I had a dream the other day where the Asylum launched a series of films where comedians would insert themselves, “Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid” style, into their back catalogue. Imagine “Transmorphers” with David Cross and Bob Odenkirk tagging along behind the human soldiers! Anyway, this film isn’t quite that, but it’s a great idea and it’s loads of fun.
Greg Grunberg (“Heroes”, “Alias”) is Owen, the owner of a video shop specialising in disaster movies, and his primary employee is Steve (Neil Grayston, “Eureka”). The two of them spend too much time talking movies, planning for various apocalypses, so Owen’s girlfriend Selena (Caroline Cave) is about ready to dump him. That is, of course, until an actual apocalypse swings into view! Balls of electricity or energy caused by something or other in the outer solar system.
From the off, there’s a decent sense of humour running through this. The video shop (already an anachronism in 2013, unless it spent a lot of years sat on the shelf) is primarily stocked with…SyFy Channel original movies! The posters on the wall feature several films we’ve already reviewed for this site (including one of the “Project Shadowchaser” films, which I loved), and they reference several others in dialogue. It’s such a simple idea that I’m surprised it’s taken them this long to come up with it. Brad Dourif, as a scientist / filmmaker of some sort who knows everything about disaster preparedness, is a welcome addition to the cast as well, and has a rather excellent sendoff.
We do get quite a lot of the typical SyFy Channel things, though, just to let us know where we are. The cast gets split up and spends the majority of the film apart, presumably to save money; a couple of the cast are perfectly qualified to fight the exact problem that’s come up; and people remain skeptical about what’s going on long past the point when it’s sensible to do so.
The other typical thing we get – a nuclear weapon being the answer to the problem – leads into the subject of an impassioned speech at the end. Owen and Steve communicate, like so many geek-culture-obsessed friends, in shorthand based on their favourite films, so the big fiery comeback speech near the end is lifted from three or four different genre films. A nice touch, and a sort of friendship that nearly always gets messed up by movies. Then, when they’ve been captured by the Army (after trying to get their help to launch a nuke to save the world, naturally), they launch into a speech about how watching disaster movies has prepared them for all this, how embracing these films has made them better people and how there’s lots of useful knowledge in these movies. That they undercut this with a joke about how it’s almost always nukes that save the day is a nice touch too.
So, lots of positivity about this film. A strong sense of humour (even if I don’t think it was quite funny enough), and a well-acted, good-looking disaster movie on top of it. It’s not perfect, of course – for a film that feels so packed with incident, there’s a fair chunk of filler towards the end – but it’s a positive way of becoming self-aware, the other route being a straight-faced take on ridiculous monsters, Robo-sharks and so on.
If this pops up on SyFy, I’d definitely recommend it. Not a single trigger for my “lazy sexism in movies” alarm – a strong woman, in charge of her life, good and useful job, kicks ass and remains fully clothed. Admittedly, only one female in the main cast, but we need to take what we can get.
Rating: thumbs up