I am happy to report that this SyFy Channel original movie messes with the format. The estranged couple, so beloved for their tension-generating abilities, are high school sweethearts who’ve not seen each other in 16 years; and there is a child (her teen daughter), but she’s so annoying and self-involved that no-one seems bothered about jeopardising themselves to save her.
This movie also seems to rename itself whenever the wind changes. We’ve got the original title, “Iron Invader”, then “Iron Golem” (no doubt there was a new “Iron Man” in cinemas when it was first released). In the UK, it’s known as “Metal Shifters”, in Spain, “Transmorfers” (sorry, Spain, we’ve already got one of those), and in Germany, ”Space Transformers” (okay, there’s a giant metal creature in it, but it doesn’t really transform).
A meteor hurtling through space crashes into a Russian satellite, transferring some sort of green goo onto it; this satellite then crashes in Redeemer, Idaho, a small town which is going through some tough times as all we see are “foreclosed” signs on the houses. That this also cuts down on the number of extras you have to hire is, I’m sure, irrelevant. But all isn’t lost, as there’s a couple of brothers renovating an old building to turn it into a B&B, Jake and Ethan (Kavan “Eureka” Smith and Colby “this movie is his main IMDB credit” Johannson). Into town comes his old girlfriend, Amanda (Nicole De Boer, who we’ve covered previously in “Metal Tornado” and “Prom Night 4”, and who’s more famous for her TV runs on “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” and “The Dead Zone”), and there’s perhaps a little unfinished business between her and Jake? Like I said, it’s nice that they messed with their own format, even if only a little.
Jake and Ethan are short on cash, so when that goo-covered satellite crashes in town, they umm and ahh about informing the authorities before deciding to sell it at the scrap yard, run by the town’s resident old man, Earl (Donnelly Rhodes, “The 12 Disasters Of Christmas”). He’s building a 17-foot tall robot sculpture for the town’s annual festival, although it won’t be much of a festival if there’s only like 10 people left! Anyway, the goo is sentient, and the bits of satellite leap onto the robot, fusing themselves to it and animating the sculpture. Then, suddenly, a giant lump of metal turns into a ninja, as people are continually unable to find it – and there’s the thing where you hear servo-motors whenever it moves, despite them being expensive and there being no way an old man would have fit them to an immobile sculpture.
So, the green goo is mega-bacteria, and it loves the iron in human blood, as well as whatever metal it can get itself on (although it prefers the blood). Deciding on a giant statue as the best way to get round town, and not, I don’t know, a car or bike, it sneaks round, killing folks before leaving the surviving townspeople in the one local bar, run by that bloke from “Eureka” who also ran their bar. The Sheriff’s deputy (Chelah Horsdal, one of my favourite “That Gal” actors) feels like she was there because they were having a “Eureka” reunion, or because they had five minutes they needed to fill.
The effect for the golem is pretty good, even if they do resort to a King Kong-esque “hand through the window” thing a few too many times. The acting is pretty uniformly strong, even if I’d have given Horsdal a bit more to do than being sat behind a desk then dying (she’s really good, you guys, check her out in “The Man In The High Castle”; also, her Twitter feed is hilarious). The interplay between the people at the bar, especially when they’re trying to figure out a way to kill the space bacteria, is pretty fun – kudos to writer / director Paul Ziller, one of SyFy’s most dependable names.
I could have lived without so many people going “as if a giant robot actually exists!” and then blaming the old man for building it, as if some guy in a scrap yard wanted to build an actually working 17-foot tall killing machine; and there’s a spectacular example of “haha all our friends are dead” at the end, as the main couple joke and kiss, ignoring the fact that his brother and her aunt died in gruesome circumstances YESTERDAY
Still, it’s not bad, and if it pops on the SyFy schedule, you could do a heck of a lot worse.
Rating: thumbs in the middle