Brought before an intergalactic sentencing, a chaos-driven cyborg faces extreme persecution for committing heinous acts across of destruction and death amongst the galaxy, but desperately escapes on a small shuttle pod aimed directly for the planet Earth. The cyborg craves massive amounts of energy to contact others of it’s species for world domination and also needs to feed off of animal flesh to sustain. The local anarchist Dylan and her friend Eddie team up with a alien enthusiast and a provincial cop to thwart human annihilation as the cyborg assimilates the townsfolk into it’s own flesh hungry minions, doing the bidding of constructing a solar system reaching power source to create a space antenna. The world’s hope relies on a pair of anarchy subversives to stop a monstrous sheborg who believes chaos will provide for planetary obliteration.
Its Bloggin’ Evil has been around the bush a few times with director Daniel Armstrong, a name known very well here by previously reviewing two of the filmmakers films under his Strongman Pictures label, the 2015 wrestling-sploitation “Fight Like A Girl” and the slasher on blades “MurderDrome” from 2013, and there has been much appreciation for the ballistic, ass-kickin’ carnage and indie horror mayhem Armstrong is so strongly passionate about in his films. The 2016 “SheBorg” is no different as the film revels in many of the same feral totalities. The Australian writer-director favors the 80s-90s science fiction and horror cultural elements for not only his earlier works but also for “SheBorg,” cherry-picked specifically for the mechanical madness. From “Star Trek,” to “Ghostbusters,” and to “Back to the Future,” “SheBorg” affectionately homages these films through the dialogue in an explicitly melee narrative that oozes with crazy, feasts on the flesh, and gorges on heartily on dismembering and assimilating all in a path to geek fandom.
Dylan lives to subvert the establishment, even if that means derailing her politically obsessed, sorry for excuse father, Mayor Jack Whiteman, and the self-indulged agitator is played by Whitney Duff alongside “MurderDrome’s” Daisy Masterman as Dylan’s best Kung Fu knowing mate Eddie. Duff and Masterman are a solid budding duo who can expel eccentricity and calmness as a single, combative unit against an seemingly unstoppable mechanism of man killing, the Sheborg. The mechanical alien is mechanically performed by another “MurderDrome” casted and “Fight Like A Girl” actress Emma-Louise Wilson. Wilon’s robotic coldness sounds actually very Russian in performance, as if the Eastern Europeans were gearing up for war with killer, flesh eating cyborgs, but Wilson’s contrast to the uncouth Duff and Masterman tagteam is comedic bliss that symbolisms freedom over tyrannical subjection. Sean McIntyre, Mark Entwistle, Louise Monnington, Jasy Holt, and Tommy Hellfire fill in the rest of the “SheBorg” cast.
Labeled as a Neo-Pulp sci-fi, horror film, “SheBorg” encapsulates the essence of a schlocky B-horror, charmed with two-bit practical and visual effects. Yellow alien blood sprays and cascades like neon Kool-Aid, the assimilated have oversized and gaudy optical lens over one eye, and there’s also some eye popping, heart ripping, and dog eating gore to appease every facet of a modern sci-fi horror. Once titled “SheBorg Prison Massacre” and then retitled to “Sheborg Puppy Farm Massacre,” Armstrong drops the ancillaries and simply presents his Daisy Duke-cladded killing machine film as “Sheborg” that continues a trend, whether intentional and ill-conceived from selective viewings on my part, of having a heroine in the lead role, such as “Fight Like a Girl” and “MurderDrome” with the latter involving an all-woman roller derby gang. Armstrong’s seemingly trademarking his films with rebellious women, whom are at odds with the world around them, and are coming out on top hauling away being more of a kick-ass warrior than before the a nemesis made the scene.
“SheBorg” is now available on Blu-ray courtesy of WildEye Releasing and MVDVisual. The 1080p resolution in a widescreen 1.85:1 presentation release has an underwhelming image quality. Details flutter sporadically in the woodsy locale in and around the puppy farm and night scenes have coagulated blotches of the unsharp nature. A few sequences turn out brilliantly poetic like when SheBorg frightfully exits through a mist-cloaked, open aired windshield of one of her three junkers turned into a makeshift solar system communicator. The 5.1 Stereo works for the budget, but while the punk rock score by KidCrusher befitted the anarchist lead, syncing with the rest of the film was far from being symbiotic. Dialogue was clear enough and ambience was fine, even if it was slightly over-exaggerated. Bonus features include a medium-length Behind the Scenes documentary that has engrained interviews with director Daniel Armstrong and selective cast; the BTS-feature is more tell all of Armstrong’s visionary mechanics and where he pulls inspiration from. There are also music videos and trailers. Resistance is futile as “SheBorg” is a must-see cybernetics battle royal in the realm of Ozploitation.
