The television adapted bastardization of his beloved illustrated Robot Ninja leaves comic book artist Lenny Miller with a bad taste in his mouth. His disgust with the direction angers him to part ways with the project, leaving the televised rights in the hands of a careless and uninspired studio crews and execs, but that won’t stop Miller’s creative juggernaut of the captivatedly violent, robot vigilante. Inspiration takes heart-rending form when Miller happens upon a roadside abduction and rape of a young couple where his attempt at a rescue ends tragic with the couple being brutally murdered and him severely injured, but with the help of his good inventor friend, Dr. Goodnight, the frustrated comic-book artist becomes the Robot Ninja, just as depicted in his comics, with a vengeful plan to hunt down the assailants and put a bloody end to their wrongdoing reign of terror. A good first night out ends with one thug dead and an ego boost for Miller, but Robot Ninja’s actions don’t deterrent crime and, in fact, crime hits back hard when not only Robot Ninja becomes the target, but also his friend Dr. Goodnight and innocent bystanders.
“Robot Ninja” is part one of an unintentional two part review segment about directors disowning their own cinematic handy work for X, Y, or Z reasons and while “Robot Ninja” was initially discarded by “Dead Next Door” writer-director J.R. Bookwalter due to poor post production that was essentially out of the filmmaker’s hands and a work print negative thought to have been lost for eternity, Tempe Entertainment foresaw the awesome potential for the late 80’s automaton avenger in an dual format ultimate edition after a unearthed work print surfaced and back into the Bookwalter’s hand to mend and correct his sophomore feature film! Forget Iron Man. Ignore Captain America. Incredible Hulk who? “Robot Ninja” is one of the only true comic book heroes from illustrations to to take a stand against crime passionately and not because if you have great power, there’s great responsibility.
Robot Ninja is the epitome of the combo character that could sway into either hero from the 1980’s, like in Paul Verhoeven’s “Robocop” and Amir Shervan’s “Samurai Cop,” or could even swerve straight up into the villain category though I have no examples floating around near the inner layers of my cerebral cortex, but the Robot Ninja bordered the very blurry gray lines of anti-hero status whether intentionally or not from the perspective you examine. The Robot Ninja character potentially could have set fire to the combo character direct-to-video cult underworld, but fell rather hard and flat on its face in the deadfall of the netherworld instead. None of film’s flaws or woes never sat its hampering weight upon the goldilocks graced shoulders of Michael Todd, who portrayed the clawed hand titular character. Todd’s enthusiasm for the role is beyond necessary, a real A for effort, into powering on Lenny Miller’s illustrated crime combatant. Lenny, aka Robot Ninja, vows to destroy, or rather disembowel, the local gang led by the ruthless Gody Sanchez, a she-devil aimed to please only one person – herself. Maria Markovic, another actor that’s in J.R. Bookwalter’s “Dead Next Door” circle, find herself in the antagonistic role in one of her sole two credits. Markovic’s acting chops are about as stiff as a board, but being surrounded by the right kind of thugs in James Edwards (“Bloodletting”), Bill Morrison (“Ozone”), Jon Killough (“Skinned Alive”), Rodney Shields, and Michael ‘D.O.C.’ Porter, Gody Sanchez is able to achieve par-level black heartedness. “Robot Ninja” round-kicks an uppercut class of actors such as Floyd Ewing Jr., Michael Kemper, the original Dick Grayson Burt Ward (“Batman” television series), the one and only Linnea Quigley (“Return of the Living Dead”), one of Sam Raimi’s entourage buddies Scott Spiegel, and Bogdan Pecic and the good Dr. Goodnight.
Without doubt, “Robot Ninja” was destined for the direct-to-video market and the quality of work obviously shows, but with flaws aside, the obscure 79 minute feature still manages to be a part of Bookwalter’s “Dead Next Door” universe full of gore, violence, and a distain for human nature despite briefly disavowing “Robot Ninja’s” mucked up existence for years. Subtempeco EFX, comprised of David Lange, Bill Morrison, and Joe Contracer, don’t exactly go cheap when Robot Ninja’s dual blades pierce and pop eye balls inside the skull of some punk or when Lenny’s patching up his injuries without as much flinching in pain, the open, surely is infected wound just pulsates with exploded flesh and blood. Bookwalter’s direction is hazy at times around the beginning with the dynamic between Lenny and his publisher that feels stagnant and irrelevant; however, the comic book scenes interwoven into the meatiest part of the story, the Robot Ninja action, is remarkably cool for a late 80’s budget gas.
