6-Headed Shark Attack (2018)

Well, dear reader, it appears adding a head was the way to go because the difference between this and the same year’s “5 Headed Shark Attack” is night and day. While it’s a very long way from being a great film, it’s still a lot of fun, better paced and better acted than its predecessor.

That might be related to director / co-writer Mark Atkins, who got his start as a cinematographer for The Asylum (“Snakes On A Train”, “Transmorphers: Fall Of Man” and many others from their mockbuster era) and has directed his fair share too – “Sand Sharks”, an ISCFC favourite, was one of his, and he’s also responsible for a series of movies (beginning with “Empire of the Sharks”) where sharks have taken over the world after the melting of the polar ice caps. Will there ever be an end to shark movies? It appears Atkins is one of the bigger talents working in this low budget world, and this movie just adds to the plus column on his resume.

In the Isla De Corazon area of Mexico, William (Brandon Auret) runs a marriage boot camp, with four dysfunctional couples attending. Well, it’s a wooden structure and a few shacks, the actual camp is hinted at more than shown. Well, it’s not even hinted at, the Asylum long since stopped caring about such things. The four couples are…interesting, visually? Two of them are young women with much older men – oddest of all, contract lawyer Mary (German-South African actor Thandi Sebe) and her angry husband James (Cord Newman, better known as a stunt performer and possessed of one of the oddest heads of hair I can remember).

Shark! The cold open of the movie is the shark’s first attack, from 1984, against the members of a scientific base – a base which appears to be nothing more than three different pontoons, tied together, with a rack of test tubes and a few papers lying around – you know, like all high-end scientific establishments! This, at least, provides some explanation for the titular creature, who’s the result of experiments at this base. The five-headed version was just…there?

The movie doesn’t waste a lot of time getting going, which is nice. The couples bicker, William and his estranged wife, his partner in the boot camp, are getting divorced (irony!), and they keep getting chased or eaten by the shark. I like Duke (Jonathan Pienaar), one of the older men, who turns into a natural hunter when the rest of the men are panicking. He doesn’t last all that long, but he has a great impact.

So the movie rips along, and it has a shark with, as advertised, six heads (none of that oddness with the last head being in the tail, like in the previous movie). But it does have some problems. Firstly, they all wear wetsuits – which they keep on for the rest of the movie – for a relatively short swim from the shore to a party pontoon that William owns. Now, this would be pretty unlikely if you’re in the nice warm waters of Mexico; completely normal if they were filming somewhere like Canada or Eastern Europe, where lots of movies are located and where it’s quite cold. Obviously, two of the women constantly remove the top half of their wetsuits so you can see them in their flimsy bras, I mean, this is still low budget cinema we’re talking about here.

Later on, the female half of the hippy couple says she’s a meteorologist and there’s a storm coming; William suggests they shelter in a nearby lighthouse but she says there’s not enough time and they should shelter in that same base from 1984, which is still floating off the island and still containing the exact same items in the same condition as they were 35 years ago. Not enough time to get to the lighthouse, because of the storm. Want to guess if that storm ever shows up? And if they eventually go to the lighthouse and ignore the hippy lady? It’s possible she’s just a really bad meteorologist, which would be sort of a fun twist.

I would like to talk about the shark now. Six heads, as advertised, but the only two that do anything are the front ones. The four at the side are only used as – wait for it – legs when the shark starts attacking them on land! The back two “heads” have a pretty rough deal of it, if we’re being honest, and I feel sorry for them. Thank heavens they share a stomach, I guess. I presume the special effects people just used a crap template and mapped shark features to it, which gives the poor creature a very peculiar look.

There’s oddly timed deaths, an implausible growing romance at the centre of things and stuff like the shark swimming so fast in a circle it causes a whirlpool which capsizes a boat, and the volume of silly stuff happening without it being pitched as a particularly camp movie does wear after a while.

But, you know, after such a miserable previous instalment, I can’t complain about this one. The acting, especially Brandon Auret as William, Jonathan Pienaar as Duke and Thandi Sebe as Mary, is strong (fun fact: Sebe’s sister Naima is one of the other people at the marriage boot camp, it might have been fun if they’d done some “you look familiar” jokes). The effects are cheap but okay, there’s only one egregious “it was daylight, then night really quickly, then daylight in the next scene” transition, and despite a little lull as they realised they started things off quickly and had nowhere to go for act 2, it’s a fine little movie.