In the year 2022, Special Forces solider, Captain Robbins, is court martialed for putting a bullet in the head of his commanding officer. After escaping two maximum security prisons and a record of rebellious activity, a corrupt and power hungry warden of the Lactivus prison ships Robbins off to an off shore island called Absolom, where prisoners can roam free with no chance of escape due to 24/7 surveillance by Satellite and rocket launcher armed helicopter gunships surrounding the island perimeter. Island prisoners separate into two factions: the Outsiders and the Insiders. Each with the respective camps, the lawless Outsiders overwhelm the Insider’s numbers by 6 to 1, leaving the small manned community in constant fear of attack and pillage by the Outsider’s merciless leader, Walter Marek. When the insiders learn than Robbins has faced Marek and lived, they take the former solider into their community, but Robbins sole desire is to escape off the condemning rock and with the help of a few good men from the Insiders’ camp, the chances of escape and survival are greater together as long as Marek and his band of starving cutthroats don’t seize the endangered community first.
“Escape from Absolom,” also known as simply “No Escape” in the U.S., is a Martin Campbell directed action film from 1994 that’s futuristic and violent, fun and thrilling, and kitschy without being too cheesy. Campbell, who went on to direct not one, but two, James Bond films, begins a base of epic action that’s toweringly ambitious and pulled off nicely with the stunts and the editing. Based off the Richard Herley novel “The Penal Coloney,” the script is penned by Michael Gaylin who puts pen to paper to scribe a playful, passively aggressive dialogue, but fun and energetic on a the same coy lines of other high visibility action films. Gaylin was able to conform to a story that has no dynamic with the opposite sex in one of the few films that exhibits a rare all male cast.
“Goodfella’s” star Ray Liotta finally got his time to shine as the butch and badass action hero that is Captain Robbins, a highly skilled special forces solider and killing machine whose pragmatic intentions, at first, are hard to read. The cockiness overtop a well-cloaked deadly skill set works to the advantage of the blue-eyed actor for New Jersey. Opposite Liotta is Stuart Wilson (“Hot Fuzz”) as Walter Marek, a 7-year island lifer with dreadlocks and nose bridge piercings to match his psychotic leadership. Wilson does psychotic just fine, but the look resembles John Travolta’s atrocious attire from Battlefield Earth. Lance Henriksen, One of the most recognizable legendary genre actors, has a more serene approach in being a mentor and the leadership figurehead of the Insiders camp when compared to conventionally eccentric, sometimes maniacal performances, but Henriksen has a mellow side to him that conveys are very affectionate kumbaya approach, but any personality compared to Stuart Wilson’s internal rampage would be a stark contrast. “Ghostbusters'” Ernie Hudson has his role as security office in the Insiders camp and the sole black man of the film, for obvious reasons, stands out, but Hudson just adapts to anything you put him in though the Michigan born tended to sway toward the thrilling fantasy/sci-fi genre in the height of his career. Rounding out the cast is Kevin Dillon (“The Blob” remake), Kevin J. O’Conner (“Lord of Illusions”), Don Henderson (“The Ghoul”), Ian McNeice (“Dune”), and Michael Lerner (“Maniac Cop 2”).
All things considered, “Escape from Absolom” is a torrent men-in-prison extravaganza that’s one part Sylvester Stallone “Judge Dredd,” one part Chuck Norris “Missing in Action,” and, as a whole, an endangered brand of droll entertainment. Speaking of Stallone, Ray Liotta did it first as a character who is an expert at escaping the inescapable maximum security penitentiaries and instead of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Dave Bautista as contentious, yet supportive allies, the friendly, yet solidly statured Ernie Hudson and Lance Henriksen share Liotta’s Captain Robbin’s unquenchable lust for freedom, even if it to provide unsheathe exposition of the unethical corporate penal system practices. Far from being a perfect film and extremely blantant on a no underlying message, Martin Campbell undoubtedly has a fine tuned niche of capturing the casual eye with large scale action sequences and an affable character allure.
Umbrella Entertainment releases “Escape from Absolom” on a region-all Blu-ray, presented in 1080p, widescreen 16:9 aspect ratio. The coloring is phenomenally remastered and stable compared to previous transfers. There are times when depth becomes two-dimensional or flat, skewing the picture noticeably, but the overall picture quality is spectacular in the vast amount of Australian landscapes and even in the night scenes that show hardly any enhancing, such as sharpening or contrast. The English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 track is laid out nicely with audible poise and precision balance. Dialogue is prominent while explosions have just the right amount of oomph under an exact LFE recipe. The release sports other language Dolby Digital audio tracks such as a German 2.0, Spanish 2.0, Italian 2.0, and a French 2.0. Optional English SDH subtitles are available. Bonus material includes a two part making of featurette from around the production of the film with interviews with cast and crew, four TV spots, trailer, and a reversible cover. Runtime is 118 minutes. Martin Campbell’s “Escape from Absolom” is dystopian dynamite, explosive and aggressive with a flare for enjoyable banter amongst defined and diversified characters inhabiting an utopian island of mostly societal scum.
