Puppet Master 2 (1991)

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If ever a film had an “abandon hope, all ye who enter here” sign right at the very beginning, this one does. The camera pans over the entrance to a cemetery…only to see the sign spelled “Cemetary”. I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt, and say it was an homage to “Pet Sematary” and we can move on.

I now realise, two films in, that the puppets are the stars of these films, with the humans as an ever-replenishable source of meat to be chopped to pieces or burned. Andre Toulon, the creator of the puppets, is conveniently buried in a cemetery which is next door to the beautiful Bodega Bay Hotel, location of the first film and this one. I know when I want to go to a picturesque hotel, I make sure it’s right next to a cemetery, so it’s good this film realised that.

After the puppets use some magic goo to bring Toulon back to life, we move on to the “stars” of the film, investigators for the US Office Of Paranormal Claims, which we’re expected to believe is a government-funded organisation. Filming this must have been traumatic for Carolyn, played by Elizabeth Maclellan, as this was her last ever film. Perhaps the idea of future Puppet Master films was too much for her.

This film is for you if you’re a fan of stars of previous films in the series being written out in really stupid ways. Megan, who survived the previous film, apparently had her brains extracted through her nose by Blade, my favourite of the puppets, at some point in between the films; and Alex, the business-mulleted hero, was suspected of her murder, thrown in an asylum and began suffering from seizures and hallucinations. Did they ask for too much money to return? Or did they both sensibly decide they had something better to do, like organise their sock drawer?

We’ve got 4 psychic investigators, a psychic hired by the investigators to see if she can sense something that science can’t (?) and, when psychic lady gets offed by one of the puppets, her son turns up to investigate. Toulon, in full Invisible Man bandage garb, turns up and pretends to be the new owner of the hotel by inheritance, and the federal employees just accept it rather than calling the police on the obviously super-creepy guy. In fact, this film seems to be set in some police-free world, as no-one reports deaths here.

The puppet activity then hots up, with them wandering hither and yon killing people whose relation to the hotel is tangential at best. Now, if you were paying attention during the first film, you might have thought Toulon was a good guy – chased out of Europe by the Nazis, killing himself rather than letting his magic puppets fall into their hands. Not so – he wants to kill a bunch of people in order to do some magic spell, which involves putting himself and Carolyn into the bodies of mannequins as she reminds him of his dead wife. It’s good to see the old dead wife resurrected as new person plotline, a horror classic.

This film also is a recipient of the Caroline Award, named for my wife and awarded to films which feature male (but no female) nudity. Psychic Lady’s son has to fight Torch, a puppet with a Nazi helmet and a flamethrower for an arm, and as he leaps out of bed to put a fire out, we’re treated to a good five seconds of man-ass. This may have something to do with producer (and director of future installments) David DeCoteau, who’s best known for several series of low-budget supernatural films with strong homoerotic tendencies, featuring guys hired due to how they look with their shirts off more than acting ability. Saying that, there’s eye candy for admirers of the female form in the film too, but they remain responsibly dressed throughout.

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So, the Puppet Master mythos has been enriched, and a decently entertaining story has been told. I don’t think it benefits from being watched immediately after part 1, as they clearly decided to change the emphasis of the film towards the puppets, from mindless followers to creatures with their own agency. As the next installment is called “Toulon’s Revenge”, I assume that Toulon’s journey to full-fledged villain of the piece is now complete as well…I rather enjoyed this film, despite its myriad flaws and oddities. I’m feeling more and more positive about the next nine films.

POSTSCRIPT: No Youtube Film Club for this one, but Full Moon Pictures did, for a while, put special behind-the-scenes films called “Videozone” on the end of all their VHS releases, and those are available on Youtube. Enjoy the one for Puppet Master 2 here:

I was on my way to audition for a better movie, but these guys just dragged me in here

I was on my way to audition for a better movie, but these guys just dragged me in here

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Youtube Film Club – Dark Heritage (1989)

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Our Youtube Film Club reviews are a bit more spoiler-heavy than our other ones, so we recommend you watch the film before reading on. It’s worth it!

