I am a sucker for bad films, as you probably know already from reading The Genre Addict, but I am more of a sucker for bad films with cyborgs and explosions in them. Thus, back in my teens when I discovered the Nemesis films, I was in paradise. These flicks are atrociously made, badly written, and stuffed with terrible effects. Also, after the first film (which is actually pretty good as far as B-Movies go), there were a bunch of cheap sequels that were progressively more ridiculous.
In short, they were terrible, and I lapped them up. I loved these flicks (yeah, even Nemesis 3: Time Lapse, but I'll get to that) in all their sweaty, b-movie sci-fi, cyberpunky, martial arts, cheap effects-laden glory. They are a relic of what I see as a golden age of bad flicks, when the video shop at the bottom of the hill had endless cheap SF and martial arts b-movies in the classic (to me anyway) big-box VHS format. Oh yes indeedy. To top it all, each tape came stuffed with crap trailers for other crap films. Bonus!
A few months ago I went back to that video shop in my old hometown and discovered they were selling off their old VHS stock, having moved over to DVDs long ago. I found all three Nemesis movies I rented from them as a teenager, available for two measly quid for all three of them. At long last I fulfilled a sad old teenage dream of owning those films in the big boxes. What can I say? I'm a geek. Why else do you think I spend my time riffing on old tat like the Nemesis films?!
There are actually four Nemesis movies, but I've never seen the fourth one, (Nemesis 4: Cry For Angels, aka Angel of Death, aka 'The one where the bodybuilder girl gets nekkid alot') as I'm either too broke to waste cash on a film I may well despise, or I'd rather stick with the sweat and the cheese of these first three films. Albery Pyun was a hero of mine for a while with these slabs of weird sci-fi junk, and I still love 'em, even though after that first semi-cult-classic cyberpunk film, they went off at a very odd tangent and gave us a huge female bodybuilder and a desert full of very strange cyborgs (either the one in a rubber monster suit or the cackling girls in white wigs).
Anyway, onto the films themselves.
Albert Pyun's Nemesis is something of a cyberpunk cult classic. Yes, the script, acting and production values are a little cheap, but as a piece of science fiction/martial arts/action mayhem, it works very well indeed. Starring the B-Movie version of Jean Claude Van Damme, namely Olivier Gruner, Nemesis plays like a mad mix of Blade Runner and Bloodsport, with bits of The Terminator in there too. For added bonus points, the movie has a few scenes featuring B-pic legend Brion James, sporting a smart suit and shades along with a comedy Germanic
The film follows Alex (Gruner), a cyborg hitman who is almost killed when a mission goes rather wrong, pitting him against an anti-cyborg militia. He is rebuilt and hides out in the desert for a long time, until a bunch of cyborgs force him to carry out one final mission to get them closer to the head of the militia. The plot ain't the important thing though. The important things here the explosions, the asskicking fight scenes, the cyborgs with guns in their heads and the fantastic locale that much of the film takes place in.
It's not rocket science, but it is a lot of fun. While most of the elements are nicked from other films (including Pyun's own hit, CYBORG), the first Nemesis film has some great moments. The opening scenes in the city are grim, and the subsequent scenes in the desert are given more impact due to their sheer contrast. It's a dirty, violent mini epic full of mayhem, gunfights and characters being vague in shades. It was also crying out for sequels, but probably not the sequels that followed it...
Nemesis 2: Nebula (1995)
Eh? Look, I love this film, I really do, but it is bloody weird as sequels go. Where the first flick took place in the future, after the first five minutes the first sequel takes place in 1980, followed by a jaunt to the present day, where a baby that is taken into the past has grown up to be a superhuman warrior in the shape of world class bodybuilder Sue Price. She has been raised by a tribe in Africa, who reveal her origins to her once a marauding cyborg arrives from the future to destroy her.
Why? because she hold the secret to the end of the human/cyborg war in her DNA, or something. This follows a prolonged battle between Alex (Price) and the cyborg, Nebula.
The Nebula character is represented by a stuntman in a rubber monster costume, who has had a cheap digital effect laid over it, and is basically a cross between the Terminator and a Predator. An hour of the film is made up of this battle, while secondary characters run around trying to avoid explosions.
Sue Price, while one of the worst actors ever to appear in a film, looks incredible as the superhuman Alex. Her dialogue is wooden in the extreme, but her presence is awesome, as is her action work. She's the star of the whole thing by a mile, and the endless fight between her and Nebula is actually quite brutal. A sequel largely in name only, Nemesis 2 saw the series go off at a weird tangent. That said, it still walks all over what followed it...
Nemesis 3: Time Lapse (1996)
Oh Christ this film is bad. Even I have limits when it comes to what I can put myself through, but there are moments where Nemesis 3 actually makes me want to weep and scream at the heavens, generally when I think about the good parts of the first two flicks. The links to the first film are wafer thin, and big chunks of this third film are made up of flashbacks to the second! The plot, what there is of it, is convoluted in the extreme.
The use of digital effects and a terrible CG robot make the production look even cheaper than the tarty cyborg women in white wigs who keep cackling at each other. Shot back to back with the second film, you can't help but wonder what was going through the cast and crew's heads while making it. Where the second film was an all-out action fest that, while a lousy idea for a sequel, was a fun slice of sci-fi tinged action, this is an insane mess of a film that ultimately goes nowhere.
Once again the Arizona desert is used to double as Africa, where six cyborgs arrive from the future in order to destroy Alex (Sue Price again) and put an end to the war in the future. Alex has amnesia due to a head wound, and spends much of the film piecing together what happened through the aforementioned copious flashbacks to the previous film.
Instead of closing off the series and answering some questions, it instead just keeps making things blow up until all of the cyborgs are dead and we are promised NEMESIS 4 as the credits roll. The thing is, the footage used to tease us for that fourth film was shot during the location work for this flick, and then the fourth film didn't take place anywhere nearby, or indeed have anything to do with these two sequels other than Sue Price being in it! Still, I only have myself to blame for sitting and watching this junk anyway I guess. It's entertaining at some points, but nowhere near the film it should have been.
The Nemesis films had a ton of potential to develop into something truly worthy of cult status, and instead we were offered one great film, one fun sequel, one atrocious sequel and one (so I'm told) half art house, half soft porn film to end the series. I am quite curious to actually sit and watch Nemesis 4, just to see what all of the derision towards it is actually about, but I'm not sure my mind can take it just yet after watching these three back to back.