Tempe Entertainment have outdone themselves with the region free ultimate edition DVD and Blu-ray combos set of “Robot Ninja” with a “painstakingly” restored 2k film scan from the original 16mm A/B roll cut negative and presented in a 4:3 aspect ratio. The picture is night and day compared to previous VHS and DVD releases that underwhelm director J.R. Bookwalter’s vision. The vast color palette of various lighting and color schemes during the dream sequences have been gracefully corrected and the contrast has been restored to lighten up the much of the darker, almost unwatchable scenes. Good looking and unobtrusive natural grain from the 16mm stock and the re-edit makes a difference that finally seems cuts together without causing some confusion. The English language 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio surround sound is entirely new construction from Bookwalter and the lossless tracks have ample range and depth, balanced nicely throughout, and have little-to-no distortion or other imperfections. English and Spanish subtitles are also included. A slew of bonus material on both formats include audio commentaries from J.R. Bookwalter, Matthew Dilts-Williams of Phantom Pain Films, producer David DeCoteau, James L. Edwards, Scott Plummer, David Lange, David Barton, Doug Tilly and Moe Porne of The No-Budget Nightmare. J.R. Bookwalter also has a 21 minute segment about the whole start-to-finish journey with restoring “Robot Ninja,” a Linnea Quigley retrospect on her small role experience in the film, an interview with Scott Spiegel, a location tour with Benjamin Bookwalter, “The Robot Ninja” fan film from 2013 with introduction by director Johnny Dickie, artwork and promotional material, behind the scenes gallery, production stills, “Robot Ninja” unmasked featurette, rough cut outtakes, TV show promo, newscast outtakes, the original VHS release trailer, and Tempe trailers, plus much more. Lets not also forget to mention the stunning cover art by Alex Sarabia, Carol Chable, and David Lange and a new title sequence also by David Lange. Tempe Entertainment’s ultimate edition of “Robot Ninja” is a thing of beauty that should be seen by all who love campy, Sci-Fi horror flicks with grisly skirmishes and intense tragedy in every corner. The restoration work “Robot Ninja” is founded on absolute love, a rare concept seen for direct-to-video features so you know this film must be something special – a true redemption story.
Caleb and Addison are having a party with a small gathering of friends, and a few enemies, to enjoy a hotdog cookout in their charming garden backyard. Caleb only has one strict stipulation that all cell phones be prohibited in order for everyone attending to live in the moment. Things seem to be proceeding relative well: the beef and vegan wienies are grilled to perfection, the wine flows freely to and fro, and a love triangle arises for a possible romantic outcome for a pair of singletons. What small party doesn’t expect is a pickaxe wielding manic strolling through their backyard and crashing the festivities. With one person dead and the rest trapped inside the house, a wide range of survival hypotheses begin to kick in, squashing the idyllic soiree into panic frenzy molded by a very tall, very deranged house circling murderer.
Gregory Blair’s “Garden Party Massacre” is the 2017 horror-comedy that takes progressive comedy back a decade when material was simpler, straight forward, and where satire reigns supreme from casual conversation. Blair, who not only directed, but also penned the script, is one of those recognizable names and faces entrenched into the independent film grid with credits like 2013’s “Ooga Booga” and, directing one of Its Bloggin’ Evil’s personal favorites, “Deadly Revisions,” starring Bill Oberst Jr so this will be our second PIX/SEE Productions film coverage. “Garden Party Massacre” has been on this reviewers radar for about three years now and Blair’s sophomore feature film takes a lighter approach to horror that’s more beneficially cliché, designed to be safe in the story, and still able to provide generous humor. Just as quirky as it’s titled, “Garden Party Massacre” won’t be an aggressive avalanche of bodies and blood to consume so the highly squeamish audiences can sit and tolerate the sludge-fast bloodletting to nearly the credits with a steady amount of Gregory Blair etched absurdity to push those horror-intolerants forward.
