Youtube Film Club: Star Crystal (1986)

None of the images on this poster appear in the movie

This is a pretty curious one. If you read the title and the VHS box art didn’t load up just above these words, I imagine you’re half-thinking “is he talking about The Dark Crystal under some weird alternate name?” No, dear reader, but you may be wishing I was at the end of this review.

It’s an “Alien” rip-off, just made at the same time as “Aliens”. It’s cheap and ugly and stupid and wildly sexist, but the one thing I feel confident telling you is that its ending is next-level, top-ten-of-all-time bonkers, from so far out of left field that you may begin to wonder if you’re watching an alternate movie with the same cast they edited in the ending from. I won’t spoil it, as it has to be seen to be believed I think, but equally I don’t want you to watch it as it’s terrible. As it’s on Youtube, though, you can watch, say, the first twenty minutes and the last twenty minutes, to produce a slightly more bearable experience.

A thing is found on Mars. Well, I guess it’s Mars, it could be any non-Earth planet I guess. It’s taken on board a space station, and the outer casing falls apart, to reveal a large crystal and a small living blob of goo. Fairly quickly, the blob takes over the controls of the station (no, I don’t know how), turning the oxygen off and killing almost everyone. The only people to escape, on a small ship, are what I imagine Golgafrincham Ark B (Hitch-Hiker’s Guide reference!) to look like – a barely competent computer guy, a “nutritionist” who’s only called that because they couldn’t get away with just having a housewife walk round the spaceship giving everyone their sandwiches, an engineer, the computer guy’s friend, who appears to have no useful skills at all, and the love interest, likewise no skills. There’s probably a few more people? Ah, who cares.

The alien doesn’t actually move from its original location at all, and relies on people coming to it in order to be killed and drained of their life-essence. Luckily, almost all the cast do, so by around the 45-minute mark, all we’re left with is the computer guy and the love interest. Then the movie stops for the next half-hour.

I wish I could force everyone who watches the movie as a result of what I’ve said to film a “reacts” video when you get to the ending, as it’s a doozie. Is it enough to make up for an often staggeringly dull, unoriginal first three-quarters? I don’t know.

So, take a group of actors you’ve never seen before, a low budget, a writer / director who only made one other movie, and an alien comprised of mostly KY jelly, and you’ve got yourself a movie. Well, something roughly the same length as a movie. It’s an odd one. You may develop a phobia of air ducts that are large enough for a person to climb through – ON A SPACESHIP – by the end of this movie too.

Rating: thumbs down

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Youtube Film Club: Prototype (1992)

Thank you for sticking with us for a few weeks while we did a bit of “housekeeping” – in other words, reviewing series that have been added to since we stopped reviewing them, once-lost-now-found movies from our favourite directors, that sort of thing. You, dear reader, are likely much less obsessive about these things than I, but hopefully you’ve been entertained and informed.

We love covering post-apocalyptic movies here, too, and given there are approximately an infinite number of them, we’ll never run out of review material. 1992’s “Prototype” is a peculiar one, though, for several reasons. It’s a welcome return for one of our favourite directors, Philip Roth (“Interceptor Force” 1 and 2, “Total Reality”, “Digital Man”, “Velocity Trap”) and a slightly less welcome return for “the extremely confusing plot”, and its twin brother, “the info-scroll at the beginning that doesn’t really explain anything”.

 

So, it’s the future, and I guess there’s been an extinction-level event of some sort. The remnants of humanity are hanging on, then some boffin creates “Omegas”, who are genetically altered humans. I think. They figure out how to reprogram themselves, and this period of history is known as “the time of the mad minds”.  Why? I don’t have the foggiest idea, my friends, because the Omegas don’t appear to do anything bad, either before or after they re-program themselves.

Then, again for reasons that are never revealed to us, humanity invents the Prototypes to hunt down the Omegas. Whereas the Omegas are just people, the Prototypes are a sort of garish rip-off of Robocop; it appears they’re successful, as the last one powers down, its mission complete, after killing off what it believes is the last Omega. Sadly for it, the Omega thing, whatever that thing is, is implanted in a little blonde girl who manages to escape the carnage.

 

Fast forward 20 years. There’s the adult version of the blonde girl, a scientist working in what I presume is the last military base on Earth, someone who might be a soldier or she might just be his assistant, a guy in a wheelchair with a really sweet mullet, a kid who’s maybe related to the guy in the wheelchair, and a guy with that cornrow / mullet combination who is, a later info-scroll tells us, a genetically engineered protector for the Omega. Not an Omega, who are also genetically engineered, just a super-strong fighter who’s there to protect her. If you’re feeling a little lost, join the club.

