • House
  • Death Nurse
  • Hellraiser
  • Brain Damage
  • Child’s Play 2
  • The Serpent and the Rainbow
  • Puppet Master
  • Bride of Re-Animator
  • Frankenhooker
  • The Guardian
  • Graveyard Shift
  • It
  • Candyman
  • Dust Devil
  • Cemetery Man

This is my second blog. My old one was basically practice, a way to improve my writing and better formulate my thoughts. I don’t consider myself a good writer and don’t expect to get tons of engagement here — though, I have to admit, it’s more fun when I do.

I like reading reviews, opinion pieces, fan theories, and love letters to particular moments within movies, so that’s what I post here. Check out the “Recent Posts” and “Movies” widgets on the right 👉 You might find something you like. If you do, let me know. It goes a long way in motivating me. I always click on my visitors’ Gravatars to see if they link back to similar sites. If they do and I find something that speaks to me as a fan, I like, comment, or follow. However, I don’t follow news update sites as they clog my reader and stop me from getting to other cool stuff. I consider it a fool’s errand to try to keep up with the latest news anyway.

It would be rad to meet some more people who share my unhealthy interest, even if it’s through a computer screen. I don’t know anyone in my day-to-day life who watches the same kinds of movies I do. The titles I bring up at work or with friends are met with confused looks and laughs. My wife comes the closest. She’s into classic/popular horror, but she’s a good sport and humors whatever I put on out of love. She laughed with me at Troll 2. She made it through Psycho Pike. Hell, she gave Garden Tool Massacre a try.

So how bout it? Let’s talk horror+. This month, I’ll be posting reviews from my old site while I dive into a new project that may or may not work out. I’ll be back with some fresh takes in February, maybe sooner. Keep an eye out and thanks for stopping by!