A hunter (Cameron Mitchell) is up with the lark to greet the dawn, but his son, asleep in the camper van, is not so ready to get up and at 'em, and when dad tells him to prepare for a day's hunting he asks if he can have a little longer in bed. But a-hunting they will go and soon are getting into arguments about the situation as they always do, with the son asking why, whenever they try to do something together (this was dad's suggestion), they end up fighting? That need not concern them for much longer, however, as from out of the forest spins a strange object that sticks onto the hunter, draining his blood...
Whenever Without Warning is mentioned these days, it is in connection with a different film that it shared a star with - not that you would really recognise them. That man was the over seven-foot-tall Kevin Peter Hall, best known for essaying the role of the Predator in the movie of the same name, and here he turned up in a similarly alien role as the bad guy firing off the killer frisbees, although you only see him at the end, and then covered in a Close Encounters-style spaceman outfit. The fact that he uses frisbees as his weapon should alert you to the era it was made, as the seventies turned into the eighties.
What it should not alert you to is a work of great quality, as in spite of some damn fine sci-fi and horror being produced in this time, Without Warning was not one of them and if anything harkened back to the efforts made before this renewed interest in such genres. Our man in charge was Greydon Clark, a busy but not massively appreciated low budget director who was probably best suited to the straight to video market, meaning he was born a little too soon in that respect. This one did get a theatrical release, though you would be most likely to see it at a drive-in in the United States, which these days generates a level of nostalgia about ephemera such as this, though that doesn't necessarily indicate terrific entertainment.
But to be kind, it was certainly not the worst of its type by a long shot, and there was some amusement to be garnered by its casting of over the hill stars who were increasingly appearing in such films at this stage in their careers. Like who? Like Cameron Mitchell, showing up for a day's work in the sundrenched countryside to get killed off in the first five minutes, or in a meatier role, Jack Palance as Joe Taylor, a hunter as well who informs the four young people who arrive for a break there that he eats everything he kills, the inference being that he's planning to eat the four young people until we realise that he is actually one of the good guys. That hunting motif is important, though, as in Predator, it seems to be the main impetus for the alien's behaviour.
Mind you, if you thought Palance's character was crazy, he has nothing on Martin Landau's "Sarge", an ex-military man psychologically scarred by his days on Space: 1999, er, I mean, by the Vietnam War that has sent him into the arms of the wildest conspiracy theories he can find - and this is before the days of widespread internet use, so he's ahead of his time, is Sarge. Two of the young people, Sandy (Tarah Nutter) and Greg (Christopher S. Nelson), survive being trophies in the alien's shed (it goes unexplained whether the shed actually belonged to the spaceman and if he brought it with him), but find further turmoil at the hands of Sarge when he decides to take direct action, with all his theories confirmed in his wonky mind. Perhaps the trouble here is that later in the decade something like this would have been injected with an air of fun, but here it's played too straight: fine for unintentional humour, but not much for real thrills. Music by Dan Wyman.
Obviously, when it comes to trash favourites, one man's garbage is another man's gold. A bit of a guilty pleasure this. Scared the bejeezus out of me when I was eight years old and while, having revisited it in recent years, it's no longer quite so potent, Without Warning does have a certain off-kilter eerieness that goofy alien doesn't entirely dispel. Worth it for the frisbees and for Jack tearing through the woods screaming: "ALIEN!!!" Always wondered whether that was a jokey riff on Rocky's "Adrian!"?