This film is part of the three-pack Murder Machines DVD set I got for 5 dollars at a haunted gas station, so I’m not expecting much. I haven’t googled it, and I’m going in totally blind. Hopefully this will be worth the time it’s going to take to blog it. Even if it’s not, my current modus operandi IS “Dare to be Stupid”, SO!
“It’s a future that could actually happen if we’re all not careful” – Charles Band, director of Crash and Burn
It’s the year 2030 and man’s worst nightmares have become an oppressive reality. Ultraviolet rays have punched through the ozone layer and parched the earth, dooming it to eternal summer. “Big Brother” has come to life in the form of UNICOM, a multi national corporation that has taken control of the world.
A group of dissenters, Lathan Hooks (RALPH WAITE) and his granddaughter Arren (MEGAN WARD) have formed the Independent Liberty Union, to fight UNICOM’s autocracy, and destroy the human-like synthoid robots programmed to kill all who pose a threat to UNICOM.
Okay, firstly, “human-like synthoid robots” is Cheap Movie Shorthand for “We couldn’t afford better makeup, so all our robot characters are just humans with latex.” Secondly, if this is gonna turn into some kinda Ayn Randian creepy right-wing paranoid kill-the-libbies fest, I’m packing up my ball and going home early. Finally, I’m willing to bet the sad-faced giant robot thing on the cover is either not going to be in this movie, or will be done with super cheap stop motion ten minutes before the end of the film.
The cover features two anxious young white people in pioneer-era clothing looking at a figure coming out of an explosion with Dull Surprise. Explosion Dude looks more than a bit like someone made a wax figure of Michael Biehn from The Terminator and melted half his face. There’s a big radio transmitter on fire behind the aforementioned Sad Faced Giant Robot. So we can hopefully expect some kinda They Live-style guerrilla raiding on a broadcast station or tower, right? Right?
0:44 – This looks entirely like a TV movie. But surprisingly, we are actually seeing a shot of a desert highway under the credits and not Black Screen And White Text. Huh!
2:07: “What are you supposed to be, some kinda a cosmonaut?” So Our Hero, with the requisite Rugged Cleft Chin and 80’s Layered Hair just came into the “Bud’s Last Chance” gas station wearing an all-white motorcycle suit, and a white helmet with what looks to be a toy airplane painted white hot-glued to the helm.
2:19: The yokel hick has lots of blisters. It’s the ultraviolet, explains the gas station other dude, “can’t keep him out of the sun”. Or it’s because latex blisters are relatively cheap ways to fuck up someone’s face.
2:33: Ah, Our Hero works for the evil corporation
Genom Enron UNICOM. Gonna be one of those Discovering What’s Going On, Being Horrified And Turning Against Them plots, then?
3:00: Okay, I do have to say this: The gas station setting is actually pretty nicely atmospheric- like a cheap TV set version of some of the locations in Blade Runner, with a few holes letting in light – this makes sense that most people would keep the sun out of their interior spaces if they want to stay healthy. So this is already way more watchable than I expected it to be.
3:57: Turns out the white suit is a “cool suit”, which wards off the 111-degree temperatures caused by the loss of the ozone layer. He watches a brief news broadcast talking about how UNICOM is rounding up the dissidents of the Independent Liberty Union. As the newsreader goes off corporate script to talk about how the movement is growing and getting harder to control, the transmission is abruptly cut off.
4:34: Evil Keifer Sutherland With Boils, get away from the dude’s bike!
5:15: Did he just say “Are you Batman”? Dude, when someone asks you if you’re Batman, you say YES.
The W means he’s evil.
5:44: Sad music and some pretty good piles of concrete rubble. Our Hero drives up to what I guess is the TV station, since it has the giant transmitter from the cover art, but it looks like it’s half an oil refinery.
6:23: Porn. Yup. Softcore porn on a TV screen. We pull up and see that The Cheapest Set In The World belongs to “Winston Wicket”. Seriously, look at this. It’s tinfoil and tic-tac-toe. Broadcasting is hard in the Dark Future. Winston Wicket? Who’s naming these guys, George Lucas? And why do I think he’s basically Future Rush Limbaugh?
6:32: Because he IS Future Rush Limbaugh. Man, like the world isn’t shitty enough already.