Caleb and Addison extend beyond a couple’s normal range of quarreling. Their verbally combative relationship breaks hyperbole levels on the most mundane and trivial things couples argue over. Andy Gates (“The Blessed Ones”) and Nichole Bagby hash it out as two estranged lovers at each other’s throat that becomes a candy coated resonation of the very real reality of relationship woes. They’re each joined by a pair of friends that have previously established a relationship with them as part of their character’s background. David Leeper plays Wesley, a gay friend of the couple who also is on the Caleb’s softball team, who is perhaps the most rational character in the pack and brings another teammate to the party, Lincoln, as a possible match to his testosterone desires. Gregory Blair goes full on fool with Lincoln’s thick skull persona and the writer-director is spot on as also co-star in his role. The other established friend is Reena, a role presided by fellow “Dead Revisions” star Lisa Hart who has rash moments of exaggeration, but the timing is good for her character who serves as the odd woman out of the group. Then, “RoboWoman” herself, Dawna Lee Heising, enters the picture as Melanie, the obnoxious friend with a hankering for Lincoln’s man meat, and Heisings brings her delectable indie-horror presence to the folding table and lawn chairs! Other garden partygoers includes Matt Weinglass and Marv Blauvelt (“Snake with a Human Tail”).
“Garden Party Massacre” lampoons traditional genre tropes, highlighting the flaws and exaggerating their characteristics, and director Gregory Blair purposefully intended on constructing this fun and bubbly example of how silly the situational elements can be and, sometimes are, despite the pickaxe psycho lurking around outside and the whole neighborhood turning upside down when the sudden zombie apocalypse comes spilling into their backyard like spilt lemonade. Blair pokes fun in a homaging kind of way and that’s quite endearing. However, the character dynamic became stale faster than day old bread as scene-after-scene was nearly all about bashing the other person. Someone comes up with a plan and judgement rears an ugly head. Someone heeds a warning and, again, ridicule rolls right off the tongue. After one receives their fill of colorful raillery, Lincoln’s blockish guilelessness becomes the drug of choice and a root for character.
SGL Entertainment and MVDVisual layout the picnic for “Garden Party Massacre” onto an all region DVD presented widescreen 16:9 aspect ratio. Imagine presentation has all the digital pros and without any night shots, the digital noise has virtually no ground to flicker. Coloring and skin tones looks natural, aside from the obvious blue-ish green makeup of the zombies, and didn’t catch really any distortions to note. The English language stereo 2.0 surround sound favors the dialogue fairly well, upfront and with authority, but the ambience tracks, such as the birds chirping especially, are intrusive at times. There’s faint feedback at times during screaming moments. The runtime clocks in at 70 minutes and includes extras such as a music video to the film’s trashy-punk theme song, which is sung by “Constantine’s” Peter Stormare oddly enough, and trailers. “Garden Party Massacre” is the recipient of 9 film festival awards, including Best Comedy and Best Film, and rightfully so considering being a purposeful caricature mockup of horror well executed by Gregory Blair and crew.
At the tail end of the second great war, Philippines based U.S. army deserter and Japanese sympathizer, Joseph Langdon, runs for his life as the Philippines police and guard track him down through the jungle for committed heinous acts that not only include treason, but also rape and murder. Exhausted and dying from his wounds, Langdon will do anything to stop the process of pain and death, including making a deal with Satan himself. In exchange for saving his life, Langdon commits himself to eternal servitude at the malevolent pleasures of Satan by inhabiting various souls and bodies through the decades and extracting the latent evil from his interactions with people, but Langdon finds himself again exhausted and exacts free thought and a rebellious stance against his master after inhabiting an American business man and given back his own face. The Dark Lord, as amusing as he wicked, bestows upon Langdon the ability to transform into a flesh hungry man-beast whenever his desires boil to the surface and he becomes the most wanted man in the Philippines, but how can they stop a monstrous fiend they can’t kill? The answer lies solely with the damned Langdon himself.
Rarely does a horror film birthed from the Philippines reach my critical virtual desk and, fortunately, “Beast of the Yellow Night” lands smack-dab in my lap as an absolute jewel from the early 1970’s from writer-director Eddie Romero. The 1969 “The Mad Doctor of Blood Island” director, who’s heritage is Pilipino, had visions of grandeur for his large scale features that stem from an infinitesimal budget, but with enthusiastic energy from former musician and beach party, teen heart throb John Ashley, the duo cofounded their theatrical finance company, Four Associates Ltd, to produce their very own horror feature films straight out of the Philippines which “Beast of the Yellow Night” was one of first to be released, if not the very first to be produced. Additional funding was provided by a little known distribution company, New World Pictures, jointly founded by the genre-setting Corman brothers, Roger and Gene, and thus forth “The Night of the Yellow Beast” was built upon a rich and solid cult foundation that began a Philipino-film circuit conversely well-known in the U.S. and put Eddie Romero on the proverbial map of relatively unknown and granular cult directors while providing a branching out of yet another successful credential façade for John Ashley that doesn’t involve country music or being just another pretty face in the beach party moviegoer crowd.
