Category Archives: Maybe Miss
Two months after the planet is ravaged by nuclear war, three astronauts stationed aboard a defence satellite – Howe (Babylon 5‘s Tim Choate), Jordan (Meatball‘s Kate Lynch) and Walker (John Walsch) – are forced to return to Earth when a hostile computer programme takes over their system.
On the ground, they encounter a lawless world where cannibalistic marauders roam and a young military despot (Kevin King) wants control of the last remaining fallout shelters. The gang’s only hope in survival lies in making an unlikely alliance with an eccentric survivalist (Nero Wolfe‘s Maury Chaykin)…
This 1985 Canadian sci-fi adventure from Roger Corman’s New World Pictures joined the wave of low-budget post-apocalyptic Mad Max 2 copycats that came out during the decade.
It’s a right bargain bin affair, with cheap production design, poor performances, a ham-fisted script and little in the way of action, excitement or anything else for that matter. And there’s nothing in the movie that suggests the atmospheric film poster bearing the skeletal remains of an astronaut in a desolate landscape ( a la Planet of the Apes).
The only redeeming feature is that the sci-fi romp features an early score from Christopher Young (who has composed of host of film genre titles from Hellraiser to the Pet Sematary reboot). Director Paul Donovan, meanwhile, went on to produce, write and direct a much more superior sci-fi, the TV series Lexx.
I’m sure it has its fans, but Def-Con 4 gets a big no from me and doesn’t really deserve a restoration. Nice packaging and artwork though.
SPECIAL EDITION CONTENTS
• New 2K restoration from the original 35mm interpositive
• High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation
• Original lossless mono soundtrack
• Optional English subtitles
• Brave New World: interview with editor Michael Spence
• Nemesis Descending: interview with composer Christopher Young
• Interview with author Chris Poggiali on New World Pictures
• Theatrical trailer
• Reversible sleeve featuring original artwork by Gary Pullin
• Illustrated collector’s booklet
Honestly, I really cannot begin the describe how ‘bad’ Essex Spacebin is – and I use those commas because I think that’s the point – or so it seems.
Meet Lorraine Willy (Lorraine Malby), a middle-aged woman with mental health issues who believes she and some intergalactic Rasta dude called Hogan have a psychic link with beings from another dimension. Armed with a PDF of Amen-Ra’s specs for an Essex-built pyramid, Lorraine sets out to locate a star key, which will gain her access to the parallel world…
Written and directed by David Hollinshead and Philip Thompson (who don’t appear to have done anything else according to the IMDB), Essex Spacebin is a low-rent sci-fi take on the Wizard of Oz with production values akin to the VHS shorts that I used to make on a lark with my university friends back in the 1980s. But it’s shot in glimmering 35mm film stock, which leads me to suspect that the whole thing is a joke on us viewers, and that its ‘badness’ is intentional.
So, are the film-makers hoping to pay homage to the likes of John Waters (Multiple Maniacs is back in UK cinemas in a restored version – yeah!!!) and the warped comedy of Troma’s 1980s output (in London, it was paired with Tromeo & Juliet, alongside a personal appearance of Lloyd Kaufman), and that their intentionally ‘bad’ film will take its place in the Midnight Movie pantheon alongside Rocky Horror, Birdemic: Shock and Terror and Tommy Wiseau’s The Room, or is it really just a waste of everyone’s time and effort? I’ve sat through it twice now and I really can’t make up my mind. So, if you have seen it, please do leave a comment below, and let me know if I have missed something?
Kudos, however, do go to crazy collection of characters that populate this mad, bad, non-star trek, and to the evocative techno soundtrack (from Ceephax Acid Crew aka Andy Jenkinson).
Essex Spacebin is available on Amazon Prime Video.
Lake Placid vs Anaconda (2015) | It’s a clash of the titans as the creature feature franchises go jaw-to-jaw
Killer crocodiles and giant anacondas clash in the SyFy monster mash-up starring Robert Englund and Yancy Butler (last seen in Lake Placid: The Final Chapter), and Stargate SG-1’s Corin Nemec.
The fifth instalment of the Lake Placid and Anaconda franchises is supposed to be about corporate greed and science gone wrong, but it’s actually just another excuse to have a bunch of scantily-clad soriorty with big guns girls being chased, squished and eaten by some questionable CGI. One to add to my list of Killer Croc Movies.