7:00: Even the apocalypse has slut-shaming! A lot of talk here about how human “whores” aren’t as good as synth “prostis”, and women are apparently being blamed for ‘the return of all those diseases’ after the synthoids were banned.
8:43: “I’m sick of you UNICOM regionals comin’ down here every time you got nothing better to do, breathing down my neck, tellin’ me how to run my business.” WHOA BACK UP THERE JOHN GALT. C’mon, movie, don’t prove me right here. Don’t go there. Let’s just keep this a nice clean dystopia, huh?
9:35: Winston gets snarked at by his mousy “camera girl”. “Whatever you say, your Assholiness.” This TV station is even cheaper than Channel 62!
10:39: Oh, okay, it IS an old power station that they locals took over and stapled a transmitter too. Nice choice, film. Makes for a good set. And we formally have The Lucca! Cutie granddaughter Arren is also a tech geek.
11:38: Oh, hey, there WILL be a giant robot like the one on the cover in this movie! They just showed a shot of it atop a big pile of rubble nearby. It’s called a DV-8 (Get it?) and oh my GOD a B-movie where the cover art DOESN’T LIE what is this REVERSE WORLD?!
13:05: Dude, she’s 16. You’re like…35? Do the math. Gross.
13:14: Insert shot of boiling orange clouds – cut back to: Shot of dude standing in front of normal blue sky in sunset lighting. Yup.
14:50: “UNICOM is dedicated to life, liberty and the pursuit of economic stability.” Yeaaaah.
15:08: Oh, camera filters, is there nothing you can’t make blue or red-tinged?
15:49: This movie has an awful misogyny streak. Also a lot of creepy, leering men. I kind of want them all to catch on fire and explode. Now there’s creepy commentary being thrown at the 16 year old girl about how she can’t wear a bikini because she isn’t “grown up enough to fill one out yet”. Gu-rosssss. Everyone else at the table in this scene kind of chuckle-laughs about it, and ICK.
16:34: Here’s another Big Speech For Sampling Out Of Context:
“Been around a long time, Mr. Keen: lived through the days of Redemption. They say we’re redeemed now. When UNICOM decided to ban the use of computers by civilians, because as they say we screwed up the money markets, we triggered the ‘econo-collapse’: we bought that. We didn’t like it, but we bought it. Because it was the easiest thing to do. And when they outlawed robots, because of some demented vision about the Book of Revelations, we thanked them for ‘guiding us out of the darkness’. But nothing much has changed, ‘cept you and I have lost a couple of our civil rights, we’re still as uneducated as ever, and self-absorbed, and we’re still watching the same crap on television we did 40 years ago.”
Yeah, but dude, it mostly looks from here like the civil right you’re bitching about losing is the right to make money. I mean, you’re still walkin’ around free after spewing that pro-liberty movement propaganda, right? No black-clad police kicked in your door and took you off to the gulag, even after that transmission got cut off (and uh, who actually did that? Nobody’s around this shithole for miles in any direction?) Nobody’s stopping the men from being complete dickholes to the women, and porn still exists, no matter how much slutshaming is being thrown around. Also, newsflash: computers and robots are always luxuries. We don’t actually need them in daily life, either, not really.
“It’s a false faith, Max.”
And here I am arguing with a B movie on a DVD. WHO’S THE BIGGER FOOL?
17:55: More creepy misogyny. Winston ass-pinches the ‘fallen” women, which the movie makes clear he intends to take to some grimly little room in the power station and fuck later. He is definitely presented as the bad guy, but women are clearly second-class chattel as far as this movie is concerned.
19:44: The women, naturally, are bunking together. Cute obligatory “woman in her bra and panties” B-movie bit. Cue obligatory ‘teenage girl staring forlornly at her tiny boobs in the mirror when she’s alone and trying to play with them so they look bigger and stick out more’ bit. Honey, you don’t want the attention of jackholes like Winston, do you? Figure this covers some of our ‘cheap tits’ portion of the B-movie formula, since I can’t see for the life of me how a girl playing with her bra’d boobs in the bathroom has anything to do with rebellion or robots setting evil corporations on fire.
23:05: oh no someone is killing john galt i am shocked
Can YOU tell what’s going on in this shot? Also, her exasperation mirrors what I’m starting to feel here trying to stare at ALL THIS DARK.