If you haven’t guessed by now or if you’re just as dense like myself, John Ashley also stars in his co-produced creature feature and Ashley, who goes without saying that he stands in his own rite, is also the Paul Naschy equivalent of the Philippine Islands with his all hands on deck attitude toward filmmaking and being the man behind the gnarly man-beast makeup that more than likely takes hours to apply. His performance as even tempered Joseph Langdon is a stark contrast from the wild and vicious beast with a flesh appetite and knack for mauling that herd this film into the werewolf category according many descriptive plots, summaries, and reviews, but “The Night of the Yellow Beast” actually resembles more of a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde familiarity as Langdon doesn’t transform when the full moon is high, but rather at the whims of his tormentor, in this case it’s Satan rather than an ill-fated elixir, and then he morphs more rapidly and explosively during exhilarating and endorphin stimulated moments like intimacy to further exacerbate his dreadful curse on Earth. Langdon and beast Langdon are befriended by a blind, long-tooth ex-con, Sabasas Nan, played by “The Big Bird Cage’s” Andreas Centenera and Centenera captures the gentle nature and extended wisdom of a man at the tail end of life and looking to right the wrong for his past mistakes. Sabasas Nan is similar to the blind man in the tale of Frankenstein that doesn’t judge, become frightened, or even shun the ugly shell of a monster, but though visionless, both blind men are able to clearly see into the soul of what used to be once a man. “Beast of the Yellow Night” also stars leading lady Mary Wilcox (“Love Me Deadly”), Leopoldo Salcedo, Eddie Garcia (“The Woman Hunt”), Ken Metcalfe (“TNT Jackson”), and labeled as the Filipino Peter Lorre, Vic Diaz (“Black Mama White Mama”) as the pot-belly Satan and Langdon’s mischievous master.
Eddie Romero’s deep and intellectual script sticks out amongst the fray of time lapse and post-skirmish makeup effects that teeters “Beast of the Yellow Night” on a B- to C- movie. Not that the special and makeup effects were completely awful or subpar by any means, but the directing filmmaker pushes the boundaries to scribe the pull strings of a man’s soul, really digging into the anguished flesh of redemption and mankind’s mortal coil, which puts a lightly coated dampening on Langdon’s transformations from man-to-beast that hasn’t yet reached the Paul Naschy level of editing and progressiveness toward his horror films. In fact, the “Yellow Beast’s” effects are merely one step below that aforementioned level. However, the beast is no wolf of any sorts, but nor it isn’t a man in a cheap leathery or latex rubber mask that materializes a rather mangled, mangy beheld fiend with razor sharp canine teeth shown through a ferociously hungry and breathy-snarling maw set below equally ravenous eyes that yearns for the blood of man. For 1971, the effects are exceptionally marvelous, but Romero’s script just blows the practicalities out of the water being ahead of its time and sorely overshadow the effects work.
MVDVisual and VCI Entertainment proudly gift to us “Beast of the Yellow Night” onto 2-disc all region DVD/Blu-ray home video. Produced from a 2K scan of the original 35mm negative, VCI Entertainment’s widescreen, 1.85:1 aspect ratio presentation in full Metrocolor is mondo cult cinema exhibited on a high level and despite some blotchy patches, the corrected coloring and cleaner picture are by far the best we’ll ever see while still sustaining a healthy amount of beneficial cinematic grain. The prologue has coloring issues with about 20% of the right side of the film strip in sepia harboring in sepia town, but becomes corrected after the title and credit sequence. The English and Tagalog, the national language of the Philippines, mono audio track has lossy bite that’s expected and yet, still maintains ample dialogue track and a solid and balanced in range ambient track. Optional English subtitles with SDH are also included. Bonus features include a 2018 commentary track by writer and filmmaker Howard S. Berger and the head of Mondo Digital, Nathaniel Thomspon, old and insightful video interviews about John Ashley and the Filipino films of the 19870’s with Eddie Romero, Sam Sherman, Patrick Wayne, Peter Tombs, Eddie Garcia, Gloria Hendry, Sig Haig, and Jan Martin, a Remembering John Ashley featurette that includes interviews with wife Jan Ashley, filmmaker Fred Olen Rey, Steve Stevens, and Andrew Stevens, original theatrical trailer and TV spots. Plus, a thorough inner liner essay from Howard S. Berger that goes examines “Beast of the Yellow Night” and the films of that era that are a metaphor for much, much more. “Beast of the Yellow Night” is a simple message cause and effect. If vileness becomes you, then villainy will forever run fluidly through your icy veins in this Eddie Romero and John Ashley monstrous picture that pulls at the tattered strings of a downtrodden soul.
