In the year 2027, enhanced humanistic cyborgs virtually run the planet with the renowned L.A.P.D. being no exception. Alex Rain, one of L.A.’s finest brute cops, is partially cyborg himself, but the essence of his soul remains human intact while his synthetic flesh cloaks the icy machine beneath. After tracking down suspected cyborg terrorists and almost losing his life in the struggle to stop them, Alex questions his dwindling humanity, leading him down a path of unfulfilling revenge and botched smuggling before his former employer, the L.A.P.D. commissioner named Farnsworth, tracks him down and uses deadly coercion to force Alex as a pawn in dangerous covert mission. The burnt out cop is thrusted back into the fray of his former life when Farnsworth orders him to retrieve data from the treacherous female cyborg, Jared, who was once Alex’s partner and lover, before she hands over the sensitive information to a group of cyborg terrorists who call themselves The Red Army Hammerheads. With a micro bomb implanted near his heart as insurance, Alex has no choice but to accept the assignment before detonation in 3 days and with his time running out, finding Jared isn’t the problem as Alex comes to realize that deception has convoluted the stakes and nothing is who or what they seem.
Albert Pyun’s 1992 cyberpunk action-thriller “Nemesis” is an explosive-heavy, science fiction existentialism film never before seen, or even aware of, by this reviewer, but the ground-worked narrative has remained a constant piece of foundation in being the byproduct of inspiration extracted from other cyberpunk films of its kind, such as “Robocop,” “Blade Runner,” and “The Terminator.” “Nemesis” has a presence much to the tune of another film, “Cyborg,” starring John-Claude Van Damme and that inclination would inevitably make a world of sense when the awe-striking epiphany lands that Pyun also directed that film, also utilizing some of the same actors for his early 90’s cybernetic dystopian feature. In reviewing Pyun’s credits, the assumption can be made that the filmmaker has a sturdy hard-on for the intertwining of mankind and machine as not only did the director write and direct “Cyborg” and helmed “Nemesis,” but went on to be a part of, whether director, writer, or producer, of four more “Nemesis” sequels with a fifth being produced and shot, but scrapped in post-production due to Pyun’s flailing mental health. Rebecca Charles fed the scribal beast as “Nemesis’” screenwriter, along with penning “Nemesis 2: Nebula” and “Nemesis 3: Time Lapse.”
Alex Rain is a cold cut character, sliced thick like a cool cucumber on top of a hard to wedge salad. Rain’s iciness symbolizes his downtrodden humanity status and with each part of his body shattered from destruction, he becomes one step closer to being an automaton with eye brows. B-movie action star Olivier Guner essentially make a big career breakthrough with “Nemesis” as his sophomore feature. Guner’s military background suitably solidifies his physique as a workaholic cyborg cop while also presenting a rough cut speech impediment that’s very straight forward and without emotion. Some would say that Gruner’s approach fits his half-human, half-toaster oven character and I would say that would be correct. The 80’s and 90’s saw a crowded entry list of action stars, including Jean-Claude Van Damme, Chuck Norris, Steven Seagal, Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and many others in various degrees of success – and Olivier Gruner became one of those faces that had since then been lost over the years; Gruner’s performance in “Nemesis” lacked pizazz which could have been the contributing factor to his success, but the monotonic, unflattering one-liners and blank face stare didn’t spark any fires on top of his average muscular frame. His performance, to keep with the fire motif, didn’t provide the oxygen, a combustible, or a flammable source to quickly set ablaze a trail for semi-popularity amongst his peers and that’s where “Nemesis” falters in entertainment value. Comparatively, “Trancers” franchise actor, Tim Thomerson, is full of range and vigor as an concealing Commissioner Farnsworth. Thomerson, in his early 40’s at the time of filming, displayed an impressive physicality to his role, keeping up nicely with his onscreen rival. Farnsworth, from the get-go, reeks of desperation when pressuring Alex to do his bidding and Thomerson really nails the part and can switch on the proverbial dime as an egocentric field operative when chasing Alex through the jungles on the Hawaii set. The night and day performance is a stark contrast between the two actors. What’s mostly disappointing about “Nemesis’” cast that favorable characters come and go; some the characters a pinned with terrific actors such as Shang Tsung himself, “Mortal Kombat’s” Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, as the leader of The Red Army Hammerheads and the late, great Brion James (“Red Heat”) chirping a lousy German accent of the Commissioner’s right hand man. The cast has many other recognizable names that, again, come and go, including a strung out looking Merle Kennedy (“Night of the Demons 2”) as Max Impact, Marjorie Monaghan as the algorithmic beauty Jared, Vincent Klyn (“Cyborg”) as a disposable bodyguard, an extremely fit and nude Deborah Shelton (“Body Double”), voice actor Nicholas Guest (“Dollman”), brief cameo by Jackie Earle Haley (“Watchmen”), a fresh faced version of “The Predator’s” Thomas Jane, and Thomas Jane’s bare ass.