Cult film websites tend to either try and go respectable and get interviews with big stars, or go for the gutter with reviewing the worst films they can find. We’ve already gone about as far down into the gutter as we can manage (ONE MORE TIME, which is barely above the level of a poor home movie), but I don’t think this review will be propelling us into the big time either.

The opening scene caused some debate – are the couple on holiday, or is that crappy looking caravan their home? To be honest, either could be true, as although it’s supposed to be a holiday, they’re in the middle of a field in the middle of nowhere, with no evidence of a car nearby to move the caravan when it’s time for the holiday to end. Anyway, they get offed, along with a remarkably large number of other people (information given to us in an on-screen news report), which takes us to the meat and drink of the film, where a newspaper editor sends his best man, Clint, out to get to the bottom of all those murders.

I don’t like to rag on the technical shortcomings of low-budget films, but there’s a couple in this scene that stick out like a sore thumb. One carries on all the way through the film – please, people, spend a few quid on some lights because every scene that’s not in daylight looks murky at best; and the other is eyelines. It’s one of those things you only notice when it gets messed up, that when two people are having a conversation their eyes either need to be on the same level, or angled so they appear to be looking at each other. The editor appears to be staring over the top of Clint’s head, then when they fix it so he’s looking at the chair, Clint’s already stood up so he’s now staring at his crotch.

Clint and his two buddies, who work for the paper I suppose, go off to the site of the killings, and stay for the night at the large derelict mansion nearby. One of them gets spooked by a loud noise (seriously) so they set up a camera to record all goings-on and take shifts to guard each other. Clint wakes up in the morning to find his two friends have vanished and everyone thinks he murdered them. No evidence is found that they were ever in the house, although Clint (for some reason) chooses not to share the videotape he has, which shows the beefier of his two friends getting knocked to the ground and dragged off by persons unknown, with a comical expression of fright on his face. The film really likes his expression, because they play it over and over again, too.

This all feels odd, as the film has spent too much time on the group to then kill two of them off, off-screen no less. Anyway, after being given three weeks paid leave to recover from the stress (wow, this really was some golden age of journalism, they’d have just sacked him and replaced him with press releases nowadays), he goes off to research the mansion and makes a couple of other male friends, both of whom are also interested in the house.

The Martense family lived there, and tragedy continued to strike them until the house was apparently abandoned over a century ago. Clint and his two new friends decide to go and investigate further, and while exploring the surrounding woodland come across the caravan from the beginning of the film, which they explain to us the police just didn’t get round to towing away yet. In case this made you scratch your head a bit, in the original story this is actually a cabin, and presumably the filmmakers just couldn’t afford to build one or find one in similar-looking forest.

Unfortunately, one of Clint’s new friends gets his face chewed off, in what is by a huge distance the best special effect in the film. Rather than doing anything sensible like reporting it to the police, so the man’s family can at least know, Clint begs his remaining friend to help him bury the dead guy in the woods so no further suspicion will be raised, re: him. This triggers maybe the least convincing use ever of the following line: “What you say makes sense”. No it doesn’t! He wants you to help him bury your friend! Two of his other friends died in mysterious circumstances! You’ve known him for about ten minutes! Run!

Amazingly, they both make it back to civilization alive, and after a rather well-done “Carnival Of Souls” inspired dream sequence, Clint and Jack (I’m not sure that’s his name, but he’s second billed and I’m sick of typing out “his friend”) decide to go back again and dig up the grave of the patriarch of the Martense clan. This kind of makes sense, I suppose, and it ultimately leads them to the secret passage which ultimately leads them to the big secret of the film (that the hideous monsters living underneath the house are members of the Martense family, separated from humanity for so long that they’ve mutated). Jack dies, of course, but Clint figures out that the last surviving member of the Martenses is someone he knows quite well…okay, it’s the editor. I had to reveal that to make the questions I’m about to ask make sense.