A young group of phony ghost ass kickers who call themselves Paranormal Activity Security Squad, aka P.A.S.S., setup a reality show to earn quick cash from gullible callers. When the calls for help trickle into their call center, aka their garage, P.A.S.S. eagerly answers the call, but they become intertwined into the sinister plot orchestrated by a real nasty demon named Vladimir Van Housin. Now, they must obtain the assistance of a slightly unorthodox, if not totally narcissistic, sorcerer, a brutishly strong Asian man-child, and the loyalty to each other to stop the powerful Van Housin demon from entering their world, tilting their very existence.
“P.A.S.S.” is either the prime candidate for the schlock of Troma or needs to be seriously considered by Jonathan Turell, CEO of The Criterion Collection, for upscaled distribution with all the bells and whistles. To be honest, my initial thought was another stupid horror-comedy with bathroom jokes while camera focusing a lot on Katie Heidy’s Wrench character’s cleavage. Lots of cleavage I can deal with, but when Rigan Machado’s dimwit character dumps a log out of his brown soaked whitey-tighties and then proceeds to pick it up and eat it, I nearly gave up on P.A.S.S….and eating anything…ever. But I continued to watch. And watch. And watch. And the more I watched, the more I witnessed untapped creativity and enigmatic entertainment that kept me enthralled to the cliffhanging end.
Among nearly all the other credits for P.A.S.S., writer, director, and star Alex Wraith has astronomical vision, using his galactic gonads to implement slight rotoscope technology and practical specials effects that develop a wicked comic world of insane determination. “P.A.S.S.” breaks all the laws of filmmaking. When a film attempts to homage an untouchable classic, in this case Ivan Reitman’s “Ghostbusters,” the project nearly gets blacklisted by fans. If you don’t believe me then check out the critical responses to this year’s “Ghostbusters” remake. Wraith’s film incorporate’s the humorously stiff commercial, the transformed hearse, and a team of four amateurs that all attach itself to the beloved Bill Murray comedy while also adding in public domain footage of retro horror from “Night of the Living Dead” to Ted Browning’s “Dracula” in the montage introduction and seriously ripping Star Wars. Wraith and some of his cast aren’t exactly newbies to the Hollywood game with Wraith having minor roles in “Savages” and “Taken 3,” and Sean Stone in also “Savages” and “Wall Street.” Katie Heidy and Jean-Claude Van Damme’s daughter, Bianca Bridgitte Van Damme, bring the squad’s, if not the movie’s overall, sex appeal while Dale C. Reeves portrays an awesome antagonistic spawned from hell demon who can’t be defeated and who also looks like Darth Maul. Don’t miss appearances by Dawna Lee Heising and “Amateur Pornstar Killer” director Shane Ryan!
Aforementioned, the rotoscope and practical effects are not top shelf material, but achieve a otherworldly sensation and set the tone for the film’s kooky and demented nature. Wraith loved to overuse the lens flare which works favorably for the world he was trying to create. Also, at some point in time in the duration, I felt as if I was inside the video game series “Twisted Metal.” Perhaps because three of our heros were pitted against a evil clowned-faced giant reeking havoc in an alternative universe. I truly believe this piece of work is a look into the warped mind of some very open minded individuals who eager seek to spill their madness onto paper and onto the big screen.
“P.A.S.S.” feels rightfully inexpensive due to Wraith and his team’s self funding, but the finished product reveals a smartly written script and some superb editing that keep the laughs rolling and the craziness fresh, turning up the intensity dial to beyond the max! I’m unable to critique the entire package as I was handed a screener link to review and I believe “P.A.S.S. has yet to find home distribution, but the handheld camera footage for the squad’s reality show looks amazing even if purposefully hectic at times and the audio is equally as clear and as balanced. Check out “Paranormal Activity Security Squad” wherever the film ends up and, I promise you, this film kicks not only demon ass, but the ass of many independent movies.
With only 15 days into the new year, 2016 is shaping up to be ‘the year of celebrity deaths’ as a string of well-known, and some well-loved, celebrities have succumbed to the Grim Reaper.
Alan Rickman – 69 years old – Cancer took the life of “Die Hard’s” Hans Gruber, “Harry Potter” series’s Professor Snape, and other many, many more interesting characters on 1/14/16.
David Margulies – 78 years old – Most famously known as the mayor from the two Ghostbuster movies, Margulies died 1/11/16.
David Bowie – 69 years old – Cancer, once again, claims a life and the androgynous and iconic pop music star became the man who fell from earth on 1/10/16.