The financial backing was obviously designated for a particular department in the “Nemesis” workshop and that department was special effects. Explosions, rotoscoping, stop-motion, sculpture, implosions, practical effects and makeup are just the tip of the iceberg. Frayed wires and eye ball cannons are the elegant touch that makes “Nemesis” a cult favorite and bring substance to a clunky storyline and divisively dynamic acting. However, not all the specials are pinpoint precision and grounded by reality. The one scene that stands above the rest when Farnsworth is hot in pursuit of Alex and Max and he’s shelling off rounds of a shotgun, standing relatively still, blasting away without moving the barrel around to compensate for his prey’s length of distance gained or even when they decided to make quick pivots in direction. Somehow, the rounds hit very close to Alex and Max and that’s not all, they even explode like a single stick of TNT. ACME must have had a hand in the special effects department because the scene sure was loony. Yet, the implosion of a monolithic silo was uber-impressive, well-executed, and really ritzy for the silver screen.
Imperial Entertainment’s “Nemesis” infiltrates onto another home video release, a region free, dual DVD and Hi-Def 1080p Blu-ray format release, from MVDVisual under their MVD Rewind Collection series. Sheathed by a slick, retro-grade slipcover with familiar art, reminiscent of the now decade old Sterling DVD release, the special collector’s edition provides two aspect ratios, an anamorphic widescreen 2.35:1 and a widescreen 1.78:1. This MVDVisual Release has stellar detail in the texture and in framing that are exhibited in various tint shades, such as yellow and blue, and eventually cough up toward a more natural look into the second act when Alex reaches the rough neighborhood of Shang Loo, Java. Even though the visual compositions and mold work doesn’t pop with color and are a bit fuzzy, “Nemesis” is a product of it’s time, the early 1990’s and you can’t fault Pyun’s film for that. The English 5.1 surround sound is beautiful. So beautiful and potent, in fact, that you can actually understand Olivier Gruner’s mumbling, putting dialogue for all characters right into the front row while offering a stimulating range and depth of ambience sound, an unlimited variety of explosions, and plenty of miscellany cyborg hubbub. Other language are available, including French, German, as well as English in 2.0 stereo and there are English and German SDH subtitles available The Blu-ray bonus features include new interviews with producer Eric Karson and director Albert Pyun, “Nemesis 2.0” the director’s cut with Albert Pyun audio commentary, and original theatrical trailer. The DVD is the director’s cut and also includes the Japanese cut with Japanese subtitles burnt-in. Bonus features for the DVD include introductions by the director Albert Pyun and star Olivier Gruner, an afterword by Albert Pyun, a behind-the-scenes featurette, an interview with star Olivier Gruner, the making of segment involving the hefty special effects, stunt work, and visual effects, a featurette entitled “Killcount,” a behind-the-scenes photo gallery, TV spots, Key Art Photo gallery, and, top it all off, a mini-poster inside the casing. Inside a killer definitive, two-format and disc set from MVDvisual, “Nemesis” hones in on the existentialism notion of what being human actually means to each and every one of us through the bombardment of gun fights and jumbo explosions on top of a conglomerate cyborg coup that peaks with hard bodies and even harder viewer contemplation.
