It’s a glorious time to be a geek. Take DVDs, for example. It’s not really comes out on disc that’s so amazing, but what sorts of films are now being afforded the deluxe, special edition treatment. Ironically, obscure independent genre junk is often more likely to enjoy such attention than many of the lesser studio films. The ever growing number of small (and often, eventually, failed) cult movie DVD companies out there must grab up whatever titles are available.
However, they do so with the knowledge that the hunger for genre fare is so great, and sought by an audience nearly devoid of interest in the actual quality of the films, that such product can nearly always turn a profit. Even so, the competition for even so vast a pool of dollars is immense. This, coupled with the fact that such DVD companies are generally started by genre fans themselves, have spawned conditions under even the most desultory films are getting lavish treatment.
Future-Kill, for instance, achieved whatever fame it accrued (and only from this, shall we say, select and elite audience demographic) as an extreme example of old-fashioned Ballyhoo. By this I mean, the venerable art of luring in an audience by lying about what they’ll see if they opt for your movie. For instance, let’s say you’ve got some film you’ve made for, oh, $20,000. Well, you just cut in crowd stock footage from some million dollar historical epic, and waa-la, you then advertise a “cast of thousands.” And that sort of thing, by Ballyhoo standard, is actually comparatively honest.
Future-Kill earned its rep back in the heady, very early days of the burgeoning home video market. VHS tapes of the hoariest genre flicks often cost nearly a hundred bucks a throw. This pricing scheme was predicated on the notion that the main audience for such films were the insatiable shelves of your local mom ‘n’ pop video stores, which had to buy scads of such schlock to entice the undiscriminating teens who rented an armload of videos every weekend.
However, the real money was to be had if you somehow managed to market a tape that drew enough rentals that the owners of such stores were inclined to buy a second copy of the film, or at least to order more offerings from the same company. With customers loading up on obscure films, anything that drew attention to one tape amongst the multitude helped. Eye-popping, and invariably deceptive, box art was standard, and some companies even specilized in oversized boxes.
In a way, this was the throwback to the heyday of the drive-in theaters, back in the ’50s when producers like Sam Arkoff would commission poster art based on some salable title (I Was a Teenage Werewolf, for example), and see if theater owners would be interested in such a film. If the response was good, only then would have commission a script–again, to match the poster art–and actually make the movie.
Future-Kill‘s financial success–and I can testify that it was a ubiquitous video store presence back in the day–was due pretty much entirely to the fact that the (sure enough, highly deceptive) poster art was the work of H.R. Giger. Giger famously did all the art design work, including that for the monster and all its various stages, for Ridley Scott’s Alien.
Sadly, I don’t review poster art, I review movies. In this case, I’m much the poorer for it.
Any doubts that our feature presentation was made in the early ’80s evaporate as soon as the opening credits begin. While the credit font alone is indicative of that decade, it’s really the score that immediately settles the issue. This seems to have been performed on a Casio Synthesizer, the instrument that is to the ’80s what the Theremin was to the ’50s.
The film’s Unstoppable ’80s-ness continues. The title is revealed, ala Alien, letter by letter, only here each one is marked with a laser beam sound effect. Edwin Neal gets the first acting credit, to the effect of “Edwin Neal is Splatter.” Reading that card, I investigated a bit further, and was unsurprised to learn that ‘Splatter’ is one of the film’s alternate titles.
Mr. Neal’s prominence is, on its face, a bit bizarre. This was only his second movie appearance, and the first had occurred a full decade earlier. However, that lone credit appears to have earned him some cult movie cred, as he played The Hitchhiker in Tobe Hooper’s seminal The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Presumably by design, the actress who played that film’s heroine, Marilyn Burns, also stars here.
We cut to a nighttime cityscape, various shots of which are mixed in with the continuing credits. This went on long enough—over three minutes in a film running about 83 minutes* total—that I confess I leaned on a bit my fast forward button.
[*The IMDB lists the film’s running time as 89 minutes, but the length of the movie on the Synapse DVD is just over 83 minutes. I don’t know if there is indeed a longer cut of the picture (Future Ken: Having now watched the entire thing, I sincerely hope not) or if the IMDB info is erroneous.]
Our action proper begins in a rundown apartment / laboratory—you know the kind—self-identified by the brown chemical bottles and conical flasks in evidence. The camera pans away and we see a couple of guys in ludicrous ‘future’ outfits, including pseudo-metal breastplates and facemasks and such.
