Thursday, 21 April 2011

Split Second (1992)

Until I mentioned to friends on Facebook that I was rewatching the Rutger Hauer b-movie epic Split second, I really had no idea just how many people loved the hell out of this flick. It’s a superb bit of cyberpunk/horror/action trash, and the cast alone (featuring, amongst many others, Kim Cattrall, Pete Postlethwaite, Ian Dury and many more alongside Hauer) is enough to raise a curious eyebrow. The film itself is a loud, obnoxious, violent and gleefully tacky sci-fi actioner following the badass cop Stone (Hauer on top form as your typical futuristic antihero) who is on the trail of a brutal murderer in a stylized vision of 2008. Man, I wish 2008 had been this awesome.

Mixing the visual motifs of Blade Runner, Brazil and the Terminator into an action movie that soon turns into a sci-fi monster story, Split Second is relentlessly entertaining and hugely quotable. That’s not to try and fool you into thinking it has any depth or a remotely decent script. It’s cheesy in the extreme, but we’re not here to talk about good cinema are we? We’re here to talk about those films that are a little bit too odd for mainstream audiences, and Split Second is certainly an odd creature with its schizophrenic structure.
It never seems to settle on one genre, direction or theme, and add to this the fact it was shot here in England with a largely English cast (but American leads) and the film comes across as disjointed and slapdash. The thing is, for some bizarre reason it works really damn well. The plot is grisly enough to keep you entertained, and the script has enough comedy value to keep you chuckling. My own personal favourite exchange has to be:

Durkin: "I don't think this thing thinks it's Satan. I say it IS Satan." Stone: "Yeah? Well Satan's in deep shit!!!"

With dialogue like that, it’s impossible not to like the film. Rutger Hauer’s cranky, rat-shooting Stone lives on coffee, chocolate and swearing, and all of them are consumed and talked about at length inbetween gunfights and chase scenes. Kim Cattrall isn’t given a huge amount to do, but the film is infinitely more enjoyable than even the briefest clip of Sex and the City, for which she is mostly known for now. Hell, have these people never seen her infamous “Woooooooooo!!!!!” scene in Porky’s?!
But I digress. For a film of its kind, Split Second is extremely well shot and tightly directed by Tony Maylam, even though it plays essentially like a greatest hits package of ideas from other films. It’s certainly above average in terms of quality, but there will be those amongst us – like me and you- that love it dearly for all of its tacky charms. Split Second is a wonderful way to spend 90 minutes if you are a fan of dark Sci-Fi from the golden era of straight-to-video awesomeness. If you’re not, then keep this thing away from your TV at all costs. Let the rest of us enjoy its many delights in peace.

Saturday, 16 April 2011

Straight To Video: A Golden Era

There was a time in the early to mid-nineties when most of my viewing came from the shelves of (the now sadly defunct) Metro Video. As a teenager I would spend many an hour downstairs gazing at the new releases, and possibly even more time upstairs in the discount two-for-a-quid rentals room.

I was one of those irritating teenagers that would go and ask for my name to be put on the back of promo posters and cardboard standees so they would be saved for me once their display life had ended. My room was full of the things, my own little Hollywood packed with films most people had never heard of and even fewer would force themselves to sit through.

Those new release racks downstairs held all manner of magic upon them, big-box VHS movies that featured their own galaxy of stars that the average movie-goer had never seen before, but had been in dozens of films. Billy Blanks, Jalal Mehri, Richard Norton, Cynthia Rothrock, Gary Daniels, Olivier Gruner, Frank Zagarino and countless others were my heroes for far too long. I mean, people started to think I'd made half of these things up.

I worshipped the Nemesis films directed by Albert Pyun, and had a long and lasting love for the low budget horror gems 9and stinkers) released by the godlike Full Moon Productions stable, and in general I had (and maintain) really bad taste in films. There was something about that time though, something about the hundreds of films I got through during those years, that was rather special.

Due to the low budgets and niche audiences of those flicks, there was much less in the way of studio intervention. Granted, this could also have been seen as a lack of quality control, but hell, they were fun and a damn sight more interesting to me than most of the big-screen fodder that the decade spat at us.

I dreamed of breaking into the world of those b-movies, and even came up with a bunch of film ideas, fake posters and partial screenplays for SF and action movies that would ideally star the exact people that were lining my video shelves. I was obssessed, and only a low-budget schlockfest would do. None of that Oscar-winning nonsense for me, thanks.

Be it science fiction, martial arts, horror, traditional action movies, cheap sequels to big budget films or whatever, the Straight To Video era pretty much encapsulated my life between the ages of 15-21, and by that I mean cheap, badly plotted and done on a miniscule budget. Ah, those were the days.

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Diary: Armoured Gideon - A Comic Movie That Would Blow Your Mind

With the current wave of comic book movies featuring Marvel or DC characters reaching something of a crescendo with next year's Avengers and 2013's Justice League, the world is awash with tales of superpowers and epic action. That said, there is a complete lack of British comics movies. This is understandable due to the budget of these things, but there is so much amazing material out there that it seems criminal to ignore it.

Personally I would absolutely love to see a film of ARMOURED GIDEON, the classic 2000AD strip that mixed horror, surreal fantasy and science fiction in the way that only really 2000AD is capable of doing. Telling the tale of a photographer, Frank, who is sucked into an insane fantasy world populated by bizarre creatures and massive warring robots, the comic was demented and quite stunning to my eyes as a kid, and still retains that impact when revisiting the strip today as a crusty old thirtysomething.

It really would be a comic movie that woud blow your mind. The central human character would naturally spend most of his time in front of a greenscreen, but that would cut a bunch of prodduction costs right away anyway.

The concept and the visuals are literally out-of-this-world, and we are now at a place in the evolution of genre cinema where these things can be achieved at a high enough standard to be convincing. Plus, who wouldn't want to check out a film of two psychotic giant robots in a hellish fantasy wasteland, especially when all those robots are capable of saying is 'ANNIHILATE!!!!' and 'OBLITERATE!!!!' Pure gold, that is.

Oh and while you're at it, let's have films of Slaine, Nemesis the Warlock, ABC Warriors, Devlin Waugh, Zenith and The Ballad of Halo Jones. Pretty please?

Do Not Adjust Your Set

Abnormal service has been resumed. New posts are incoming. I'm determined to keep the site going alongsidde everything else. It means too much to me to just let it die.