This film is bonkers. Cheapness is a given, but through the murk that most of the film exists in, a few slight problems bubble to the surface. If the editor was so desperate to keep the real reason for the murders under wraps, why didn’t he send his dumbest reporter and tell him not to bother doing too much work? Why did he send the best guy he had?

Also, I’m not sure how deliberate it is, but the film is absolutely laden with gay subtext. The only woman in the film walks in on Clint and the editor, with their guns out, and says “this has to stop”. Men seem to sleep in the same room, or next to each other, as a matter of course. There’s a lot of focusing on mens’ behinds too…now, I may just be reading a lot into nothing, as the rest of the film is so dull that my brain needed something to focus on, but it seems if they’re going to spend the time to put that in there, why didn’t they use the time to make the film a bit better? Anyway.

It’s a gem, for sure, and when you watch it, it will give you a newfound respect for the cheap-o films you see every other day.

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Puppet Master (1989)

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As I was in my teens in the late 80s / early 90s, and loved films back then too, I’m really quite surprised that not only did I never watch any of the Puppet Master films, but I have no idea what they’re about either. Readers, we shall discover these films together.

Turns out the puppets are actual puppets, and we see puppeteer Andre Toulon in a 1939 flashback at the Bodega Bay Hotel, with an Egyptian scroll and some puppets that move on their own. Looks like the Nazis want that scroll, though, as we’re treated to a scene that feels like it goes on forever with two Nazi agents traipsing through the hotel to find Toulon. The whole sequence, in this film at least, is pure backstory and has no direct relevance to the main plot, so could have been left to flashbacks later on? Anyway. Toulon kills himself before his secrets can fall into Nazi hands, and then…

Present day! A group of real psychics in various jobs – University professor, sex therapist couple, and carnival fortune teller (the poor woman works at a place which is the spitting image of the carnival from “The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living And Became Mixed-Up Zombies”) all receive visions which take them to the Bodega Bay Hotel, where we discover all these people know each other; as well as knowing Gallagher, their sort-of friend who married the owner of the hotel before killing himself.

So far, so good. I think it’s safe to say the filmmakers watched “The House On Haunted Hill” before producing this, and the central section of the film is our psychic friends exploring the hotel, having sex and having a series of near-misses with puppets and Gallagher’s corpse, which keeps popping up all over the hotel. Alex, the “star” of the film, has a rare double-wake-up dream sequence, which is always fun.

The puppets are surprisingly decent, little animatronic people, and the effect looks tons better than the CGI which I’m presuming the later films in the series will go for. There’s a creepy-looking chap in a black hat; a pinhead with human hands; a woman who produces slugs from her mouth; and a sole bark indicates that the stuffed dog is not as dead as it appears. Full disclosure: I own a pekingese, so seeing a stuffed version of my beloved Charlie was a bit of a bummer. It’s all to do with ancient Egyptian magic, or something, but the scroll itself is a bit unimportant to the plot.

We learn the truth about why Alex wanted to be in the hotel, and why the seemingly friendly puppets from the beginning were killing people left, right and centre by the end. All in all, it’s not bad! It’s a little bit like an extended episode of “Tales Of The Unexpected” (or “The Twilight Zone”, for any American readers), and it’s fairly tense, there’s some black humour in there and the gore, while definitely not excessive, is well done.

It’s not all positive though, sadly. The pace is s-l-o-w at times, and there’s no explanation as to why these people have psychic powers, or why they’re friends. The motivation for bumping them off seems okay but doesn’t really stand up to a moment’s scrutiny…but it’s certainly not terrible. And we get to see the pekingese brought back to life right at the end, and he seems happy, so there’s that.