In the fight against pure evil, the Catholic church trains champions to battle against the forces of hell and all that is unholy. Father Jacob Vassey is one of those very champions. The man of the cloth who wields dual 9mm handguns and has a penchant for penancing through the act of self-righteous wrongdoing in the name of Church and of God. When an treacherously evil Archbishop summons a shadow builder to undo all of God’s creation on Earth, Father Vassey pursues the demon to the small town of Grand River in search for a hunted pure soul; the demon tracks down young Chris Hatcher whose been through a sign of God’s passion, the stigmata, and is the key to demon’s ultimate goal. Once the shadow builder has collected enough souls and has laid sacrifice to the boy, the demon will reverse the creation of God, humanity will cease to exist, and the world would be ripe for restructuring at the whim of one of hell’s most demented minions. Humanity’s last hope lies with Father Vassey, a local sheriff, Chris’s veterinarian aunt, and the town loon to bring forth light toward the prospect of a dark and gloomy apocalypse.
“Shadowbuilder” is the 1998 apocalyptic horror film from director Jamie Dixon, steering his sole major production from a high octane and progressive anecdotal script by “Iron Eagle IV” screenwriter Michael Stokes and produced by Imperial Entertainment, who delivered some great films like “The Bikini Carwash Company” and The Bikini Carwash Company II.” Based off the short story in the “Under the Sunset” collection by Bram Stoker (author of “Dracula”), “Shadowbuilder” expands, develops, and morbidly seduces around Stoker’s tale that doesn’t necessary implement a Universal Studio’s “The Mummy” like tale progression and design, telling of a weak, yet venomous creature feeding on souls or people in order to regain world destruction strength. Stokes script goes right into the action with Vassey’s hunt for the beguiled Archbishop and the way Vassey is introduced is absolute 1990’s gold: a priest armed with two handguns with laser sights. Studios don’t make films like this anymore! Rivals as one of those films that has a doppleganger, like “Deep Impact” and “Armaggeddon” that coincidentally came out the same year as “Shadowbuilder. “End of Days” is that doppleganger film as the two share unholy similarities of a citizen of hell on a mission to sacrifice a human for above ground dominance.
No actor could pull off properly the gun-toting and shrewd role of a haunted and troubled priest that is Father Jacob Vassey. No actor except Michael Rooker (“Henry: The Portrait of a Serial Killer” and “The Walking Dead”). Rooker’s gravel pit voice is inarguably his best trademark trait that nails extra tension into the substantially bleak and world-ending situation; a tone that carries enormous weight and Rooker’s natural vocal gift, along with his lip snarling, square chin and piss-offstare, earns the actor to be the well armed and dangerous man of the cloth. “Bruiser’s” Leslie Hope joins Rooker as the Veterinarian aunt and the film’s love interest, but not of Father Vassey. Instead, the love interest belongs to the local town sheriff, Sam Logan, played by Shawn Thompson. Hope and Thompson’s on-screen chemistry can’t seem to puncture through as it’s defined as back burner material, overshadow by Vassey’s unwavering pursuit of the demon and the frantic search for the boy, Kevin Zegers (“Dawn of the Dead” remake), through the muck of the shadow builder’s poisoning of the town upstanding morality and ethics. Rounding out the cast is Andrew Jackson as the shadow builder, Hardee T. Lindeham (“Survival of the Dead”), Catherine Bruhier, and genre vet Tony Todd (“Candyman”).
