Now I've seen this and Invaders From Mars, I think I can make some inferences about Tobe Hooper's films (of course I've seen Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Poltergeist, but I don't really count those as the first is in a low-budget class by itself, and Poltergeist is rumored to have been substantially directed by Spielberg). The thing that stands out about his work is that there are usually elements that are completely brilliant, marred by surrounding material that is just so silly and shoddily put-together that it brings down the whole.
For me, the brilliant stuff in this film is all in the first 20 minutes. I found it scary! The alien ship design is beautiful and menacing, looking like some bizarre thistle, and the design inside the ship is wonderful, with all those organic-looking shapes and "orifices," taking the organic-looking design from Alien in a different direction. I liked the whole camera-spinning in the first section, giving you an uneasy feeling, and I loved all the floating bat-aliens on the inside. I was expecting them to come to life and grab the astronauts, but alas, no. The direction and editing of the first scenes was also tense and tight.
Alas, it's downhill from there, but as other reviewers have noted, it's still tremendous schlocky fun. Very little of this movie makes any sense, even within itself. My favorite aspect is how London is completely overrun by vampire zombies and is in a state of total chaos--but our heroes, many of whom are government officials, have NO IDEA that this is going on. Turn on a radio, someone! Oh dear... it just keeps going off in so many bizarre and unresolved directions.
Other highlights include the Patrick Stewart blood-beast, and the guys exploding into dust. And, for our straight friends, please note that there’s a naked woman walking around for a substantial portion of this film.
Ah well. It's too bad, because Hooper is clearly very talented at some things, and just needs someone to rein him in. Still, this is a lot of fun to watch.
Yes, I am only disappointed because it had the potential to be better than it was.