Out now on Digital HD and released on DVD 7 September from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
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The final scene of this 2012 French indie sci-fi is awesome. If only the same could be said of what comes before…
After a comet passes over Paris, twenty-something Chris (Fabian Wolfrom) discovers his friends and neighbours are undergoing some kind of monstrous transformation that is mutating them into something out of this world. With the help of the gun-toting John (John Fallon), Chris attempts to escape the mayhem, but soon finds the entire city is falling victim to the comet’s malevolent powers…
Dead Shadows is certainly heavy on shadow-lit atmosphere and boasts some excellent creatures and sound design (from Escape from New York’s Alan Howarth), but the narrative is non-existent, the action scenes poorly constructed, and the English dubbing abysmal (I recommend viewing it in the original French with subtitles).
Heavily influenced by David Cronenberg’s early body horrors, George Romero’s original Living Dead cycle and John Carpenter’s The Thing, with just a hint of Brian Yuzna’s Society thrown in, debut director David Cholewa sets out to bring his own dark imaginings to the screen.
If only he’d worked harder on giving us more meat to chew on before the special effects take over – or at least give his monsters more screen time and a sense of purpose (a la Nightbreed). Instead, we have endless shots of our good-looking lead running in and out of his flat after yet another brief encounter in the dark and we have no idea what the alien invasion is about.
Cholewa is currently looking for funding his next sci-fi project The Dark Zone through his production company Cryofilms with editor César Ducasse (Dark Souls).
Dead Shadows is released in the UK on DVD (in French with subtitles and Dubbed English track) annd VOD from 27 July 2015 from Bulldog
Glancing at the retro credits of the Final Cut Entertainment Blu-ray UK release of this 1986 sci-fi, director Tobe Hooper’s homage to the 1950s classic, Invaders from Mars, about a small-town boy who is convinced aliens are taking over the minds of his parents and townsfolk, should have been as inventive and rewarding as John Carpenter’s The Thing or David Cronenberg’s The Fly.
It had Dan O’Bannon (Alien, Return of the Living Dead) and Dan Jakoby (Arachnophobia) on script duty, the legendary Stan Winston conceiving some great creature effects, John Dkystra doing the impressive visuals, and Christopher Young supplying a suitably cosmic score. The cast, meanwhile, was a who’s-who of favourites, including Louise Fletcher, Karen Black, Timothy Bottoms and Bud Cort.
But, and it’s a big but, Invaders from Mars was made by Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus’ Cannon Films, and they were notorious for creating some of the VHS-era’s worst films (just check out the Electric Boogaloo documentary). Not only that, it was the second of Hooper’s three-picture deal with the misguided Israeli cousins to misfire – spectacularly. His first was the hugely expensive sci-fi flop Lifeforce (you can read all about that here).
The problem with Hooper’s Invaders is that it doesn’t know whether it wants to be a serious sci-fi, a spoof, or a kiddie-friendly adventure. There’s also no action or suspense, and Hunter Carson, who plays David, is plain awful (he probably only got the job because he was Karen Black’s son). The original David, Jimmy Hunt, puts in a cameo as the Police Chief which made me smile, as did the in-joke of setting the film in the same town as another sci-fi classic, Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Now, there’s a reimagining that’s just as good as the original.
But if you are a Tobe Hooper fan and don’t have a multi-region player (to view the Scream Factory Blu-ray release, which boasts a commentary from Hooper), then this Final Cut Entertainment Blu-ray UK release comes in at second best, and includes the following extras:
• A career in Cannon/Tobe Hooper in the 1980s with film historian David Del Valle
• Mission to Mars: The Special Effects of Tobe’s Invaders by Alec Gillis (art department co-ordinator and creature effects crew)
• Red Planet Recollection: Remembering Invaders from Mars by Leslie Dilley (production designer)
• Creative Concepts: An interview with William Stout (concept artist)
• Invaders from Mars concept art presented by William Stout
While scattering their mother’s ashes at a lake, estranged sisters Abby (Angela DiMarco) and Rebecca (Kate Alden) discover a sphere in the woods that exerts a strange effect as Rebecca recalls a terrifying trauma from her past and Abby’s fiancé Calvin (David S Hogan) begins to obsess over it. But for Abby, her recurring nightmares of an alien presence soon becomes all too real…
Impressed by director Jeremy Berg and writer John Portanova‘s indie mystery The Invoking last year, I was expecting their alien abduction sci-fi, The Device, to be just as twisty and inventive. But this odd melding of mental health and a marriage in meltdown drama with an X-Files-styled conspiracy is a talky affair that’s seriously lacking any action or scares.
If you pick this up on the basis of the poster or DVD cover, you’ll be expecting some exciting Species-styled transformation sequences. Disappointingly, there’s nothing like that on offer here, except one rather tall alien who uses its fleshy claw-like fingers to prod and paw at its human incubator (Abby).