This is the first of 11 films in the series, and if I’m reading Wikipedia right at least one of them will be a greatest-hits style compilation with 20 minutes of new connecting footage. What is it with these horror franchises and doing stuff like this? You cheap bastards! Full Moon Pictures also ripped off their own property for the “Demonic Toys” series, so if I’m in a really good mood I might do them too. The same company also made the “Trancers” films, which I love, and a series of vampire films called “Subspecies” which might be worth a look. They seem to be the sort of company which would have been killed off by the internet, relying on video rental, but they’re still doing their thing (the last Puppet Master film was released last year, and the “Evil Bong” series seems to be doing well for them).

In summary – it could have been 20 minutes shorter and not a thing would have been missed, but the acting is solid, the special effects are surprisingly decent and the thought of watching ten more films doesn’t fill me with the sort of dread it could do.

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Phantasm 4: Oblivion (1998)

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So, we come to the end of the “Phantasm” series with a film which clearly was not intended to be the final chapter (and with the part 5 rumours, may not be) but serves as a last appearance for Reggie, Mike, Jody and the Tall Man.

Keeping up the tradition, the film starts the instant part 3 ends, with Reggie pinned to the wall by dozens of silver balls, while Mike escapes in the hearse, his eyes turning silver, the strong implication being he’s transforming slowly into something Tall Man-esque. Reggie is then, for no reason I can fathom other than boredom on the Tall Man’s part, freed and sent on his way.

They went full on with the Christmas decoarations that year

They went full on with the Christmas decorations that year

The majority of the film is split between Reggie and Mike, as they go on their separate adventures across the desolate south-western USA, with not just small towns being empty now but whole cities falling. This is more told to us rather than shown (apart from one brief scene they must have filmed at 4:30 am on the streets of LA), but the sense of there being very few people left is pretty well communicated to us. As Reggie and Mike tell their stories via voiceover, we get to see clips which were cut from the original 1979 film as well as bits from parts 2 and 3 – not anywhere near the extent of “Sleepaway Camp 4”, more an attempt to deepen the backstory. The problem being, the stuff they put in was cut for a reason, like seeing the Tall Man arrive in town in the first place. Things that give you too much information have a habit of lessening the scares, when they do come.

Unlike the frankly boring part 3, this film seems to have a conclusion it wants to reach, and on the way tells us what amounts to the origin story of the Tall Man. This story contradicts the info we get in the first film, sort of, but…if you think of all the films in the series as being dreams, then the Tall Man changes to reflect the differences in Mike’s personality. As a kid, he’s frightened of alien bodysnatchers, but by his mid 30s he’s thinking of the past and of places like the town he grew up in, destroyed by the march of capitalist progress. I don’t think this is true, necessarily, and it’s more a weak bit of storytelling than anything else, but the heavy reliance on dream sequences throughout the films at least allows you to have that reading of it.

Reggie meets a woman, as he has in the last two films, but this meeting is hilariously perfunctory – she barely has time to be introduced and walk round in her underwear for a few minutes before her boobs turn into silver balls and Reggie has to bash her head in with a hammer. Reggie is slightly less creepy in this film, for those of you keeping score. Mike’s story is him fighting the increasing influence of the Tall Man and his becoming whatever the Tall Man is – after a brief detour into the weird silver portals that have been a mainstay of the series.

It all ties up pretty well, even if the Tall Man saying “and now it begins” at the 1 hour 15 minute mark was a bit worrying – that is, until the film did the whole horror-series-can-never-really-end thing and decided to just not bother with any of that. But my desire to see stories with endings is never going to be satisfied by horror franchises, and I need to get over it.

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After seeing all four films, I’m much happier with them than I am with the “Sleepaway Camp” series. Aside from 3 effectively being a remake of 2, it’s been remarkably solid with a good sense of humor and lots to recommend. If you ISCFC readers have any suggestions for future horror franchises for us to cover, then please say so in the comments, otherwise I’ll see you soon for either “Puppet Master” or “Hellraiser.”