Let’s hope that, after this, the final “Sharknado” is my last encounter with Asylum, having promised to stop watching their cheap-and-un-cheerful movies several times now.

Rating: thumbs in the middle

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Clash Of The Empires (2012)

Third misleading title!

Third misleading title!

We have an Asylum film which manages to pull off the rare “double misleading title” trick. It’s only a clash of empires if you think a few dozen guys hanging around a clearing is an “Empire”; and its European title, “Lord of the Elves”, is even more misleading, as there are no elves in it, nor anyone who could be called anyone’s “lord”.

This is, astonishingly, the Asylum’s mockbuster for the first Hobbit movie. It’s so strange that I’m not sure whether to be offended by it or not. It’s set 12,000 years ago, in Indonesia, and is the tale of a family journeying across unfamiliar terrain in order to rescue the mother, who was kidnapped by the Rock People and their giant flying lizards. On their way, they get help from “Giants”, teach hunting tactics and encounter super-massive creatures. Sounds okay, right?

Firstly, I want to apologise unreservedly if I use a term which offends any group. I’m really not sure what word to use, so I’m just going to go for it. The “hobbits” (called that in the film’s promotional material, and in the film’s original title which they had to be sued to change) are real pygmies. They’ve either found a heck of a lot of ’em at a casting agency or just found a few tribes and persuaded them, and it’s damn sure they didn’t have the luxury of picking pygmies who could act, it was just a matter of ones who were prepared to be filmed. The acting is extraordinarily awful, some level below just about every film I’ve ever seen – the feeling that someone somewhere was being exploited left a slightly bad taste in my mouth.

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The two people you’re likely to recognise are Christopher Judge (from Stargate SG-1) and Bai Ling (from Crank 2 and TMZ, probably). They’re “giants”, although our little heroes call them “human”, which is a charming way to look at it. They help the pygmies get across the plain to the mountains where their mother and other people from their village are being held. The Rock People all have fake sharp teeth and are cannibals, but the Giants have sort of an agreement with them so they won’t help the Tree People (the pygmies)…it’s all a mess.

The story, such as it is, is not terrible. I mean, it’s completely formulaic but formulas work; it’s the stuff that doesn’t work which dominates, though. The giant monster special effects are poor, even by Asylum standards, and there’s the acting. With the honourable exception of Judge, who manages to keep a straight face throughout the most ludicrous dialogue, everyone else is worse than the worst amateur dramatics group you’ve ever seen. Not only are they all dubbed (even though some of them appear from their mouths to be speaking English), but they’re dubbed by people who can’t act either; plus they gesticulate like crazy and cackle…it’s actually embarrassing in places.

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This is really strange. I feel like maybe the Asylum are on some epic trolling of the entire world, to see what’s the weirdest thing they can release, associate with something famous and make a measly profit from. I find I have a great deal less appreciation for their garbage than I used to, now I’ve discovered their sub-par safety standards and overuse of unpaid internships to cut costs. Even so, this film is a very rare example of an American-funded and –released film that has an almost entirely non-white cast. There’s a possible Caucasian in there, but fewer than the average Tyler Perry film…while that is undoubtedly an interesting factoid, it doesn’t redeem the film. Avoid at all costs.

 

Rating: thumbs down

Airplane vs. Volcano (2014)

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The Asylum have done it again! After 2012’s “Super Cyclone”, a film that was as clear a parody of their normal output as it’s possible to make, they’ve come out with this, which is laughs from beginning to end. It also cost them, apart from Dean Cain’s contract, zero dollars, being filmed almost entirely on two already existing sets.

But I’ve not even got to the film yet! Before I started watching it, I was wondering “how are they going to get an entire film out of this? If you’re on a plane and see a volcano, fly the other way, job done” but I grossly underestimated the Asylum’s ability to spin gold out of thin air. Everything goes to pot almost immediately in this film, so a normal flight from LA to Hawaii encounters a local manifestation of a global volcanic apocalypse. By the way, I think this film is a proper tie-in to “Apocalypse Pompeii”, as there’s a mention of the other place’s problems right at the end. The Asylum is getting all cross-promotional!