In the wake of a tragedy that resulted in the loss of life, a small Argentinian funeral procession progresses in tandem with the court hearings of a supposedly corrupt politician, the governmental figurehead indirectly responsible for the deaths of innocents. When the verdict of not guilty surfaces over the news media waves, the grief-stricken family and friends, praying at a cemetery memorial, shrill in anguish their displeasure that becomes a calling for the undead to rise up and exact revenge toward the capital. In the midst of the resurrecting chaos, others simultaneously face terror in other forms such as exacting sadistic punishments in a backwards universe of role reversals, the elaborately ill-fated plan of swapping girlfriends on the streets of the city, a night of sordid carnalities at a hotel becomes a night of horrendous violence, and a group of candid friends indulge in a snuff film comfortably and safe inside an apartment, but an evil is slowly boiling to ahead right before their very unsuspecting eyes.
“Terror 5,” a title that one would assume on first thought that five horror icons team together for utter slaughter of hapless cheerleaders or, perhaps, clash in one epic villainous mêlée of monumental proportions, but the film is actually an Argentinian anthology of urges and terror and for the record, if “Terror 5” was a collection of the top five horror icons, this reviewer’s enlistment would include Michael Myers, Freddy Krueger, Pinhead, Predator, and Charles Lee Ray aka Chucky. Jason Voorhees is a bit of a mama’s boy, if you ask me! Let’s get back on the topic of the brothers Sebastian and Federico Rotstein’s helming of an interweaving, anthological horror film from 2016. The Buenos Aires born siblings collaborate with the “The Vampire Spider” writer, Nicholas Gueilburt, to construct five tales that plant the seed of danger from the sordid impulses that motivate impure, and sometimes supernatural, malevolencies. The five tales digs into the depths of quivering human interaction and the immorality of their choices that inevitably leads them toward their own gruesome destruction.
The complete South American cast will be more than likely unknown faces to audiences of the United States, unless broadening your film library is a must-do compulsion. In which case, Gaston Cocchiarate is a familiar face who had a supporting role in Gonzalo Calzada’s devilishly feministic empowering thriller, “Luciferina.” Cocchiarate’s character goes from being a naïve college kid in “Luciferina” to a bullied simpleton that gets pushed too far by his peers in “Terror 5.” Nicknamed Cherry for his plump figure and, more likely, his untapped virginity, Cocchiarate’s character seems like a nice enough guy, but powerful when provoked and Cocchiarate embraces the oppression punishment-to-maniacal psychosis well. Another fascinating actor to look for is Walter Cornas as the KISS-cladded Juan Carlos on a night of costumes, drugs, and booze during a small get-together. The dirt-bike riding jokester has a hard on for it all: booze, women, Cherry, and even snuff porn. The character is brutally charming like that one asshole guy who always manages to get with the girls no matter how much of a douchebag they are and the character is very relatable to us all because we all know someone like Juan Carlos. Under the black and white makeup and reckless cruelty is Walter Cornas whose versatile demo reel on IMDB.com and performance in “Terror 5” gives a great insight into his vibrant character performances that make him so enjoyable to behold. Cocchiarate and Cornas stand out with the better and most chilling performances amongst the remaining cast that includes Augusto Alvarez, Juan Barberini, Nai Awada, Magdalena Capobianco, Cecilia Cartasegna, Rafael Ferror, Lu Grasso, Flavia Marco, Jorge Prado, and Marcos Woinsky,.
