Back in the 70s – 90’s, movies often wouldn’t get to the cinema or debut on TV, they’d be ‘straight to VHS’ releases – or DVD later on. With the rebirth of the disaster movie in the late 90’s a few of these types of movies burst out all at once. One of the forgotten ones is Meteorites! With its odd exclamation mark in the title and even odder set up, its a curious entry into the disaster movies genre. Is it terrible though?
The disasters faced
Meteorites but not meteors, electrocution, brick and stone buildings suddenly transforming into wooden barns, a robbery gone wrong and having your dreams of being Miss UFO dashed.
The town of Leroy is gearing up for its annual UFO Festival. Chiming in on the area 51 fun, the small town puts itself on the map by throwing its alien festival. It looks more like a country fair but for Mayor Cassidy its everything. The towns mine has been struggling and things are in decline, so much so he has arranged for his house to be robbed of its coin collection (worth $80,000) by Nick who hates his guts.
With that as the backdrop, we first hilariously meet the McConnell family whose daughter is a stroppy brat. She wishes her family would all just die and then they get blown to bits by a meteorite. I hope that girl has life long trauma. Sheriff Whitehorse can’t understand why the house blew up though and calls on Tom, a previous bomb disposal expert, to come and take a look. He is none the wiser either initially as they sort the debris. Fearing a gas line problem, he warns Mayor Cassidy about a possible problem but in true disaster movie fashion, he isn’t interested.
Tom and wife Cath live in Leroy with daughter Renee, who just wants to be a pretty girl, and son Mac. He loves his dirt bike and his girlfriend Crystal and they plan on getting it on in the evening. Crystal is Mayor Cassidy’s daughter. Can you guess when the robbery is planned for? A game of spot the plot to be sure. Before we get there though they make out in a field that belongs to Filbo. He warns them off his property by shooting his gun in the air (of course, its America) and so Tom and Cath go to pay him a visit.
It turns out Flibo is a crackpot astronomer and Cath is a science teacher so instead of saying ‘please don’t shoot my child’, the two join forces to solve what is now becoming multiple mysterious explosions. When they go to the site of one nearby and find a meteor chunk, they realise they are in trouble. They’re on the flight path of a meteorite shower!
Of course, the Mayor wants nothing to do with it as the UFO fair must go on, complete with Renee becoming Miss UFO and being winched into the air in a giant toy spacecraft… just in time for the meteorites to hit! With Renee, Cath, Tom and the Mayor at the fair with hundreds of people running amok, they have to survive the storm and save Renee. Mac and Crystal were about to get down to business but the robbery has disturbed them just as the storm starts too. Meanwhile at the medical clinic, Sheriff John following a car crash, is also trapped with Dr Jane and nurse Ben. Their clinic which looks like a brick building in all exterior shots, seems to have disintegrated into a wooden barn for the interior carnage!
With all this kicking off, Tom and Cath need to save Renee and then John and company, round up his family and get to some kind of shelter in time for the big second meteorite storm that will pummel Leroy into the dirt. Can they do it? Will they all survive?
Why is it worth watching?
Meteorites! is largely entertaining because it wraps up some b-movie magic into its low budget affair. It knows the film can’t draw in viewers with its effects and so it keeps a slightly humorous dark humour hiding in the background. The opening scene is actually really funny even if it isn’t entirely intentional. Then a scene later on sees a reporter get killed with a meteorite and we cut to a shot of his shoes with smoke pouring out of them. It is so odd, it reminds me of how Korean films especially flip tone in an instant and that’s totally ok.
For a 90 minute film, there’s plenty going on too. The cast are largely likeable , well acted enough and whilst the script does have some cheesy clunkers, it weirdly embraces it and shows it off. It all leads to me, along with the exclamation point in the title, to wonder if this movie is meant to be a bit of a comedic send up of the genre whilst also playing the game too? Its like a sci-fi movie before the sci-fi channel was a thing… or a meme.
Sadly, being able to get hold of this movie is very difficult. It went straight to VHS and hasn’t seen a DVD or streaming release yet [as of Aug 2021]. It is a certain fan that would try and hunt this down – you’d need to be an avid disaster movie who enjoys b-movie silliness. If you do though, this is one of the more interesting and fun movies to be dumped onto home release.
One of the best things about Meteorites is watching the extras. Clearly all the big effects shots were spent on the UFO event and so you’ve got the same 50 odd people running like lemmings in front of the screen. It actually makes things look quite chaotic with actual fire and the odd car crash. The CGI isn’t great but I’ve seen a lot worse. The most strangest issue I have is that the interiors and exteriors don’t match at all – like the medical clinic. Outside of that, we’re at the tipping point where practical effects were about to phased out for cheap CGI effects and so Meteorites! benefits from being one of the last to be largely practical.
Possibly my main complaint about Meteorites! is that there is an odd character arc set up that doesn’t really get paid off. Tom’s work partner died in a bomb explosion and he seems like he is the house husband in shock. Cath and Tom don’t seem to be on the same page either. By the end of the film they’ve addressed this whole issue in a very brief scene in a car but you don’t understand why everything is being painted as slightly off before hand. I love that Renee just wants wants to be Miss UFO and refuses to take off her sash for the entire film. Cassidy and Crystal have beef with each other because their mother died but again, this is dropped as a passing comment. Similarly Dr Jane and Ben appear out of nowhere as if they’ve been in film previously. I wonder if the original cut is slightly longer and some of the more character driven scenes were cut? It doesn’t make the film worse but it is noticeable.
Three memorable moments
- Seeing so many extras all dressed up as aliens in the background and then seeing them scatter and run around like mad in the meteorite storm.
- The opening scene for its ‘be careful what you wish for’ twist.
- The huge goof of seeing Sheriff John Whitehorse trapped under an iron girder, accidently lift it up massively, to then drop it and say ‘I can’t shift it! Get help!’ as it rattles around under his every movement.
The obligatory weird moment
I could pick so many that I’ve mentioned above already but the whole meteorite discovery plot line hinges on Cath being a nosy neighbour. As Tom and Cath go to visit Filbo because he fired warning shots at her son, Filbo leaves the door open because soup is on the boil. Cath just wanders in because there is a map on the wall?! Excuse me, he was shooting a gun in threat at your son and now you want to have an alien Come Dine With Me? Oh Cath…
The drinking game
Extras. Running. Into. Something. Or each other. There was clearly only one acting direction given and it was ‘panic’.
Seeped in b-movie logic, visuals, silliness and set up, Meteorites! is a quite entertaining oddity in the disaster movie genre. Whilst it has a low budget, it fairs much better than a lot of the made for TV stuff being churned out today. It has got better with age and whilst Meterorites! will never be considered a top tier movie, I have grown fond of it for its irrelevant goofiness.
Rating: 3 / 5 – Good
If you enjoyed Meteorites! then you may like…
- Tornado Warning – has a similar small town, slightly goofy vibe. A crazy baddie to kill too.
- Hell’s Rain / Anna’s Storm – another small town meteorite movie. Much more heartfelt / soppy.
- Flood A Rivers Rampage – a third small town comes together movie made for TV.
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