“Shadowbuilder” is by far a perfect horror film. Dixon, new to directing, dives into the infancy stages of CGI and, for the most part, the turnout pans out with the effects despite being slight crude around the edges. Stokes script puts story development right into the fast lane and doesn’t let off the gas so if you walk out of the room for a coke and return, you’ll miss something pivotal. The design works well to keep up the pace for a story that has a lot to tell and to not give the viewers a chance to piecemeal pick apart a teetering concept. One aspect that really tilts toward the negative is actually Tony Todd’s performance as the town crazy, a one-eyed Rastafarian named Evert Covey who is completely aware of the demon’s presence, but goes unexplained. Todd sells crazy, and sells it really well, but the lack of exposition into purpose plunders the character into outside the lines oblivion that begs the question, why is this character here? A guess would place Covey as a means to keep the lights running as he’s some sort of convivial, jerry-rigging mechanic.
MVD Visuals Rewind Collection label sports a special edition Blu-ray of Bram Stoker’s “Shadowbuilder.” The 1080p resolution is presented in a widescreen 1.85:1 aspect ratio. Despite the the 1080p resolution that aims to bring a little more detail to the fold, the coloring on the transfer is quite faded with considerable noise that’s hard to ignore, but while the noise is underfoot it doesn’t necessarily cripple “Shadowbuilder’s” ominous and foreboding vehicle. The CGI looks better than expected being an early model from the millennial transition into more prominiment animation in the turn of the century. The English uncompressed 2.0 PCM sound track passes muster, leaving dialogue rightfully forefront and substantial ambience as support. Bonus features include a nifty poster insert, a visual effects tour, and a making of featurette with interviews that include with the director Jamie Dixon, screenwriter Michael Stokes, the demon himself, Andrew Jackson, and Tony Todd. Kevin Zegers has his own featurette, a commentary director Jamie Dixon, and the theatrical trailer alongside MVD trailers for other Rewind Collection films. Michael Rooker, Tony Todd, and a demon. A winning combination reamed with apocalyptic mayhem, destruction, and undiluted carnage and up on a pedestal with on the eclectic MVD Rewind Collection.
Six months after a tragic climbing accident that left his wife dead and him crippled and bound to a wheel chair, Preston Rogers has been ordered by his doctor to return home, near the site of accident, with the assistance of a nurse to unify Preston’s shattered psyche. Next door, five, young party girls check in for an all-girls party weekend. However, they’re not alone. In the woods, lurks a monstrous living legend, blood thirsty, and ready to feast on the flesh and bone of animal and human alike. As Preston witnesses one death after another from a perched view while sitting in his wheel cheer, he becomes desperate to reach the survivors’ attentions and no one, from police to his uncouth nurse assistant, believe his story of a vicious, hairy creature skulking in the woods, leaving Preston by himself to save others as well as himself.
They don’t make monster movies like this anymore! “Abominable” is the 2006 blood splattering creature feature from writer-director Ryan Schifrin. The director’s freshman film is a wallop of entertainment with ton of homage and a plenty of gruesome kills that you can revisit over and over again on some kind of morbid repeat in this high caliber, independent, coal-coated gem that’s “Read Window” meets a whole hell of a messed up version of “Harry and the Hendersons.” You don’t want this ginormous meat eater breaking in your couch or raiding your fridge! The tightly knit set locations that might usually stagnant a story are easily compensated with a graphic and bloody violence that stems from the many full frontal visuals on the towering, practical effects monster. “Abominable” also looks and feels really expensive and not a slapped together, last minute production.
Now, Ryan Schifrin might not agree with me here and the director might say that it was his passion that attracted some of the genre’s biggest names to have small roles in first time feature, but I’m pretty confident that his well-known composer father, Lalo Schifrin whose composed for movies “The Amityville Horror” and “The Class of 1984”, had some influential help other than also being the orchestrating composer for his son’s film. In leading with “Abominable’s” main star, I remember this actor from his charismatic boyfriend material character in “Deep Star Six;” Matt McCoy plays the crippled Preston Rogers who must rely on his smarts rather than his physical strength. McCoy’s piecing blue eyes and solid acting chops has him being a believable character in an unbelievable movie. McCoy’s character and his at odds dynamic with skeezy male nurse Otis Wilhelm, dedicatedly played in a first time performance by special effects artist Christien Tinlsey, is probably one of the better shallow pissing matches around. The five party girls are Karin Anna Cheung, Natalie Compagno, Ashley Hartman, genre scream queen Tiffany Shepis, who has one of the best death scenes ever, and rounding off with Haley Joel in the female lead. Hold onto to your hats, because we’re not done yet with the star-studded cast list that includes Rex Linn (“Cliffhanger”), Phil Morris (“Dark Planet”), Dee Wallace Stone (“E.T.”), Lance Henriksen (“Aliens”), Jeffrey Combs (“Reanimator”), and Paul Gleason (“Breakfast Club”). Dialogue between Henriksen and Combs is pure magic and just adds that cherry on top of something already pretty sweet.