As volcanoes emerge from the ocean, the scene outside the plane transforms into a rather convincing hellscape. Unfortunately for our plane, both pilots almost immediately die, so the passengers have to band together, and unfortunately for the profit margin of the airline, they only seem to have 20 passengers on board (I was hoping for a joke near the end where the camera would pan back along the plane and just see all the people in economy class sat happily reading magazines and watching the in-flight movie, but no such luck).

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THE SET! Now, you may not be as big an Asylum obsessive as me, but eagle-eyed observers will spot the circular control-room set from “The 3 Musketeers” and “Super Cyclone” (and probably a few other films). If anyone from the Asylum reads these reviews, please let me know where it is?

A brief word about the extras. I may not be the world’s biggest fan of the armed forces, but I appreciate that their training will leave them all looking a certain way – fairly big, strong looking, confident in their environment. The extras in the control room all look like…well, me – doughy guys who’d be more at home in an office than a battlefield. And on the plane is a guy who looks like an Aldi Mandy Patinkin, who goes from calm and staring out the window; to being ready to throw someone out of the plane on the orders of the B-plot bad guy; to calmly staring out of the window again a few minutes later.

The B-plot is absolutely bizarre – a guy with a weird indeterminate “foreign” accent who…I’m struggling to think of a motivation for his actions, honestly. He’s just angry and loses his mind almost immediately – he feels like a weird holdover from a previous rewrite. Anyway, as he’s wildly overacting on the plane, we get a similar overactor in the base. One of the army guys then starts loudly questioning the orders of his Colonel, and only gets worse as the film goes on. His non-approved rescue plan causes dozens of people to die, but is he sorry? Is he heck! In fact, his can’t-do attitude actually results in him implausibly being the hero of the day.

There’s just so much good stuff in this film! Dean Cain, just some guy, takes over flying the plane, but thanks to the pilots (who have the codes to the control panel) being dead, the auto-pilot is jammed on meaning his contribution to actually flying the plane is just sitting there looking unhappy. This also answers the “why don’t they just fly away?” conundrum, because the auto-pilot just flies them round in a circle, so they stay in the ring of volcanoes.

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My notes for the last half of this film is just variations on the line “what the hell is happening?” They think the plan is going down because it’s too heavy, so everyone records their big dramatic speeches to their loved ones…but there’s still 30 minutes to go! Every moment for that last third of the film feels like a crescendo, but it keeps getting sillier and sillier, but played with an entirely straight face by everyone. There’s a hint of a budding romance, but when the guy dies the woman is clearly in shot but doesn’t react at all; there’s talk of a prop plane which can go through the dust clouds, but we don’t see the prop plane til a minute before the end of the film.

After a quick blast of “haha all our friends are dead” the film just sort of stops. I cannot recommend this film highly enough. It’s ridiculous from beginning to end, and is really really entertaining. Get a group of friends and a few drinks and have yourself a fine time.

Rating: thumbs up

2012: Ice Age (2011)

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Maybe twenty times during this film, I stopped myself and went “have I seen this before?” My wife wandered into the room a few times during it, and went “wasn’t this on the other week?” Amazingly, we were both wrong, but I get the feeling that regular ISCFC readers will notice a few things that remind them of other films we’ve covered.

This film, which even its own publicity describes as “in the tradition of 2012 and The Day After Tomorrow”, kicks off with some sweet stock footage of environmental shenanigans. A father is dropping his daughter off at the airport while at the same time trying to have a conversation on a short-wave radio – he’s an environmental scientist and his colleague is somewhere very cold. Anyway, a glacier is on its way south, across the USA, is the upshot of all this, and you know the rest.

The family has to get together, they have to rescue the daughter from New York, the guy’s wife is all “leave me alone with your tales of impending catastrophe”, their various forms of transport fail, they meet people who then die immediately, etc. etc. It bears a very strong resemblance to “100 Degrees Below Zero”, only even worse (which is something I’m surprised to see myself write). At least that had the beautiful Sara Malakul Lane and the magnificently grizzled Jeff Fahey. This just has one of the guys from 1987’s “Summer School” and a bunch of no-marks.

"Acting was really the wrong line of work for me"

“Acting was really the wrong line of work for me”

Everyone in this film is stupid. The wife almost gets left for dead because she can’t shut up for a minute and listen; the son almost dies several times trying to rescue radio equipment and his phone – and was such a terrible actor I wondered if they’d left a bit of film out that explained about him having some serious emotional problems; the husband treats the airport staff like dirt and completely misses his daughter leaving the car to get her flight; the daughter ignores a potentially life-saving phone call; and so on.