One of the comments from my wife while watching this movie was “is this sponsored by Marlboro?” Everyone smokes, all the time, to the point where you have to wonder how cigarettes are still being made in the post-apocalyptic world of 2077. But such trifles distract from the central question relating to “Prototype”, viz:

 

What the hell is going on?

 

The info-scroll definitely indicates that the Omegas are the bad guys, and the Prototypes have restored peace in some way, yet later on the final Omega, Chandra Kerkorian (Lane Lenhart) is the hero, and the organization behind the Prototypes are the bad guys. Wheelchair-mullet guy, Hawkins Coselow (Robert Tossberg), we discover, was once in the Army, so scientist lady asks him to step up to be put in the Prototype armour, which will allow him to walk again (they had a body on ice for this purpose, but the bonding process didn’t take).  He’s definitely a good guy, and is in love with Chandra, who seems completely indifferent to him, and indeed every other person in the cast. But then there’s a virtual reality sex thing where Hawkins goes through his fantasies with Chandra, although she might be taking part in some of them?

The movie sort of ambles along for an hour or so before they decide to put Hawkins in the suit and get on with the plot. It bears some similarities in its meandering please-get-to-the-point nature, as well as a post-apocalyptic setting, with British sci-fi movie “Hardware” (not much of a compliment). But it also has a kind of film noir feel to it, like the filmmakers were aiming for something they weren’t quite talented enough to pull off, which goes to the editing as well, which is extremely curious in places (presumably on purpose).

 

Even though I tried to find entertainment in “Prototype”, as I love a good post-apocalypse movie, I just couldn’t quite manage it. Whose side was anyone on? Who are we supposed to want to win? Are there any normal humans in this movie? What was this war all about?

 

Unless you’re a completist, either of Roth movies or post-apocalyptic ones, might be best to steer clear of this one. But, it’s up there for free, so you’ve only got your time to lose.

 

Rating: thumbs down

Space Kid (1999)

Donald Farmer has long been a favourite here at the ISCFC, as we’ve been covering his movies pretty much since we started. There were a few, though, that seem to have avoided our piercing critical gaze, either because we couldn’t find them or because they’d never been officially released on home video. Well, a future review – “The Strike” – will be coming because I figured out I’d been searching for it under the wrong name (it had a DVD release), and Farmer himself paid for a very limited DVD release of “Space Kid” last year.

 

So now, dear reader, you get to learn about yet another oddball entry into the Farmer-verse. And, I think there’s actually a Farmer-verse! This movie gave me the key, and I think numerous movies exist in the same world. A central part of “Space Kid” is the tabloid TV show “American Expose”, and the same show appears in “The Strike”. There’s also a very similar show in “Vampire Cop”, and Dana Plato plays an investigative reporter in “Compelling Evidence”. Can you imagine that erotic thriller and “Vampire Cop” existing in the same world? I might try writing a script and see if Mr Farmer would like to direct it.

 

But that’s for another day. We’re here to talk about “Space Kid”, which starts in a quarry – er, an alien planet – as Queen Nebula (listed in the credits as “Space Mom”), pursued by rebels, leads her son to safety, while being pursued by agents. At one point, she appears to use her own child as a human shield, but I have to assume they were aiming for something else with that scene. She gets shot while scrambling up a hill, but the kid (who will come to be known as Charlie) manages to beam himself aboard an intergalactic space-ship, ending up on Earth. I feel that bit was glossed over, but it’s also entirely possible I was distracted.

So, he ends up on Earth and then it becomes the sort of thing you may have seen a few times before – Charlie befriends a lonely kid roughly his own age, helps her with bullies, an evil babysitter, doing the dishes, and other problems, but she’s quite honest about the fact he’s an alien. Some people believe her, some don’t, and then there’s scientists and government agents teaming up to track him down (including two Men In Black, played by long-time Farmer regulars Andre Buckner and Maria Ortiz). It’s got a little bit of a lot of kids’ science-fiction TV and movies of the time, but is no worse for it.

 

It’s quite short (55 minutes, with substantial closing credits) but that’s not always a bad thing when it comes to the lower budget end. There’s some decent acting on display – Ortiz is excellent in her brief role, Melanie the TV reporter pitches her performance very well, and Donald Farmer is a decent actor as the producer of “American Expose”.

 

If you’re not already a fan of Mr Farmer, then I’d suggest not starting here, but if you’re already in deep, like me, then come on in and experience another string to his bow – kids’ movies, to go along with civil war, vampire, zombie, cannibal, and demon movies.

 

Rating: thumbs in the middle