Schifrin’s “Abominable” is a down to Earth horror. Practical, small, and a straight shooter that doesn’t try to gimmick a way to fame and cult fandom. Schifrin, with the help of the late “Blairwitch Project” director Neal Fredericks, was able to capture the atmosphere and the creature without having to burden themselves with computer generated imagery or relying heavily on camera tricks or crafty edits to progress the story that certainly needed to be blunt. Fredericks cinematography creates the allusion of a bigger world, a world where Schifrin’s creature lives, breathes, and hunts as the urban legend of the Flatwoods Monster. McCoy sells his role of a challenged individual; one whose on the cusp of giving up with he realizes there’s hope in saving these young girls when he could not save his wife or the use of his legs. Auxiliary cast members are not two-bit nobodies with lifeless personalities of backwoods piss ants; instead, Jeffrey “The Frighteners” Combs and Lance “Pumpkinhead” Henrikson are the best backwoods creeps with shotguns and oxygens canisters to act the roles. The monster’s absolutely and gratifying heinous with the Frito-razor teeth, the dingy string hair, and the mouth that opens up a foot wide.
“Abominable” reclaims a home on the MVD Rewind Collection label with a brand new 2K definition transfer 2-disc, DVD (Standard Definition) and Blu-ray (1080p) combo set, presented in a widescreen, 1.78:1 aspect ratio; however the ratio is stretched to fit the entire screen. The image quality is rather clean, but has a fuzzy, soft overlay that’s true to form with a film originally shot in 35mm coming into contact with some electrical interference. The version of “Abominable” is also a all new cut of the film with improved CGI-effects, which there were some, and were overseen by director Ryan Schifrin and editor Chris Conlee. The release continues with a forthright note about enhancing the color timing and correction to further the experience which epitomizes more clearly in a scene where the blue eyes of Matt McCoy and Haley Joel are depicted overly brilliant when staring at each other in the darkness or in the lighted room or, in fact, anything that’s blue, i.e. Joel’s blue jeans or Otis’s nurses getup is indistinguishable being any other hue. This edition comes with an English 5.1 surround audio, uncompressed PCM on the Blu-ray, and the balance is remarkable. Dialogue is poignant and punctual with the beast’s belly deep roars echoing through with such range and depth that it heightens the monstrous terror. Lalo Schifrin’s score comes out clean enough despite slightly schlocky in comparison to his son’s material. New extras include a new introduction from director Ryan Schifrin and bonus material from other releases become rebranded on this combo release with an audio commentary by Schifrin, Jeffrey Combs, and Matt McCoy, a making of featurette, deleted and extended scenes, outtakes and bloopers, “Shadows” – short film by Ryan Schifrin at USC Student Film school, “Basil & Mobius: No Reast for the Wicked” short by Schifrin that features a score composed by Lalo Schifrin, the original theatrical trailer, poster and still gallery, stoyboard gallery, and a collectible mini poster insert! Whew! MVD Rewind Collection went big and landed huge with Ryan Schifrin’s “Abominable.” The mammoth release will surely be a definitive cut for the scarcely heard of creature feature that’s made with deep reverence for the classic monster movie and denotes a sincere and unwavering passion for the genre, making “Abominable” a lovable tribute of beast slaughtering stowed with paralyzing anxiety and symbiotic with pure, addictive joy.