The vast majority of this film is the journey that husband, wife and son take to get to New York and rescue their daughter; there’s a bit of her running about trying to get safe, but it’s barely worth bothering about. If this doesn’t remind you of about ten other Asylum films, you’ve clearly not seen at least ten other Asylum films 🙂 It’s just awful…but the one good thing is, a few hours after watching it, the dull flatness of it is already fading from my mind. By the morning, it will seem like a bad dream, and in a few months I’ll look over the list of Asylum releases and not be sure whether I watched it or not. Perhaps it’s for the best.

Rating: thumbs down

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2012 Supernova (2009)

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The Asylum are not a company to pass up an easy buck, and exploiting 2012 fears, along with mockbusting the big budget “2012” (from 2009) was a no-brainer for them. They liked the idea so much that they made three films with 2012 in the title, in fact. Dare I review them all?

Not if they’re all down there with this one. Brian Krause, who was the love interest on “Charmed” and has jobbed around since then, is Professor Kelvin, an astrophysicist in charge of…NASA maybe? He certainly seems to have a lot of people defer to him, but his actual job is shrouded in mystery. Or I wasn’t paying attention, which seems equally likely. Anyway, some sun hundreds of light years away goes supernova, and the (POINTLESS SCIENCE BUZZWORD) is on its way to Earth to kill us all – every now and again, cutting away from the “action”, you’ll see the wave destroying a planet or a moon.

So, we have three strands of film. First is Kelvin trying to figure out a way to stop the supernova from destroying the Earth; second is the supernova heading our way, causing all sorts of environmental disasters on Earth, for some reason; third is Kelvin’s wife and daughter driving about, trying to get to safety. Despite having seen a virtually identical B-story in other Asylum films, this one just felt particularly boring, like they might as well have replaced all their scenes with a blank screen that had the word “FILLER” flash up from time to time.

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If you thought the conclusion of the film was going to be that three non-Shuttle pilots were going to have to fly the Space Shuttle, completely unaided, up to the International Space Station, dock it and fire nuclear missiles to create some sort of extra shielding for the magnetosphere, then I doff my cap to you, sir (or madam).

I sort of expected this film to go in a very different direction. Quite a lot happened in the early running, so I thought there was going to be a disaster early on, and then the cast were going to have to survive the changed Earth. No such luck, as the film just kept on going, like it wanted to pull the trigger on something exciting but didn’t have the time, money or expertise behind the camera. Booo! But what we do get is, every five minutes or so, someone restating what needs to happen, very simply, in case you had drifted to sleep and needed bringing up to speed. And a lot of use of flip-phones, which there was no excuse for even in 2009. What is it with Asylum and flip-phones? Did they buy a box full a few years before and decide they had to use them all?

This movie is a bit of a test of your patience. So little happens that it almost defies you to turn it off – you know how it’s going to end, you’ve got a fairly good idea of which members of the cast are going to survive – but if you’re like me you just carry on. There’s some fun to be had spotting the re-used sets, though. The main NASA area is a wall of dials and buttons which also doubled as the inside of a submarine in “Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus”, for example. Also, there’s a couple of Asylum regulars in this one, including my favourite, the excellently named Londale Theus, also from “Transmorphers: Fall Of Man” and “Airline Disaster”.

Anyway, unless you’re really desperate to see every film with 2012 in the title, I’d probably give this one a miss. It’s d-u-l-l.

Rating: thumbs down

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The 7 Adventures of Sinbad (2010)

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I tried to keep count and got to 4 before what might be considered an “adventure” became a confusing concept – but never mind trying to figure out if the title is a bit misleading, because it’s one of the stranger and more fun Asylum mockbusters we’ve yet to review!

Adrian Sinbad, a Qatari shipping magnate played by a white American, has a heart of gold. He’s discovered some super-deep-sea oil, or something (never seen a film where that happens before, so far so good), and is also investing heavily in environmental stuff as well. Good work Sinbad! Anyway, he’s got a tanker with 130 million gallons of oil on it which gets hijacked for a $10,000,000 ransom. Hold on, 130 million barrels? The Gulf of Mexico spill, which went on for weeks, was only 4 million! How big a tanker would you need to carry all that? Anyway, we mustn’t dwell on such things, for there is much more film to discuss!