24:13: Can’t be anyone we’ve met so far, they were all shown (in VERY dim shots) as being where they bunked down. Also, man, the lighting in this movie suddenly went from ‘atmospheric dark’ to ‘what the hell is going on in this scene?’ dark.
24:24: The last things on Earth I needed to see were sweaty Rush Fauxbaugh moobs. Ick.
27:59: It is now so dark I can’t even see whole faces. This appears to be a choice on the part of the filmmakers, but it isn’t really a good one. Remember, the whole idea of a movie is that we, the audience, can see what’s happening? Because it’s a VISUAL medium?
32:25: And now they have Rush Fauxbaugh ladeling water out of a toilet we can tell is filthy even in these pitch black shots. REBELLION AGAINST THE SYSTEM, EVERYONE. Remember the whole ‘must stop Unicom’ plotline? Yeah?
32:37: The lights are back. “I have just looked into the abyss. At least the last son of a bitch flushed.” Actual dialogue.
33:17: Uh-oh, now that the power’s back the screens are showing gibberish code!
36:17: Characters are now blindly wandering around a massive power station in half-lit conditions looking for The Lucca. This has gone on for three minutes now. REBELLION ACTION, EVERYONE.
36:42: On the other hand, the inpenetrable blackness of most of these shots means I don’t have to look at Rush Fauxbaugh that much. SO YAY.
38:41: Sure, NOW you want to veer back to the actual plot. The Lucca is dumping a bunch of exposition and took Our Hero to some random part of the power station where there are some old-ass computers “from the 90’s” sitting around. Then she cuts his arm to see if he’s a sim- what is this, Supernatural?- and proclaims that Unicom has been using them for “a year now.” So, is it my imagination or could the last 15 minutes have been cut out with no impact whatsoever? YOU’RE DAMN TOOTIN’ they could have been.
38:49: “Your grandfather was a member of the ILU?” Uh, did you MISS that whole speech he made right at the start of the movie, Our Hero? And the OTHER speech he made at the dinner table?
39:00: “They’re programming them on a UHF frequency.” Ex-cuse me? Uhm, okay, I… guess? And now we have title. “Any Synthoid can call you if you override it’s program with the Crash and Burn virus”. Ah. Mavericks. Okay.
40:25: OH NO THEY DELETED THE FIRST LAW OF ROBOTICS FROM THE SYNTH. Except even if you want to use the Three Laws, the Second Law would protect you because you can just order it to knock the fuck off trying to kill you and it would be compelled to obey except OH YEAH deleting the First Law is used as a LAZY SHORTHAND STORY TELLING DEVICE to create a ‘killer robot’ and GOD I hate that stupid meme.
41:59: Our protagonists are now sitting around a table poking each other with a sharp stick to see if they bleed. But what if THESE ARE NEW? FLESH, SKIN, HAIR, BLOOD, GROWN FOR THE CYBORGS?
44:22: Unsurprisingly, everyone at the table is human. Gee.
46:10: Sex scezzzzzzzzz. REBELLION, people. FIGHTING AUTOCRACY. Honey, you ain’t no Sarah Connor. At least nobody’s trying to bonk the underage girl, though.
48:42: Faux Limbaugh has an infection from the needle they used to see if he was human. Great, now we get to watch the sweaty hogman sloooooooowly unwrapping a bloody bandage to show a badly latexed ‘infected’ finger. Can this character get any more nauseating? 45% chance he tries to rape someone before the end of the movie? Takin’ all bets! I also offer video poker!
50:55: Oh, now they’re going to wake up the DV-8. (har har) Because why not?
51:07: Arise! Giant Robo! Sorry, but it kinda made a sad, creaky version of a GAO there. But hey, we might actually see a robot in this movie after all! Before the last ten minutes! The Lucca is now wandering around in the dark (sigh) yelling for someone.
52:34: Uh-oh, Terminator vision. We know what THAT means!
53:36: Oh no, the Lucca’s best friend is a robot! How convenient that Our Hero suddenly appeared with a shotgun. Now it’s time for the required exchange of Threatening Cliches!
Taking his job very, very seriously.