Dan Haggerty – 74 years old – Cancer, what a bitch, claims the life of Grizzly Adams who is no longer on the run since today 1/15/16.
Tera Wray Static – 33 year old – The widow of the late Static-X frontman Wayne Static and former adult star fell into the suicide pool as her body was discovered on 1/14/16.
Angus Scrimm – 89 years old – The unforgettable “Tall Man” from the Phatasm series departed our dimension 1/9/16
Who’s next? Who’s on the verge of 2016 being their last year alive? Its a scary thought, but that’s life, unfortunately.
In the zombie post-apocalypse, the human discovered that by not firing their weapons allowed the flesh eating hordes to calm their desires, resulting in the protection of the zombie species and institutionalizing laws against the killing zombies for fear of another undead swarm attack. One of the many survivors Clay has lived in a zombie cooperation world for over a year after the initial outbreak along with his sister Mia, whose boyfriend Gerry didn’t survive, but still roams the Earth as the walking dead. With no one truly dying, the whole idea of existence becomes meaningless and where people, like Mia, won’t move on when they’re loved ones still feel very much alive. When Clay discovers his sister’s attachment to undead Gerry, he takes it upon himself to kill Mia’s zombie boyfriend, releasing a zombie swarm post-apocalypse apocalypse on the his town.
Unprecedented and gushing with rage, “A Plague so Pleasant” redefines the way audiences would view the zombie since 1968, constructing still a vicious species of man-eating undead while domesticating them to a lumbering land fixture much like the way pigeons amongst the birds. First time directors Benjamin Roberds and Jordan Reyes triumph amongst the modern zombie competition, spilling their heart and soul onto the script and onto the screen. With a story to match, a Romero-inspired social commentary zombie film held true to form by instilling normality to a post-apocalyptic world. Zombie and man living together. What was that Bill Murray line in “Ghostbusters?” “Cats and dogs living together… mass hysteria.” Clay and Mia were living a mundane life while the dead remained alive and protected, socially poking fun at how society maintain a normal livelihood with zombies: the U.S. Government made killing zombies a national felony, companies were mandated to go through a yearly undead awareness program as a formality, and there’s a guarded visitation area full of the undead much like a graveyard without graves.
Stunning cinematography added much needed life to “A Plague so Pleasant” which settles into an already over saturated zombie genre. Starting in black and white, Clay introduces his life in a offscreen monologue, conveying much of the post-apocalyptic and zombie information. The black and white symbolizes how simple and plain life has become with the living with zombies regulations. When Clay breaks the law by offing Gerry for good, thats when the movie turns to color and creating complications in a black and white life. The once unvarying and shuffling zombie nuisance goes into full berserk mode with “28 Days Later” sprinters thirsty to tear into anything with a heart beat. Only when the zombies turn calm is when life goes back to being black and white, considering the option that normality needs to be simplified to live peacefully.
The special effects by first timer Tyler Carver are a great effort clashing together a classic European Giannetto De Rossi style with Carver’s own settle flair by not being overly gruesome. There’s not an over-the-top, chart-topping special effects moment that defines the “A Plague so Pleasant,’ but there the solid effects subtly throughout satisfies. The zombies overall look are the usual stock type, yet they’re exhilarating to watch with an army of intense actors who are no doubt from the Athens, GA Halloween attraction named Zombie Farm where Tyler Carver has a connection. Not everything about the creation of a frightening zombie was accomplished as much of the audio tracks were out of sync and just too gaudy.
Actor David Chandler as Clay does a fine job portraying a bored survivor and a clueless big brother while also performing the second zombie swarm nearly without speaking during the entire engagement. Mia, played by Eva Boehnke, resembles the gorgeous Lebanese-American porn star actress Mia Khalfia with her giant nerdy glasses. Boehnke creates a free spirited, yet delusional, persona in Mia whose holding onto the past and coping the only way she knows how and that’s by not separating from her undead boyfriend Gerry. We round out the cast with Todd played by Maxwell Moody. Todd becomes the catalyst of the coming events by placing the idea of him and Mia being a couple and putting a bullet into Gerry’s rotting brain. Chandler, Boehnke, and Moody on paper are amateur actors in an estimated $1,500 budget, independent movie, but they own their performances and shine through budgetary constraints.
Another awesome release from Wild Eye releasing that would make a worthy and unique edition to a zombie fanatic’s movie collection. Don’t judge to harsh the production value with the slight aliasing, the out of sync zombie audio tracks, and the muffled off screen Clay character monologue. Instead, focus on the cinematography, the actors performances, and the genuine story telling of a socially awkward scenario. Let “A Plague so Pleasant” infect, let it sink it’s teeth deep, and let it help turn your undying attention unto a lively concept.