At some point in the early 80s, in between runs to the local coke dealer’s place, a group of movie execs were discussing how great “The Warriors” was, but how it’d be even better (for their purposes) if almost the entire cast was white. Oh, and how maybe the villain should be sort of a cross between the Terminator and Freddy Krueger.
That’s how I like to imagine “Future-Kill” was born. For such a relatively unheard-of movie, it’s surprisingly good fun, with weak-ish performances and a few lulls made up for with a decent central concept; a worthy addition to the latest ISCFC review mini-series, “movies that start with the word Future”.
Early on, we meet both strands of our story. One is a large community of anti-nuclear protestors, who’ve essentially taken over a significant portion of an unnamed city. The protestors have created their own subculture, which apparently revolves around non-violence, and wearing an excessive amount of face make-up, like a reject from a bad New Romantic band. Although, the cover-star, a gentleman by the name of Splatter (Ed Neal, who co-wrote the movie and was also in “Texas Chainsaw Massacre”, many years previously), is only hanging out in this part of town because he’s got actual radiation poisoning and has a cybernetic arm (complete with razor-talons), a metal face-mask and he 100% does not agree with the non-violence thing.
The frat guys are a curious bunch, because I guess we’re supposed to like them? But their first action is to destroy the expensive sports car of the head of the “evil” frat; and they then tar-and-feather one of the evil frat’s lieutenants – the other frat appear to have done nothing to them, and even invites them to their big party and offers them a reasonable deal to save face. Perhaps if I was a horny frat douchebag in the mid 80s I’d feel differently? Oh, by the way, the reasonable deal is to turn up to the next party is women’s underwear – to which the largest and angriest of the frat guys says “I ain’t faggin’ up for nobody!” Ah, the 80s. They try to put some frat-style gross-out shenanigans in there, like tricking two of the guys into a threesome with a hot prostitute, but they turn out the lights and do a literally impossible switch with a larger woman with massive boobs who of course horrifies the two.
ASIDE: one of the random guys at this party is a debuting – aside from an entirely uncredited bit-part in “Police Academy” – John Hawkes, future Oscar winner and star of “Scary Movie” (not that one).
The way these two groups come together is one of those “will this do?” 11th hour writer’s decisions. The frat guys are actually pledges, and the head of the frat, who’s the nerdiest guy to ever hold that position in any movie ever (I’m counting “Revenge of the Nerds” here), dresses them like protestors, takes them downtown and tells them to kidnap a random guy. The one he picks is, of course, stood ten feet away from Splatter, who instantly murders the head frat guy, then murders the head protestor (who to this point has been his only real friend), pins it on the frat guys and tools up ready for some butchery.
While “The Warriors” is the obvious template (they even do the thing where one of them falls in love with a local lady), watching this in 2018, you’ll probably be reminded of 90s classic “Judgement Night” (the movie most famous for its soundtrack). “Future-Kill”, though, is almost entirely devoid of context, like it would be impossible to get offended by it or see any wider points being raised. Heck, even though they pay the faintest of lip service to its future setting it’s basically set “today”. If you really wanted to stretch, you could say the protestors are stand-ins for angry black youth, but the producers realised that by the mid 80s you couldn’t have a movie where the villains are entirely black and the heroes entirely white.
It loses its way a little in the middle, as well. With “The Warriors”, you knew where they were at all times, and there was a real sense of where they were headed. Here, you’ll find yourself begging them to just pick a direction and run that way, until they encounter some helpful people or the bus, or anything. But they meander as if they’re not being chased by a deranged psychopath and his gun-toting goons. They sort of get close to making a point, that civilisation is a veneer you need to get rid of if you want to survive, but it’s pretty cloth-eared about it all.
The acting is almost uniformly rotten, with lots of people whose IMDB profiles don’t have a photo (the kiss of death, fame-wise). It makes me wonder about the genesis of it all – this is the sole writing or directing credit for one Ronald W Moore, who was apparently friends from university with Ed Neal; they seem to be relying on having two cast members from “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” to do all the work of selling it (the other being Marilyn Burns).
It’s got a great (read: terrible) soundtrack and a VHS cover from HR Giger, who must have been doing someone a favour. I know I’ve been less than kind to it, but it’s still quite a bit of fun, even if I’d have made it shorter, trimming the opening frat-garbage portion way down. Worth a watch, even if you’re not doing a weird review series.
Rating: thumbs in the middle