Better dead than "Red Dawn."

Director John Milius, the barbarian behind "Conan," co-wrote this anti-gun-control, anti- Communist, survivalist script with Kevin Reynolds. Sick and silly as it is, the idea could have been intriguing, had it gone anywhere, which it didn't.

The filmmakers' intent was to realistically create the "first invasion of America by a foreign army," which was their first mistake, if one thinks back to the American Revolution and the War of 1812. But what the heck?

One day the Russians invade the United States; a primary target is a local high school in Colorado. Eight kids escape the attack and head for the Rockies with a stock of bullets, Cokes and Campbell's soup. When the soup runs out, they drink the blood of a deer to absorb its spirit. Ummm ummm good.

The kids make a wild bunch of guerrillas, becoming the last freedom-fighters in the West. There's a quarterback and his brother, a student body president, two sisters, a preacher's son and a couple of younger classmates. Odds are that teen-age action-lovers will enjoy the young heroes and their battle against the raping, pillaging Russians and their Latin-American allies. Most filmgoers, however, will laugh at the preposterous dialogue and weary of the string of explosions that passes for plot.

And talk about enemy intelligence: The Russian commander's first order when he takes over the town is: "Go to the sporting goods store and get copies of form 443s. And find out the private ownership of the weapons." The registered gun-owners are then taken off and shot. It's an NRA nightmare come true.

Marching to the Communist anthem, the troops goosestep through Calumet, Colorado, past the bunkers and barbed wire, past the Soviet/American Friendship Center. The townspeople have taken to wearing fur hats, the street signs are in Cyrillic and there's Nyet Right Turn on Red. It looks like a movie made during the Cold War.

Back in the Rockies, time passes slowly for the guerrillas and for us. The months, one just like the other, flash on the screen. October becomes November becomes December. Will spring ever come, and if it does, so what? The kids mount raid after raid on convoy after convoy. Raped and orphaned, a girl guerrilla notices, "Things are different now." Hmmmm. Sounds like something Conan might say if he ran out of Campbell's soup.

RED DAWN -- At area theaters.