For those of you who thought (or wished) that we’d forgotten about our plan to review every SyFy Channel original movie ever, think again. There’s lots of them, and I’m broke so my evenings are often free. Tonight’s offering is an early one, 2003’s “Encrypt”, and any similarities between this and 2002’s “Resident Evil” are entirely coincidental, I’m sure.
It’s the post-apocalypse, that time we bad movie fans know and love, and the ozone’s all gone. Humanity seems to have been reduced to small gangs of scavengers fighting each other for the scraps that are left. Head scavenger for one lot is Garth, and one day he’s summoned to the house of a rich fella with a plan. If Garth helps him raid another rich fella’s house and steal all his art, he’ll feed, clothe and treat Garth’s clan with years of supplies. The home’s owner is long dead but his security is almost supernaturally powerful; so the rich fella gives Garth his own team of badass military types, LaPierre, King, Hernandez and Ebershaw. LaPierre and Garth have a history, fighting on opposite sides of one of the wars that ravaged the Earth. Or something, as soon as you see LaPierre it’s screamingly obvious he’s going to be the bad guy and be all “let’s fight together, whoops, here’s my secret agenda”, so you don’t need to dwell on the backstory too much.
What I do like is there’s no attempt to save the world, or reverse the environmental devastation, it’s just the backdrop to the movie. If “Resident Evil” had had no money to spend on zombie effects, then this is basically what it’d look like – an empty house with a few robot drones in it, and every room a different “puzzle” for our heroes to solve. The actual reason for them being there is pretty much forgotten by everyone, almost as soon as they get to the house – they see empty rooms that once held priceless artifacts, but no-one comments on it. They have cool future-armour and guns that run on batteries too, and the “make sure they don’t run down to zero” thing is well-handled and not overused.
The other thing “Resident Evil” had was a central computer which appeared as a human avatar, and as it had, so does “Encrypt”. I like this movie’s spin on it, though – she wants the thieves to turn back, and she develops a relationship with Garth which is entirely believable. It appears Vivian Wu, who plays the computer “Diana”, liked the director Oscar Costo enough to work with him on a number of future things too – and her storyline is very strong, with real pathos to it.
But we’re talking one of the early SyFy Channel movies here. The rather extreme lack of originality aside, the second act is really dull, with the cast either figuring out very simple puzzles or firing at things that aren’t there (the sentries are largely invisible, Predator style, which saves on effects I suppose). And then there’s Grant Show (Garth). Show is a regular on TV these days, with lots of recurring roles under his belt (including 150-odd episodes on “Melrose Place,” which is presumably the reason he got this gig), but he either wasn’t trying or was given bad direction with this one, as his emotional range seems to go from “bored” to “tired”. Or maybe he sucked all the time and I just never saw him in anything else.
There’s a decent idea or two here, let down by not enough stuff happening, and a terribly obvious twist. Or two, depending on how you count your twists. If (and this is admittedly unlikely) SyFy decide to repeat this one day, there’s worse stuff to watch. Otherwise, just watch the first “Resident Evil” and wait around for one of SyFy’s genuinely decent movies – there are a few.
Rating: thumbs in the middle