Phantasm 3: Lord of the Dead (1994)

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Don Coscarelli, writer-director of all four “Phantasm” films, clearly saw part 2 and thought “I’ve made some mistakes here. What I need to do is tell that same story again, only a bit different and bring back all the actors from part 1 as well.” Would the five year wait have been worth it, had we all been horror film buffs back then? Read on.

In the tradition of all the films so far, part 3 starts the instant part 2 ends. We actually get some flashbacks to scenes in that film that we never saw, and James LeGros’s last scene as Mike is reshot with a new actor. Only it turns out it’s an old actor – A. Michael Baldwin, who played the young Mike in the 1979 original, is back in one of the odder casting choices I can remember.

After a brief scene where Reggie holds off the Tall Man with a grenade, and we discover that the iconic silver balls have got brains in them, “Phantasm 3: Lord of the Dead” gets going. Reggie rescues Mike from hospital (zombie nurses, the worst sort of nurses) and the two of them hit the road. This isn’t the first similarity between parts 2 and 3, and you definitely get the feeling quite a few times that you’re just watching the same film with a few different actors.

Mike gets kidnapped quite early on and misses the entire middle of the film, so Reggie travels on his own to yet another desolate small town, only this time immediately comes across three criminals who throw him in his own trunk and take him to what looks like a house they picked pretty much at random. This house, for no real reason, is full of “Home Alone” style traps and a kid, who after slaughtering the three bad guys, joins Reggie on his adventures. After finding yet another mausoleum, they meet Rocky, a Grace Jones lookalike badass who makes up the third part of their happy little crew.

It's only a flesh wound

It’s only a flesh wound

I’d forgotten this series’ reliance on dream logic and full-on dream sequences, and there’s an excellent dream sequence in this, where Reggie is having sex with Rocky, only to be interrupted by Jody, Mike’s big brother who died at the end of the first film. He’s back too! And played by the original actor, to boot. Reggie seems happy to continue with the task at hand until he is forced…further into his dream?…and manages to rescue Mike.

The balls appear to have had a power-up for part 3. They now have extra little doohickeys that come out of them, can operate as remote cameras for the Tall Man and can project laser light shows – and now our heroes have a friendly silver ball which has Jody’s brain inside it. Yes, that makes sense. They have another bash at killing the Tall Man for good – I’ll let the presence of Phantasm 4 and a potential Phantasm 5 clue you in on how successful they are.

The Tall Man’s process for making his dwarf slaves – oh, sorry, they’re different in this film and are actually dwarf soldiers he’s using to take over the Universe – is labour intensive and pretty slow. If what we see is his process for making one new slave, then he could be at it from now til doomsday and never make enough to take over a small town, much less the whole universe. His interest in Mike is never really explained, either, but I can’t tell if that’s a plot hole or more of that dream logic I dislike so much. Perhaps he just wants a friend? It must be pretty lonely, with just silver balls and mindless dwarves to keep you company.

I think Reggie Bannister is great, Angus Scrimm’s Tall Man is a suitably alien villain, and I like the sense of humour that the films have, even if Reggie’s attempts to woo Rocky bordered on the creepy at times. But the problem is, nothing has progressed. Our heroes are in largely the same position they were in part 2, even down to using the same main weapon, and we know nothing new about the Tall Man or about how they hope to finish him off. Also, the Tall Man’s plans are still frustratingly unclear, with no sense of how he’s doing – and with him being essentially indestructible, there’s not a lot of dramatic tension about the ending battle.

But maybe I’m being too harsh, or looking at it the wrong way. If you want Reggie and friends vs. The Tall Man, then this film delivers in spades. It’s no worse than the legion of other horror franchises of the time, it’s light-hearted in places, serious in others, and has a nice smattering of gore. It’s certainly not a bad film. It just could be a bit “more”, is all.