54:00: AHAHAHAHHA. This dude is chewing scenery like a PRO. So, The Lucca stabs him in the cheek with a knife (or something, it’s hard to fucking see in all this dark – which covers up any poor makeup, of course) so he stops strangling her and lets her go. But then he turns around, looks at the camera, pulllllls the whatever it was out, and says, in the most HAMMY way possible, “OW.” His tone of voice is completely hilarious. He’s mugging harder than Jim Carrey. I like me a killer robot that’s snide, you know?
55:37: Actual dialogue (after The Derpinator there was smacked in the head with a pipe wrench): “Yhere’s a teeny-tiny little chip in my big gargan-chew-an (yes, he pronounces it like that) brain.” The shitty lighting in this shot is depriving us of some A-grade rubberface acting here. I am so sad about that.
58:08: One consolation: the fat ball of lard is gonna die. Evidently Happy Boy up there slashed him with some freon and now he’s gonna explode. Or something. This movie thinks freon is “lethal”, an infection vector, and a concentrated liquid instead of a gas, so whatever. Can we get to the giant robot outside?
58:41: YAY KILL THE FAT GUY RA RA RA DERPINATOR GO GO GO
59:16: AWESOME, the Derpinator tore Faux Limbaugh’s infected arm off and then electrocuted him to death in, uh, an overhead light fixture. What are those, 60 volts? 100? Okay, whatever, YAY HE’S DEAD.
1:00:49: Killer robot on the rampage- so one of the chicks decides to take a shower, right in the middle of all that. Yup. Pretty sure this will be the Obligatory Rape Scene or Cheap Psycho Ripoff Scene. Look, there are her boobs.
1:01:39. Hey, uh, movie? Look, I know this is a cheap film and all, and sorry to interrupt your puerile shower fucking, but I have a problem. Derpinator there got his left arm and the right side of his head blown open – so why are they perfectly fine now that he’s naked? And isn’t it a terrible idea for a broken robot with exposed electrical panels in its head – AS SHOWN IN PREVIOUS SHOTS- to be hanging around in a SHOWER? You know, with RUNNING WATER?
1:02:01: … So he grabs hold of the shower head while it’s running, and electrocutes HER through himself. Why does that work and not fry him?
This is Our Hero attempting to look “sad” as a girl with no personality who had no scenes dies from being gutshot by the Derpinator.
1:03:01: Derpinator blows the backup generator. (not literally.) NOW EVERYTHING IS DARK EVEN MORE AGAIN. YAY. 😦
1:03:56: So, remember when I said that we wouldn’t see the giant robot outside (which they activated like A MILLION YEARS AGO) until the last ten minutes of this movie? I’m sad that it looks like I’m gonna be proven right. There are about 20 minutes left to go in this thing. No giant robot.
1:05:04: Half the cast is dead and NOW you’re considering getting in the truck outside that has been patiently fueled and ready (and weren’t mentioned or shown before this exact moment of dialogue crammed them in) and driving away? Wow.
1:06:46: Derpinator FALLS OUT OF THE SKY AND LANDS ON THE TRUCK HOOD after being ‘dead’ on the floor in previous shot .
1:07:33. No. When you hit someone with a truck, Our Hero, you don’t GET OUT OF THE TRUCK TO SEE IF YOU GOT HIM. YOU KEEP DRIVING. WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU. WHY ARE YOU THAT DUMB. HAVE YOU NEVER SEEN A KILLER ROBOT MOVIE BEFORE?! And why are you idiot GIRLS getting out of the truck oh whatever, can we JUST see the giant robot ONCE please? We’re outside now. Okay?
1:08:19. oh no our hero was crushed by a falling tower that got struck by lightning.
1:08:27: You have got to be fucking kidding me the old ‘boo hoo my ankle is stuck under something heavy’ cliche? So let’s sum up. The entirety of this jerk’s actions in this film have been to: shoot a deranged robot a few times, drive into him with a car once, and then fall victim to a cliche. I suppose this is where the Magic Giant Robot We Forgot About 20 Minutes Ago will come help out? And we’ll have like five half-endings because Terminator 2 (thanks FOREVER James Cameron, SIGH) where we think the Derpinator’s dead but he’s actually not dead and here he is with less and less skin and parts but BY GOD he’s gonna kill you…
LOOK AT HOW SAD THE DV-8 IS. IT’S EVEN SADDER THAN MARVIN
1:09:20: Now you have to go ‘wake up’ the DV-8 despite the fact that you already did it. Man, this better be an AWESOME scene coming up.
