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Sunday, 22 July 2012

Roid Rage (2011)

Director: Ryan Lightbourn
Stars: Zach Canfield, Ben Evans and John Russo
This film was an official selection at the 8th annual International Horror & Sci-Fi Film Festival in Scottsdale in 2012. Here's an index to my reviews of 2012 films.
'Hello world,' says Sammy Jenkins. His life was a joke, he says, but things are going to change. Let me explain that they're not going to change in any way you're likely to be comfortable with. This is far from a comfortable movie, but then that's the point. If I highlight that the title isn't referring to steroids but haemorrhoids, you might have a vague idea of how uncomfortable it's going to get. As a pair of FBI agents follow a trail of mutilated hookers from motel to motel, they discover that the killer is far from anything that they could have comfortably imagined, I found myself torn. The concept is hardly a mature one to begin with and it quickly became clear that writer/director Ryan Lightbourn only wanted to lower that bar as the story unfolded. Yet there's some serious art in what he does with words. He has a real mastery of B movie dialogue that frankly outstrips anything Tarantino can conjure up.

Fortunately the dialogue found me first. Agent Munroe asks his boss if the dead hooker they're looking at means that they have a serial killer on their hands. Utterly deadpan, Agent Jenkins replies, 'Either that or a skull fucking maniac with flesh eating semen.' Actor John Russo (no, not the one who wrote Night of the Living Dead) channels Tim Thomerson and gets many of the best lines throughout. 'Get on the phone and call every ass doctor in town,' he orders as they discover their first lead: recurring tubes of corRectum, a haemorrhoid cream. By this point, I was ready for another delightfully over the top modern grindhouse gem like Machete, Hobo with a Shotgun or even The Taint, but then it decided to aim at the Poultrygeist vibe when Sammy runs out of cream and has to go back to see his doctor. John Archer Lundgren is a crazed scenery chewing doc, the maturity level leaps into the toilet and everything else goes for the gross out.

And so there's much I liked and much I didn't like; there's a lot more of both. On the acting front, Russo is a joy to behold and Ben Evans is capable as his partner, Agent Munroe. The other actors are mixed: some good, some bad, most mediocre, some bizarrely over the top. Russo rules here, but Evans is great in the trailer that accompanies the end credits. I have no idea if this trailer will really be expanded into a feature or whether it's supposed to stand alone, but it's much more traditional grindhouse than this short, which merely tries to cram as much as it can into fourteen minutes: a little sex, a little drugs and a lot of violence, plus lots of ass jokes. There is, it seems, already Roid Rage: The Christmas Special, which is a stroke of genius all on its own. I have no idea what it's really like but I can imagine. This can't be unseen, after all. I'm sure I'm going to find myself wondering partway through other movies when the anal facehugger will appear.

I enjoyed the gangsta subtitles. I enjoyed the spaghetti western music that accompanies the gun battle. I enjoyed the ambitious camerawork, which includes aerial photography. Even if it's stock footage, it works awesomely. I enjoyed the dialogue more than I can say. 'You're nothing but a filthy ass demon and it's time I sent you back to Hell' is grindhouse gold. 'I've been given a third eye that weeps shitty brown tears for humanity' is outsider poetry. Maybe if we pray, Lightbourn will be able to finance Robert de Niro for the feature. I'd pay to see that. On the other hand, the plot progression is a shambles, far more attention given to the outrageous bits than what links them together. The whole back story is mangled and the Globotech Research scientists look less like scientists than any scientists I can think of. It takes more than a white coat, folks. And how many ass jokes can you cram into one short film anyway? That's a rhetorical question. Honest.

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