Death Racers (2008)


This will be the last Asylum review I ever write. I’ve had problems with their business model for some time now – the use of unpaid interns to do most of their special effects, lack of health & safety on set – but a recent article cemented it all for me. They strung along scriptwriters for years, in some cases, getting them to send in spec ideas and write first acts of potential movies for no money, and you know that some of the ideas they got sent in were used, with no accreditation to the poor writer who came up with it. They just seem like a bad example of the bottom-feeding scum that populates the lower rungs of the movie industry. Sorry, everyone! You’ll have to look elsewhere for your “Sharknado 3” review in a month or so.


But one movie snuck in under the wire, and that was thanks to the starring role of the Insane Clown Posse. They’ve been doing their thing for over 20 years, and while I’ve never enjoyed a single one of their songs, in real life and on “Insane Clown Posse Theater” (a music-video version of “MST3K”), they seem like okay guys. Guys I’m glad I don’t know, but okay nonetheless. It’s their TV work on “ICP Theater” which got me interested in them again, so expect a few other reviews of their independently made “Big Money Hustlas” and “Big Money Rustlas” coming up soon.


But enough of all that! This is the Asylum’s mockbuster for “Death Race”, the 2008 Jason Statham-starring sort-of-remake of 1975’s “Death Race 2000”, one of my favourite movies of all time. If you’ve seen either of those two, there’ll be few surprises here – we’re in a dystopian situation, where martial law has been declared; and to maintain order, the “Red Zone” is created, a prison which eventually houses 1,000,000 inmates. Inside the Red Zone, which is more a walled-off city than a prison, an evil mastermind called The Reaper (former pro wrestler Raven) has worked out a plan, although the exact endgame of his plan is frustratingly vague – he’s going to flood the water supply with sarin (a pipe supplying millions of people helpfully runs right underneath the zone).


The Governor of whatever state they’re in, already upset at having the world’s biggest prison on his land, decides to start and televise a Death Race! As well as keeping the masses happy, this race has a points system – 20 points per inmate death, and a big 500 for bringing the Reaper in alive (slightly less for dead). Get more than 1000, and you’re free! The 2-person teams picked for this are –

  • the Severed Head Gang (Hispanic, biggest gang in the US)
  • Homeland Security (two disgraced former soldiers)
  • Vaginamyte! (generic hot, evil women)
  • The Insane Clown Posse (playing themselves)

The ICP’s music was so hardcore ,it inspired every major crime, so it’s been banned and the ICP have been locked up. But no matter, as they all get the chance to kill a bunch of other criminals, quip and then, eventually, figure out what’s really going on. One of the SHG gets his head exploded before the race has even begun, to demonstrate the power of the kill-chip the Governor has installed inside them all (and to answer the question “why don’t they just drive away?”) Homeland Security don’t make it much past the first half-hour, and so on. You know the drill.


This movie at least makes an effort to make things look post-apocalyptic. Throughout the movie, we get the TV hosts talking about the points system and commentating on the action, and it sort-of works, despite the slightly wooden delivery of the male host. The Governor’s office is half-empty and just randomly strewn with books; they manage to film in suitably grim-looking locations, and if they can’t at least use angles to hide the most obvious things; and best of all, there’s a weird colour filter over everything which does a lot for not much effort. All these things put it in the top echelon of Asylum movies, straight off the bat.


Unfortunately, everything else lets it down. The acting is truly mind-buggeringly terrible, with only Jennifer Keith (as “Double Dee Destruction”) and Violent J of the ICP as anything other than charisma vacuums. But they’re not helped by the editing, which goes beyond rotten into some netherworld of badness. To have a snappy conversation, it’s best to edit tightly round the spoken lines, so it can ping from one character to another – I’m sure you know the sort of thing I’m talking about. Now imagine one of those conversations, but with a second of awkward silence before and after every line is spoken, and see how good it’d be. I guess the unpaid intern they were using to edit the movie couldn’t use the software very well, and no-one bothered, when seeing the rough cut, to do a damn thing to make it better.


You’ve got twists and cheap-looking explosions and body parts being hacked off and seemingly no-one paying attention to the scores, as they go down at one point (again, kudos to that editor). It rips the ending straight off from the 1975 original, and while I sort of grew to like the characters, everything they did was saturated in Insane Clown Posse music – one song is repeated at least 8 times, and the credits list a good dozen of their songs.


Ultimately, it’s a standard Asylum mockbuster, with the bonus of some fun stunt casting. Cheap, with effort made in some areas but seemingly negative effort made in others, it’s really only worth checking out if you’ve watched the three modern “Death Race” movies, the original, and still need to see cars running people over while the drivers cackle with glee.


Rating: thumbs down


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