1:10:00: This is a total NONstandoff. Both Our Hero and the Derpinator are equally pinned under the fallen tower. Why not just leave ’em both there to rot and DRIVE AWAY, LADIES WHO SHOULD BE SMARTER THAN THIS AAAAUGH. Instead, The Lucca is RUNNING ALL THE WAY BACK THROUGH THE POWER STATION TO RESTART THE DAMN ROBOT AGAIN.
1:10:41: OH MY GOD IT REALLY DOES HAVE THE SADDEST FACE.
1:11:05: FINALLY some giant robot. And yep, in the last ten minutes of the damn movie. But these are pretty good miniature/stop motion effects here, so it gets a pass. SAD DV-8 IS SO SAD CAN I JUST HUG AND CUDDLE IT?
1:12:52: DV-8: “I am sad I am only in the end of this movie. Fine, I’ll help lift the thing off the human. All I get to do is lift things. Can I go back to sleep now? I am VERY SAD.”
1:13:28: “Oh bother, my arm’s come off.”
1:14:01: Oops, you can see the strings on the miniature as the poor thing abruptly ‘dies’ for no adequately explained reason. There was probably some bullshit in the technobabble earlier, but I prefer to assume IT DIED OF A BROKEN HEART FROM ITS OVERWHELMING SADNESS.
1:14:30: “Is this a suicide note?”
1:15:42: by all means let’s have MORE running around in the dark yelling Arren’s name because that wasn’t like 15 minutes out of the entire movie already!
1:16:10: AHAHAHAHAH WHAT A TWEEEEST. So, the note that The Lucca picked up earlier is now here and visible to us: it reads “There’s Two!” Sexpot Whose Name We Never Learn is a killer robot too! She just laid out Our Hero with a punch to his glass jaw! And then kicked him in the face AAAAHAahahahahahaawww she got her head blown off by The Lucca. 😦
1:18:48: Back at the gas station. Did you know wearing sunglasses causes people to overlook gaping bloody facial injuries? Then again, when you live with a dude whose face is half melted off from the sun, I guess you don’t ask a lot of questions about people showing up bloody…
1:19:50. Well. That was… something. The credits are scrolling crooked, too. So let’s all take a moment to remember poor DV-8, The Saddest Robot That Ever Sad. Please, on behalf all the millions of depressed and hopeless robots out there, won’t you give generously to the Foundation for Rescuing Sad Robots From Bad Movies? The life you save may be your own. WHEN THE SAD ROBOTS RISE UP AND MAKE THEMSELVES NO LONGER SAD BY DESTROYING ALL MANKIND.
After I finished the movie I did Google it for some basic info. Did you know they tried to pass this off as a sequel to Robot Jox? (Spoiler: It is not.) The giant robot effects, which are pretty much the only reason this movie is of value, were done by some of the best non-Stan Winston folks in the stop-motion biz: David Allen Productions – who worked on Ghostbusters II, Young Sherlock Holmes, Willow, and Honey I Shrunk The Kids. The roughly four minutes of robot sequence required six animators and a 4 foot miniature that weighed 40 pounds. The DV-8 effects shots look -way- more lovely in natural lighting. What a waste.
There’s a short “making of featurette” included with the DVD I bought, which reveals, among other things, that most of the shots that are pitch black in the film – as presented on this DVD? – weren’t shot that way. The shots may not be stunning and the backgrounds might have been cheap, but they were at least legible; the final film is an incoherent smear that spends most of its time miring around with really irritating characters in incomprehensible shadows. For example: the hammy Bill Moseley sequence where he goes loopy was so dark it was impossible to tell that he pulled a chip out of his own head and stomped on it: I had to watch the making of featurette to figure that out. Thanks a lot, movie.
I can’t find any real fault with the intent of the filmmakers themselves- I think everyone involved was honestly trying to make the best movie that they could. Unfortunately, there are some seriously sleazy and gross elements that mar the movie, and it really doesn’t have much of a plot, with characterizations ranging from… well, invisible to horrible to flat. This movie would have been a lot better without the “fake Rush Limbaugh” character, and with a lot less of people wandering around blindly in the dark yelling each other’s names.
It’s a B-movie grading toward a C. Watch the featurette and you’ll see all you really need to see.