What’s really creepy, however, is actor David S Hogan’s weird eyes – has he had ‘work done’? They are very distracting, especially during one supposedly emotional scene in which Abby informs him she’s pregnant and he hits the roof telling her he’s sterile. There’s no expression on his face – just a frozen visage. Could he be a real extraterrestrial in disguise?
The Device is out on DVD in the UK from Image Entertainment, and features an audio commentary by Tracy Tormé, the screenwriter of the 1990’s alien abduction movies, Intruders and Fire in the Sky.[youtube:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bgh-hHYRuss%5D
Ice Soldiers (2013) | Dominic Purcell’s got revenge on his mind in the Canadian sci-fi action thriller that’s a right stiff
Using an illegal oil exploration operation in the Canadian Arctic as cover, driven scientist Dr Andrew Malraux (Dominic Purcell ), with the help of Colonel Trump (Michael Ironside), recovers the bodies of three genetically engineered German secret service agents who vanished in 1962 after killing everyone at the Northgate army base.
Seeing dollars signs, oil executive Jane Frazer (Camille Sullivan) wants to exploit their potential, but once reactivated, the super soldiers destroy the camp and make their escape. With the help of a Cree trapper (Adam Beach), Malraux is even more determined to hunt them down – for he wants to finally face the man who raped his mother 50 years beforehand…
IT’S UNIVERSAL SOLDIER: SNOWBOUND
The Universal Soldier franchise, which this film borrows heavily from (Malraux instead of Deveraux is a case in point), needn’t worry about being ursurped, for this snowbound Canadian-made sci-fi, from Beowulf and Grendal director, Sturla Gunnarsson, is a right stiff, and looks more like a drama pilot than a bona fide feature.
It’s a no brainer from the outset that Malraux is the offspring of the one of the Ayran killing machines. Like them, he’s got super strength and can withstand the cold. He even speaks with a robotic monotone – although the blonde crew cut trio are practically mute throughout the film. All they do once thawed out is go looking for sex (they check out a strip club) and blow things up (cue the odd explosion or two).
After lots of talky bits and some running about on snowmobiles, Malraux finally gets his man – who turns out to be his dad (Gabriel Hogan), which neatly sets the scene for a new action drama starring the porky Purcell (he’s certainly filled out since his Prison Break days). More revenge thriller than action sci-fi, and with a music score that’s way better than it ought to be, Ice Soldiers is a snow ride that begs you to leave any high expectations at the door. This so goes onto my Maybe Miss list.
Ice Soldiers is out now on Blu-ray, DVD and digital (you can also rent it on YouTube) from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
A British radio telescope laboratory and its occupants, headed by Dr Joe Burke (Simon Oates), are transported into an abandoned fort on an asteroid in deep space. After undergoing a series of intelligence tests, the group – which also includes a pushy accountant (Charles Hawtrey) and a confused tea-lady (Patricia Hayes) – are teleported to an alien planet where they discover the Earth is in the path of an interstellar war. Under the guidance of a robot, the team take control of the fort’s battle stations to shoot down the invaders’ passing ships…
IT’S CARRY ON DOCTOR (WHO)
This 1967 space saga, adapted from Murray Leinster’s 1960 novel The Wailing Asteroid, was an attempt by Amicus to cash in on the success of their big-screen Doctor Who films starring Peter Cushing. Again aimed squarely at the kiddie market, this sci-fi certainly has much in common with those colourful adventures and, providing the comedy relief (integral to the Who films), are Carry On star Charles Hawtrey and the wonderful Patricia Hayes. Hawtrey is super camp here and gets all the laughs, while the script’s accountant jokes are pure Douglas Adams. But the film’s shoestring budget makes this a lacklustre affair.
While The Terrornauts is great to look at (the bold primary colour scheme is heavily influenced by Soviet sci-fi like 1962’s Planeta Bura), the models of the radio laboratory, moonbase and assorted spacecraft are just modified children’s toys – with most of the ships based on the Pyro Space Clipper by Tudor Rose. But considering the films’ intended audience, it makes sense [I especially liked the alien fort and its rocket launchers]. Unlike the Who films however, there’s no merchandise tie-ins on offer [What a missed opportunity]. As for the rest of the sci-fi on show, well, the film’s robot comes off like a camp Dalek and the technological equipment is made up of old radio ham kits. But there is a nice line of swimming caps on show [ahem!].