As far as anthologies are concerned, “Terror 5” favors a string of scary stories to be strung together being each a cataclysm spun from the negativity produced by the outer story that includes blazingly blue-eyed revenge zombies and the result is, on the surface, quite convoluted. What doesn’t help “Terror 5’s” case either is that the Rosenstein brothers decided to interwoven all but one of the stories together, creating a multi-narrative mesh. Instead of individual chapters or title card introductions, the stories have a lattice blueprint and the audiences are forced to go back and forth between the dissimilar story lines that, on initial viewing, would be assumed that one story is a fraction to the other. The stories also didn’t have that killer kick in the pants that makes you go , “WTF!” Each tale ends rather abruptly, leaving morsels of the carnage to be further imagined rather than be digested in full and I’m sure, though couldn’t locate any background about it, that these tales are based in part of an Argentinian, or even in a broader South American sense, contemporary urban legends that are unfortunately not explored in detail. If approached positively, the human thirst for flesh, morbid curiosity, and unflinching corruption is well laced throughout and that’s the real terror behind the surface level macabre.
Artsploitatoin Films and Reel Suspects introduces Sebastian and Federico Rotstein’s “Terror 5” onto DVD home video presented in an anamorphic widescreen, 2.39:1 aspect ratio. Director of photography Marcelo Lavintman works in the shadows with a very cloaked and dark alleyway approach. Some minor digital jumping in the blacks that’s underwhelming at best and in more lit scenes, clarity reigns with promising detail and natural coloring, despite not being variably hue heavy. The Spanish language 5.1 Dolby Digital surround sound has prominent dialogue and a balanced, foreboding score by Pablo Borghi, but the tracks lack a range and a depth magnitude and, essentially, all the sound is right in front of you without the bulk of the surround sound too enhance the effect. English subtitles are available and though generally translated well, there were some slight typos. The only bonus material included is the trailer. As far as Argentinian horror anthologies go, “Terror 5” leads the pack with directors, Sebastian and Federico Rotstein, pulling from familiar filmic influences and gutter cravings with turnaround consequences and mortal coil tussles. Schematically, “Terror 5” has profound leap frogging narratives that challenge the conventional way we view anthologies or overall films, creating a bit of havoc on the tale or tales at hand.
A covert Russian submarine is trying to drill into the Southern Pacific communications system to benefit from United States secrets, but when the gung-ho captain decides to push the drill team to maximum velocity, the submarine inadvertently release a pre-historic, though to be extinct Megalodon. A nearby U.S. military vessel intercepts the heavily damaged Russian sub with a submersible and saves three uncooperative, Kremlin patriotic survivors from Davy Jones locker while barely escaping jaws of the powerful Giant shark. The aging U.S. sea captain, Streeper, and accompanying admiral, King, rely heavily on Commander Lynch to maintain constant attention on the circling predator, while Streeper attempts extracting vital information from the Russian operatives to further establish the hostile tense and disruptive Russian-U.S. relations. When the shark turns its ravenous attention to the vessel, the crew must use their smarts and what’s on board to go head-to-head against a ferocious, battle ready Megalodon!
You really have to hate-to-love The Asylum for producing and capitalizing on highly lucrative films. This past summer’s “The Meg” was a major blockbuster success for not only director John Turteltaub but also for Warner Bros and as if the Carcharocles megalodon wasn’t exploited enough, The Asylum’s “Megalodon” aimed to reap from Jason Statham face-off with “The Meg.” Director James Thomas, who delivered another knock off with “Tomb Invader,” a cash in on last year’s “Tomb Raider” reboot adaptation to the popular video game, submerses himself into the SyFy movie. The SyFy channel is no stranger in shelling out monstrous shark movies; let’s just name a few to paint a picture of what’s being described here: “Sharktopus,” “2-Headed Shark Attack,” “Ghost Shark,” “Jersey Short Shark Attack,” “Malibu Shark Attack,” and let’s not forget to mention the channel’s most prolific and preposterously entertaining “Sharknado” franchise. Unfortunately, sharks an easy target for villainy that viewers can easily digest and be enthralled by their mysterious nature, but to buffoon them with genetic mutations unnatural superpowers stiffens not only their actual gentle prowess, but also attenuates legitimate shark films. That’s not to say that Thomas’ over-saturated titled “Megalodon,” penned by “6-Headed Shark Attack’s” Koichi Petetsky, is a mega hit, but at least the shark isn’t radioactive, isn’t a spliced abomination, and can’t dorsal slice through sand, ice, and earth. The back to simplicity for the man-eating shark is a breath a fresh air in my book.
