"Starlight" is jaw-droppingly awful. In fact, this New Age "Plan 9 From Outer Space" might just be bad enough to merit its own cult following. Sci-fi belly-flop toplines Rae Dawn Chong - looking like she'd rather be anywhere else - as an alien sent on an earthly mission; country star Willie Nelson plays a crusty shaman who helps her.

“Starlight” is jaw-droppingly awful. In fact, this New Age “Plan 9 From Outer Space” might just be bad enough to merit its own cult following. Sci-fi belly-flop toplines Rae Dawn Chong – looking like she’d rather be anywhere else – as an alien sent on an earthly mission; country star Willie Nelson plays a crusty shaman who helps her. If pic does any biz, it will be in another universe.

Writer-helmer Jonathon Kay already made one execrable effort, “Walking After Midnight” – about the purported past-life experiences of Nelson and other poor saps – but he tops himself here. Story concerns altruistic spacewoman Arianna (Chong) in search of a “halfling,” or part-alien, left behind in a previous intergalactic encounter. She parks her giant saucer, which looks like a well-lit ’50s diner, on a lake in the interior of B.C. (the same terrain where “Roxanne” was shot) just in time to save the life of Kieran (Billy Wirth), the way-out fella she’s looking for.

Apparently, her planet needs to examine the lad’s DNA so its citizens might finally be able to inhabit Earth. This is presented as a good thing; Earthlings are just so lame, ecologically speaking. When script isn’t trafficking in idiotic filler (“It’s OK” is almost a mantra), it trots out plenty of condescending patter, blandly merging crystal-speak, sci-fi cliches and superficial Native Americana. “Our ancestors favored the aboriginals,” Arianna declares smugly. And look how well things turned out for them.

Kay’s preachy blather is mendacious enough, but he throws away what’s left of his message by turning pic into a series of elaborate good-vs.-evil chase scenes. Turns out Kieran’s dad (Alex Diakun) was a “renegade” alien, now also after the boy’s superior genes. Speaking of which, the youthful protag is forever stripping down to his 501s to play his Chinese flute while his hair falls into his face just so. Hunkiness is Wirth’s best asset, since he mumbles his lines with all the conviction of an actor trying to get out of his “Melrose Place” contract.

This doesn’t stop Arianna from falling in love with him. In one of the most ridiculous sex scenes ever filmed, the couple’s “souls” take off into outer space, wrap around Jupiter and entwine themselves on a distant asteroid, finally shooting out of a volcanic cone while Kieran yells “Whooee!” like he’s roped a prize steer.

“Starlight” also goes in for gratuitous nudity, with everyone looking singularly uncomfortable. Elsewhere, same people hug like they don’t even know each other. (During pic’s four-year production, reports emerged, even on local TV, of cast almost coming to blows with petulant helmer.)

Special effects are cheesily enjoyable; who could forget those twin bolts of light beaming out of Nelson’s eyes? Derivative score is mostly OK. What makes this off item a real cult candidate is its cheerful ignorance of basic plot logic. Once the formidable Arianna hooks up with her halfling, she suddenly goes passive, even forgetting where she left her stadium-size spacecraft. No matter: When the cackling baddie is finally defeated, our cosmic lovers simply take off into the stratosphere without it.

Kay’s poor handling of actors and dialogue adds up to a fascinating, if squirm-inducing, visit to the bottom drawer of indie pic-making. That “Starlight,” which just opened in Canada, got any distrib action at all is amazing (the appropriately named Astral was an investor), but it’s now hurtling toward a distant galaxy of laughable disasters.

Starlight

Canadian

Production

An Astral release (in Canada) of a Starlight Films (Vancouver) production, with support from Telefilm Canada, British Columbia Film and FUND. Produced, directed, written by Jonathon Kay.

Crew

Camera (color), Dave Frazee; editors, Joseph Fitzpatrick, Havelock Gradige; music, Michael Conway Baker; production design, Ross Nichol; art direction, Mavis Hamilton; costumes, Tracey Boulton; special effects, Francois Aubry, Bob Bottieri; sound, Steven Cole; assistant director, Roman Buchok; casting, Cindy Hughes. Reviewed at the Plaza Theatre, Vancouver, Nov. 6, 1996. Running time: 100 MIN.

With

Arianna - Rae Dawn Chong Kieran - Billy Wirth Grampa Lium - Willie Nelson Rod - Jim Byrnes Pallas - Alex Diakun Cailie - Deborah Wakeham

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