There’s also a few Doctor Who connections on show here. Fans of the classic series might recall the 10th anniversary episode, The Three Doctors, back in 1973, when UNIT HQ was transported into a Black Hole. Well, one wonders if Leinster’s original story wasn’t the inspiration for that landmark episode. There’s also the inclusion of the transmat (first used in 1965’s The Daleks Master Plan), while the blue-faced aliens might just be related to the Thals in the Cushing Who-verse.
All-in-all The Terrornauts is a fun nostalgic ironing film. My only gripe is why the original theatrical version wasn’t restored, because that’s where you see the cool monster that’s in the trailer and featured in lobby card (pictured below).
THE UK DVD RELEASE
The Network Distributing release features a brand-new transfer from the original film elements of a shortened version, running just over 58mins (though some hotspots and grain still remain, and the alien planet sequence is still murky). The extras include an unrestored 74min theatrical version, US trailer (also unrestored) and image gallery.
THE SPIDER QUEEN FROM OUTER SPACE?
New York City is placed under quarantine when a Soviet space station breaks up over the metropolis, releasing a mutant species of venomous spider which start growing while spinning a web for their new queen. But the precious egg has fallen into the hands of a transit worker (Patrick Muldoon) and his ex-wife (Christa Campbell), whose daughters are being held hostage by rogue elements within the military, which want the egg to create a new kind of super weapon.
GET ME OUT OF HERE!
With promises of giant arachnids causing mass destruction of Manhattan in eye-popping 3D, this should have been a most egg-cellent sci-fi adventure. But it’s no better than any of the other budget creature features that director Tibor Takács or production company Nu Image have done for the Syfy channel.
Filmed in Bulgaria, the entire movie – which consists of lots of running around – takes place on the set of a replica New York street scene draped in badly painted signage and populated by a handful of bored-looking extras. Patrick Muldoon, whose no stranger to battling bug-eyed monsters, having starred in Starship Troopers as well as Takacs’ equally dreadful Ice Spiders, is the 3D film’s big-name star, while Christa Campbell surely deserves a Razzie award for worst performance ever – she can’t even whimper convincingly.
The CGI spiders are OK but look cartoon-like even in 2D, while the film’s big-set piece in which the big bad momma spider rises up from her subterranean lair is just laughable – she looks about as menacing as Alice in Wonderland’s grinning Cheshire cat. If it hadn’t taken itself so seriously, this could have been as much fun as Sharknado (which also out on DVD this month), but its so woeful that it ranks worse than 1975’s The Giant Spider Invasion, which tried to pass off VW Beetles covered in fur for its oversized arachnids, but remains far more entertaining.
Give this Crap Giant Insect sci-fi the flick.
ONCE UPON A TIME
Superheroes Charge (Jason Trost), Cutthroat (Lucas Till), Shadow (Sophie Merkley) and The Wall (Lee Valmassy) are abducted by their arch foe Rickshaw (James Remar) and forced into competing in a series of challenges – minus their superpowers – in order to save the lives of a town of civilians who have been wired up with explosives.
WATCHMEN ON A BUDGET?
If you like your superhero movies with lots of emotional drama and devoid of CGI, then this Watchmen on a budget will tickle your fancy, as will the buff boys and sexy tomboy decked out in ripped spandex. Director Jason Trost had only $20,000 and two weeks to write, shoot and star in this action adventure. It’s a courageous attempt that doesn’t quite pay off.
The film looks suitably dark and moody, like a budget Sin City, and the story is engaging in a low rent Saw minus the gore kind of way, but the film’s miniscule budget is very apparent, especially the awful background music (probably copyright free) and ropey fight sequences (reminded me of those YouTube backyard fight club videos), while Dexter’s dad (James Remar), who videos in his performance, doesn’t help to raise the bar.
Trost wanted All Superheroes Must Die (aka Vs) to be a character piece like The Warriors, but the lack of back-story means we don’t really know who these four misfits are and why we should care for them. It’s just way too moody and bleak (especially the low value placed on human lives here) for your average superhero fan, but its graphic novel, noir look, is a plus. Hopefully Trost will get to improve on this film’s failings in his sequel.
Before the Feature Presentation, there’s some super naff trailers for the 1967 Italian z-grade adventure Argoman the Fantastic Superman and the 1975 Hong Kong phooey Infra-Man, which I want to see now, as well as a tasty vintage ad for Ricos Nachos. There’s also an introduction from director Trost, and four Blood Beasts shorts, in which Trost gets to play a poor man’s Snake Pilssken.
A miss, unfortunately.
Available on Blu-ray and DVD in the UK from Monster Pictures!