“Reservoir Dogs’” star Michael Madsen headlines with his name splayed right about the titular creature about to swallow a submersible. Madness, sporting a military non-regulation curly hairstyle, portrays an naval officer, Admiral King, at the end of his lustrous career. King’s lame duck presence is a formulaic means to an end that will decide the fate of more prominent characters so Madsen, as an unconvincing and unconventional U.S. admiral, has screen time that’s limited mostly to the first and third acts and scarcely peppered in between the dynamics of Captain Streeper and Commander Lynch. While Streeper and Lynch essentially share the lead and neither have the star-studded power to be an influencing purchase-me-now headliner, the two onscreen officers are structured as a one-two punch against two opposing forces. “The Demonic Dead’s” Dominic Pace, as Captain Streeper, has promising capabilities as a military ship commander as Pace maintains his usual type casted tough guy role from prior credits while his counterpart, Caroline Harris, plays passively strong in Streeper’s shadow that’s supposed to display edge-bordering defiance but never comes to fruition. As Pace and Harris jockey for lead, Russian submariners, Captain Ivanov and Yana Popov, sheathed a more interestingly perspective on duty versus mortality. Ego Mikitas (“Nazi Overlord”) and “Fear Pharm’s” Amiee Stolte lined “Megalodon” with a sub-story, no pun intended on the sub, as bullheaded survivors aiming to complete their clandestine mission without lifting a finger to assist the opposition. To be fair, the James Thomas script didn’t exactly put the U.S. in good light, scribing Streeper, Lynch, and others as pushy information extractors and the Russian are stereotypical misers of information. If I was being intensely interrogated while a massive shark circled our boat, I would also question the intentions of my captors and not give them squat. Other shipmate actors include Scott Roe (“Transformers: Dark of the Moon”), Sebastien Charmant (“Halloween Hell”), Elizabeth Cron (“SuperHot Apocalypse”), Paulina Laurant (“Triassic World”), and Luke Fattorusso.
“Megalodon” provides a laugh track of production inadequacies and a cinematography from Paul Thomas could be said to be straight out of the Michael Bay school of filmmaking, but as far as SyFy premiered movies and The Asylum Home Entertainment films go, “Megalodon” is a Giant Shark sized leap of success. The CGI shark has surprised me being an object of crude, but of commending detail that exhibits an ancient beast marked with battle scars and also exhibiting realism with the donning of an acceptable gray-blue hue. Plus, the shark doesn’t have atomic level laser vision, can’t breathe fire underwater, and has the normal shark fins instead of octopus tentacles. Thank the shark Gods! While the megalodon passes plausibility of natural facts, it’s swimming motion and trajectory checks the box of clunky territory with a rudimentary, two-dimension view of the shark swimming at an unnatural diagonal angle away and toward the ship, like something out of the NES “Jaws the Revenge” video game. The CGI ship and submersible is more of an immediate concern than the CGI shark as Roger Rabbit has more realism. Suffering succotash! Actual location of the ship is a the USS Lane Victory, a defunct military vessel from WWII turned museum that’s docked off California and the museum aspects tactlessly are not veiled from view and, if a modern day military ship is supposed to go toe-to-toe with a megalodon, a ship with brass communication tubes. The obvious museum décor ships “Megalodon” into a strange and bewildering backwards alternate universe that causes confusing and complexities with a quarry full of questions.
MVDVisual and The Asylum Productions presents the SyFy original film, “Megalodon,” onto DVD home video. Original being the suspiciously key word here as original never really goes hand-in-hand with The Asylum produced films. Presented in the original widescreen format, “Megalodon,” for what it’s worth, has distinction despite the questionable special effects. No blotchy or aliasing detected and the coloring renders consistently. The 5.1 surround sound audio tracks has clear verbal dialogue, ample gunfire and explosion range and depth, and no distortions to note. The painfully generic stock score is an ear sore, but has balance and isn’t an overly commanding and obtrusive presence. The trailer is the only special feature available, but to broaden upon the lack of bonus material, the Asylum DVD releases always have kitschy graphic cover art and “Megalodon” is front and back gold standard that exaggerate the film’s action-packed appeal. Director James Thomas’ dual story batters the pre-history shark narrative to nearly null, but “Megalodon’s” unwavering action chums the water that begins with a large shark taking a bite out of a foreign reconnaissance submarine and ends with Michael Madsen extinguishing a cigar on the said shark’s large snout in pure Michael Madsen fashion.