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Deep Rising (1998)

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Directed by: Stephen Sommers

I was flicking through Sky Movies this afternoon and decided to watch ‘Deep Rising’. I hit the ‘i’ button on the remote before the film began and learnt that it was about a bunch of pirates who attempt to rob a cruise ship, unfortunately “something had already got there first”. After watching the first fifteen minutes of the movie I assumed that the something was actually a “someone” and that stealthy sleek jewel thief Famke Janssen was the person who would outsmart the pirates. What I didn’t expect was a flesh eating multi-tentacled sea creature to turn up and kill everything in sight.

It was not until the cruise liner comes to a crashing halt and an Asian woman is killed in a toilet cubicle that I realized – hang on a minute, there’s something strange going on here. This is a monster movie.

Disappointingly it all goes downhill from there. The survivors battle against the odds, as one by one they get picked off by the monster in gruesome fashion. You’ve seen this movie before, either with an alien, a serial killer or a supernatural beast. It’s that formulaic. Our heroes and heroines discover something horrible, panic about the discovery, run away for a while, and then eventually escape.

Famke Janssen was my teenage movie crush in the nineties, and she’s the leading lady in this film, playing the sneaky Trillian St. James. I think my attraction to Janssen may have had something to do with her crushing Russians in her well-toned thighs in ‘Goldeneye’ or as an authoritative teacher in teen sci-fi horror ‘The Faculty’. Given that I’m regressing back to my horny teenage lusting period it makes sense to say something that I probably would’ve said back in the late nineties – Janssen smokes up the screen with her hotness. For a while she wears a tight fitting red dress, when the monster is raising hell she changes into something casual and ultimately more practical attire for fleeing from a blood thirsty sea monster.

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‘Deep Rising’ could’ve been dramatically different had the hero role of John Finnegan gone to Harrison Ford, instead Treat Williams got the gig and he does ok. Though I can’t help but wonder if he’s trying a little hard to be Jack Burton from ‘Big Trouble…’ (replace truck driver for hire with boat captain for hire), kinda bumbling along confidently despite having no idea what he’s going up against. For one thing he and his crew agree to ferry a group of heavily armed pirates and their torpedoes out on an ocean trip, destination unknown. Finnegan’s pretty dumb not to be at least a little curious about his passengers.

The multi-tentacled sea monster is able to do things that I’ve never ever seen a sea monster do on screen before, somehow it is able to stretch itself miles through pipes and corridors; its tentacles splitting off into several nimble angry fanged openings, hungry for anything with a pulse. The monster feeds on the ship’s crew and passengers, and then the invading pirates, leaving skeletons in the bowels of the boat. Despite seemingly being powerful enough to stop a ship in its tracks, and smash through iron, and even clever enough to sneak up on its victims, it has real difficulty catching the final few survivors, consistently getting outsmarted by them.

‘Deep Rising’ cost forty five million dollars to make, and made just over eleven million at the box office. It was a stone cold flop, and can be best described as a damp squid of a movie.

– RJW
4/10

Deep Rising on IMDB

Riddick (2013)

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Vin Diesel is, by all accounts, a smart fella. His production credit on the “Fast and Furious” films means he never needs to work again, and he’s nurtured his Riddick character through two previous films, a computer game series, a few animated shorts and now, nearly ten years after the last one, this new entry.

At the end of the “The Chronicles of Riddick”, our hero found himself as Lord Marshall of the Necromongers, a sort of supernatural race of partly dead soldiers. But clearly David Twohy (the writer – director) and Diesel weren’t interested in telling more stories about the Necromongers, so after a rather implausible first few minutes where he quits his job and gets himself stranded and left near death on a sun-blasted alien planet, we’re able to kick off with a relatively clean slate.