In the first 12 minutes of the film, not only does all this happen, but Sinbad and a few of his co-workers fly out in a helicopter to the tanker and see it…get pulled under the surface by a gigantic sea creature! This is almost insanely fast by Asylum standards, and when the helicopter is also sucked into the ocean, only for Sinbad to wake up on a mysterious island which is actually the back of a small-country-sized whale, things start to get odd.

This film is apparently the mockbuster for “Prince Of Persia”. It has the alternate title “Sinbad, Prince of Persia” and the DVD I have has the hookline “The Real Prince of Persia” – that the film isn’t set in Persia, and stars a guy who neither looks nor acts particularly Persian, appears to not be a particular problem for our friends at the Asylum. Of course, in their grand tradition, they’ll rip off the name or the plot but not both at the same time, so in this one we get a plot which appears to be sort of lifted from “The Odyssey”. Sinbad has to deal with giant birds and a Cyclops and crabs and Sirens and super-squids and having the island he’s on flap its tail and submerge, thanks to some ancient prophecy about how a bloke on a helicopter will come to save us all. Oh, and this is packaged with an enviro-disaster of some sort, which is never really explained but gives the people back at Sinbad’s corporate headquarters something to do.

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As well as his cannon fodder team, he meets Loa, the beautiful daughter of a scientist who died on this island decades ago and left her to fend for herself. She helps him and adapts amazingly quickly to modern life, given her apparent complete lack of exposure to it – including helping him pilot a submersible to go and rescue the sunk tanker, which is in danger of rupturing and spilling its oil all over. There are some nice subplots here and there, but this film’s Wikipedia page is the place to go if you’d like a slightly too-detailed rundown of the plot.

It’s full of holes and features a thoroughly confusing ending, but I’m surprised at how much I enjoyed this one (my wife’s alternate explanation is repeated exposure to the Asylum means my brain can’t process good entertainment any more). Patrick Muldoon deserves a bigger career than he’s had – if they ever made a film of the “Uncharted” computer game series he’d be perfect for the lead. Sadly, although I also loved “Ice Spiders”, not enough people did and it didn’t launch him into the wisecracking action hero stratosphere.

This is what I’d call a “classic” Asylum mockbuster, where the routine is:

1. Title from one film
2. Plot from two or three others
3. ???
4. Profit!

I mentioned “The Odyssey”, but there’s the classic Ray Harryhausen films here too, as well as a hefty dollop of “Lost” (close to its end when this film was made). It’s got more in common with “Transmorphers” than “Sharknado”, is what I’m trying to get across. Anyway, Muldoon is a great leading man, there’s always something going on and this is definitely in the upper echelon of Asylum films.

Rating: thumbs up

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Bermuda Tentacles (2014)

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Asylum! SyFy Channel! It’s the combination that tastes great and always goes down smooth. When I heard about the imminent broadcast of this, schedules were cleared, phones were taken off the hook and other fake preparations were made. I started singing the Barry Manilow song “Bermuda Triangle” round the house, just changing the words a little, and even my wife seemed to be moderately looking forward to it.

The President is caught in a crazy storm while flying over the Bermuda Triangle in Air Force One, and has to eject in a special Presidential rescue pod. He’s got sort-of greasy slicked back hair, and it’s so odd looking that they make a reference to getting a haircut before a press conference; presumably, the actor was growing his hair for another part. Anyway, he drops out of the story for a while, and we’re introduced to a US Navy fleet who are trying to rescue the pod, now at the bottom of the ocean.

Hard-ass Admiral! Wacky scientist! Sexy multi-ethnic/gender group of badasses! Cannon fodder! What surprised me about this film is how quickly things kick off – we’re barely ten minutes in when he see 30-metre tall worm-looking things rear up out of the ocean and surround the ships in the fleet. The Admiral (Linda Hamilton, looking a little like she’s rather bummed out to be here) tells Chief, the head of the group of badasses, that he’d better not defy any more direct orders. The only surprising thing about it is that it takes him 18 minutes of the film before he does so. While the Navy is trying (and failing) to fight the worms on the surface, Chief takes his group, along with former rapper Mya as the Admiral’s representative, down in the special submarine they have to go get the President.