The planet he’s stranded on is full of weird and wonderful alien life, and the first third of the film is him learning to adapt to this environment, hunt in it, and so on. He even manages to get himself a little pet, in the form of a weird dog-like creature, and this section, with Diesel being the only human on screen, is surprisingly gripping and operates as a way to show the skills he has for those viewers who never saw the character before.

But it’s when he finds a long-abandoned scientific / military outpost that the film really kicks off. He triggers the emergency beacon, and when a scanner identifies him, two different groups of bounty hunters come to the planet to get a man so dangerous that the bounty is doubled if he’s brought back dead. One of the groups is a bunch of degenerates, led by a fella called Santana, the other a pseudo-military outfit led by Boss Johns. Santana’s lot want the money, whereas Boss Johns wants to know what happened to his son, one of the characters from the first Riddick film, “Pitch Black”.

Therein lies the film, really. The two groups have their tactics of how to capture and kill Riddick, while he has his lifetime of training, fighting and survival to fall back on in a battle of brawn and wits. It’s really exciting, and while it bears a few similarities to the first movie I think it’s a fresh and interesting way to use the character. Riddick is the hunter in this, and while he’s occasionally a little too amazing to be real (and his comments to the one female member of either crew, Katee Sackhof’s character Dahl, are a little on the dodgy side) the tension is well built up and the final battle, with hordes of Mud Demons being revitalised thanks to a heavy rainstorm and trying to snack on some humans, is well done.

I find it hard talking about films which are solidly above average, other than to say something like “go and see this” in one of a hundred different ways. But I love science fiction, and I want to see it succeed, so it’s great that some real hard sci-fi like this is getting made. None of your “planet Earth with one or two differences” nonsense, this is an alien, with alien ideas, fighting on an alien planet, and I love it. It certainly has the feeling of the middle chapters in a much longer story, but it does well to operate as a standalone film too.

Okay, it’s not going to blow anyone’s mind, and it doesn’t so much advance the Riddick mythos as it does give us an entertaining two hours in his company, but a complicated mythos has been the death of many a sci-fi franchise. For a fairly low budget film it doesn’t feel like it scrimps and saves on the special effects, using its relatively few sets and large portions of darkness well.

If you’re a fan of Diesel’s, you’ll have almost certainly seen this film already (and judging by its box office take, we’ll be getting more in the series as soon as Diesel’s finished with upcoming “Fast and Furious” and “XXX” franchise entries), but if you’re not, I’d definitely recommend getting all three films, and watching them over the course of a few nights.

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Oh, a PS going out to the makers of this film – my wife was very disappointed we got to see boobs in this film, but not even a tasteful butt shot of Vin Diesel. You might want to think about that portion of your fanbase, guys.

Transmorphers: Fall Of Man (2009)

This doesn't happen in the film

This doesn’t happen in the film

All prequels are rubbish. There’s an exception or two (Godfather 2, the Planet of the Apes ones) but by and large, prequels don’t work – partly because you know how it’s going to end, but mostly because a lot of the wonder of a great film is the little mysteries. Boba Fett is awesome when he seems like an indestructible force of nature, and quite a bit less awesome when it turns out he’s just a clone of some bloke; and this applies to every “see how this villain became a villain” movie. We really don’t care, Hollywood. Of course, some prequels suck because they’re just no good, and that’s the arena we find ourselves in for “Transmorphers: Fall Of Man”.

 

If you’d like to read our review of the first “Transmorphers” film, then find it HERE

 

In this film’s first (but definitely not last) coincidence, Bruce Boxleitner as Officer Hadley Ryan is sat in a deserted side street, reading a book when a car speeds past him. After being caught by Bruce, stopped and sent on her way, her phone transforms into a little robot spider and kills her – oh, it turns out she’s the daughter of an important diplomat, which is only important because it gets her on the front page of the newspaper. Hadley is asked if he can inform the parents of her death…after it’s on that front page?