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And that’s when things get a bit odd. Turns out there’s a rather unusual reason for the Bermuda Triangle’s existence (even though smartypants like me will tell you it doesn’t really exist, no more ships disappear there than any other comparable area of the ocean, etc.). When they find themselves in some sort of underwater cavern, 7 fathoms down, the true scale of their problem becomes apparent…

This isn’t the greatest acted movie ever. Linda Hamilton and Jamie Kennedy look like they can’t be bothered to be there, and it’s only Mya of the “name” cast who makes much of an effort (although not enough that you’d say she was a great actress or anything). The crew of the submarine all try their best, but it seems most of The Asylum’s money was spent on sets, and that’s where the film really shines. It looks like they’re really on a real Navy boat, and when the submarine crew encounters an “underwater” boat / plane graveyard, it looks like they filmed in a place with hundreds of abandoned boats and planes. They’re definitely stepping up their game when it comes to the look of their movies, which is maybe just in the hope they luck into the next “Sharknado”, but might just be a few people at the company who want to make better movies, rather than ones which just scrape a profit.

Without giving the game away, you’ll spot the fairly popular film which the ending is completely lifted from (with the addition of a helicopter to give it a bit of that Sharknado flavour). There’s half an attempt at some romantic tension between the Chief and Mya, and the film goes out of its way to make them both look gorgeous – the Chief, wind blowing through his hair as he gives his best dramatic pose; and Mya, biting her lip in a very coy manner. That it comes across as her being a prize for him doing well, even though they’ve basically shared no real moments in the film, is just how films do things (sadly).

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But enough of my whinging about sexual politics! This is a film about giant worm things attacking boats! And it’s surprisingly good fun. Ignore the poor acting, and just let the plot and special effect roll over you. For a film from these guys, this is an absolute success.

Rating: thumbs up

Nazis At The Centre Of The Earth (2012)

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In an existence littered with no-good “mockbusters”, this movie stands out for its makers, The Asylum. It’s riding the coattails of a fairly odd film that wasn’t really a blockbuster in its own right, “Iron Sky”; and it is one of the very very small number of Asylum films which manages to be more entertaining than its inspiration (please read my review of “Iron Sky”, which it might reasonably be said I didn’t like very much).

Nazis! I hate those guys! Right at the end of WW2, we see Dr. Mengele escaping from some Allied forces, with a package under his arm. He’s a heck of a shot, fortunately…or the Allies are all really bad at it. Anyway, his plane is lost and we’re fired into the present day, where Jake Busey clearly intends to compete with Brooke Hogan of “Sand Sharks” for the title of “least convincing scientist in the movies” (aka the Denise Richards Award). The film takes place at the South Pole, and the apparently hand-picked group of scientists there need to be told the most basic information, over and over again – if you’re going to explain the film in this way, you guys, why not have one of your group be a dumbass?

Anyway, as the title of the film may have indicated, this is about Nazis who discovered an entrance to the Hollow Earth at the South Pole, and rather than using their kickass technology to win the war, decided to head off down there and build a new society for themselves. Here’s where the holes in the plot become rather more apparent and start dragging things down, but rather than dwelling on them, let’s talk about how extremely gory this film is.

The Nazis have figured out a way to become immortal, apparently, but it involves farming humans for their organs, skin, bones, etc. Some of them have maintained their appearance more than others, and in kudos to the makeup guys, quite a lot of them are really badly disfigured. So when our scientists find a way down there, you know there’s going to be some double-crossing, some very graphic face-peeling-off scenes, and really a lot more blood and guts than you’d expect from an Asylum film. They’re also not afraid of dealing with Jews in the same way they always dealt with them, which came as a bit of a surprise.

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The thing that continued to surprise me throughout the film is how far they were prepared to go. This is the first Asylum film I can remember where they really went for that grindhouse feel, where you’d expect them to cut away for something because they couldn’t afford to film it, but they stayed right there. The plot is another area where things go way OTT, just when you think you’ve got a clue where they might be going they take another turn, and then they absolutely nail the ending. You’ll love it!

For an Asylum film, this absolutely ruled. A decent cast, okay special effects, and a gleeful disregard for good taste. Like I said, not perfect (so much exposition!) but a step in the right direction.

Rating: thumbs up