 

Everyone seems tired or bored in this film. No-one can muster up the slightest enthusiasm for anything in their lives, and even though our heroine Madison (Alana DiMaria) wears an awesome pink go-go dress for the first half of the film, she seems a bit listless too. Madison’s mum is having problems with her TV, and it turns out that her backyard satellite dish has transformed into a robot. Imagine if you’re the kid that gets a Transmorphers action figure for Christmas, and you get the robot that transfor…sorry, transmorphs into a satellite dish! The fun you’d have!

 

Madison’s mum has called the satellite repair people, and in the second (but still not the last) coincidence, it turns out the satellite repair guy is Madison’s ex boyfriend Jake, who’s also a former Army Special Forces guy, and the “WORLD’S LEADING EXPERT” on drones, remote controlled alien robots and so on. The last piece of the main cast is Jennifer Rubin, who’s apparently a Homeland Security scientist even though she does her work in a coffee shop and spends the entire film in jeans and a baggy shirt. I had a bit of a crush on her, way back, as she was the cute punk / metal fan in “A Nightmare on Elm Street 3”, and she still looks great although she’s either had some recent mouth surgery or is drunk through most of this film.

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It turns out that we created the monster ourselves – the Roswell crash in 1947 was a Transmorpher, and every technological advance we’ve made since then is alien-inspired. One day, the technology just decided to start transmorphing for no reason, attacking humans and trying to send a message back to their home world.

 

Here’s where I’m going to need to be a bit spoilery, so on the very remote off chance you’re going to want to watch this film, stop reading now.

 

The film kicks off properly about now, with a few robots chasing our heroes and them figuring out fairly quickly the thing they’ll need to do to stop the alien invasion. Hadley realises that to save humanity (well, his daughter), he’s going to need to sacrifice himself, and he does so in a glorious helicopter explosion. Fade to black, job done, Transmorpher invasion stopped.

 

One small problem is that we’re only 48 minutes into the film. Wait, what? This makes absolutely no sense at all. It would be like Leonidas’ great sacrifice coming halfway into “300” (insert an example from a film you like here, if mine is no good). The film then comes loose of whatever moorings it had. Madison and Jake have a drink in a bar, and she tells him that Hadley always thought of him as a son. No, he didn’t! Their one scene together was not particularly friendly, but that’s not even the biggest problem in this scene. The aliens from Transmorpher world have finally invaded!

 

I’ve really pondered this next bit, because I want to do it justice. They leave the bar and run down a desert street. Round a corner comes Jennifer Rubin to save them, even though she can’t possibly have had any idea where they were! A few minutes later, they run into a few people we met at the beginning of the film, in an equally implausible coincidence. Again, this isn’t the weirdest thing in this sequence. It turns out that the cities have been evacuated into refugee camps which have been operating for some time. When the bloody hell did this happen? They were in a normal bar, having a normal drink, only hours of the film’s time ago. What on earth is happening, movie?

 

The way that giant robots are able to sneak up on our heroes, with no cover anywhere nearby, passed by without any comment, as did the pathetic non-ending. The fact the aliens we see at the end of the film look nothing like those we see at the beginning of “Transmorphers”, which this is a prequel to, washed over me like a foul, stinking river. The film broke me with Bruce Boxleitner’s death, and then smashed those pieces even further with their ignor-age of the most basic rules of film timelines. It’s so thoroughly incompetent that I don’t quite know what to say.

 

Is this maybe the first two episodes of a potential Transmorphers TV show, that (quite rightly) no TV company would touch with a ten-foot bargepole, edited clumsily together? It would explain the ludicrous ending to the first half. Ah, who cares. I’m getting towards being disgusted at the people who made this. Have you no shame? Why are people like you able to keep churning out the garbage that you do, but great directors are struggling to get funding? Are you a front for some drug cartel?

 

If you don’t see me again, it’s because I took the crew list of this film and used it as my assassination template. Avoid this film at all costs.

 

Please kill me, robot

Please kill me, robot