Aside from the title, this is our first indication that the film does indeed take place in ‘the future.’ Which is odd, and sort of makes you wonder about the three minutes of establishing footage we just saw, with cars and architecture right out of the mid-’80s.
In any case, the pseudo-punk/goth look of the characters definitely has a “Future of the ’80s” vibe. It’s kind of amusing how you can generally tell what decade a sci-fi movie was made in by what they thought the future would look like.
Splatter is the guy with the ‘metal’ faceplate. He also sports a Mohawk (!) through a vent in his armored headpiece, another sign of the film’s ’80s-ness. He speaks with a faint echo effect, despite the fact that his mouth and throat are uncovered and apparently normal. He does have a robot (?) arm, though. Or a big metal glove, maybe? I don’t know. It’s like Mr. T and Darth Vader and a member of Kiss fell into a malfunctioning Brundlefly Machine together.
The other guy, meanwhile, has garishly died hair and big kohl raccoon circles around his eyes. He’s wearing a sleeveless vest sort of deal, and a necklace stringing together a bunch of large fangs. Seriously, these are some of the most retarded future costumes I’ve ever seen in an ’80s sci-fi movie. And I’ve seen Robot Holocaust and Space Mutiny.
“You’re hurting The Cause!” Racoon Eyes shouts, rebuking his companion. In the interest of not making you read ‘Racoon Eyes’ throughout the entire review, I peeked at the credits and learned that this character is the aptly named Eddie Pain. This being the sort of movie it is, I had to resort to this expedient with several other major characters as well.
“I’m the leader of a non-violent movement,” Eddie continues, “and you’re a violent person!” Even so, he admits, “We need you. You’re the only one in The Movement who really knows anything about nuclear technology!” This doesn’t surprise me, as Splatter, a.k.a. Kiss Mohawk Vader, has a Radioactive Materials Warning Sign taped to his apartment wall. I mean, if that doesn’t establish his credentialsâ€¦.
Splatter, as we learn via some predictably clunky exposition, has recently killed a girl who had been part of The Movement. “She was talking to reporters,” Splatter sneers. “But she didn’t deserve this!” Eddie retorts, indicating the sub-par Freddie Kruger blades Splatter sports at the end of his Maybe Robot Arm. With this curtain line, Eddie storms out, and an angry Splatter rather awkwardly knocks over some bottles. This causes a small fire, which is used to segue to a small fire in another location. Auteur! Auteur!
The latter flames are situated in a fireplace, before which two guys are roasting weenies on some sticks. More really lame Synth music is heard, the kind of stuff composed by thousands of teenagers shortly after receiving their first Radio Shack keyboard. The setting is a Frat Party, apparently, with everyone still dressed in such a fashion as to strongly connote the 1980s. That’s kind of funny, because again (presumably), the movie takes place in the future. Yet I’m watching it twenty years in the actual future from when this film was actually made, and my present looks nothing like this movie’s future. Er, if you follow any of that.
Anyway, one wag places a dildo in a girl’s outstretched bun (not that kind, you pervert), instead of a hot dog. “No thanks,” she icily responds upon noticing this. “I’m trying to cut down.” Oh, Bluto, what hijinx are you and the rest of your friends in Delta House going to get up to next? And why are they so lame all of a sudden?
We move around the room. The attendees are frat-ish guys in pajamas, along with girls in lingerie who sport waaay too much eye make-up and heaping, heavily shellacked mounds of hair. (Actually, since this is the ’80s, many of the guys also sport waaay too much eye make-up and heaping, heavily shellacked mounds of hair.) It looks like a condolence party for a bunch of women who failed to make the cut for a J. Giels Band video.
Anyway, everyone is dancing and drinking and eating hot dogs (or dildos, I guess) in an extremely ’80s-ish fashion. Needless to say, this is all accompanied by a horrendously generic—and generically horrendous—pop tune. One short nebbishy fellow, who looks like he was kept in a glass case inscribed “Break in Case of Tim Kazurinsky Fatality,” has a ‘hilarious’ bit were he’s at boob-level and staring agape at the breasts of two women talking to each other. Then another woman eats a hot dog in a suggestive manner, leading a fellow next to her to turn and bite his knuckle.
Well, hey, they didn’t call the movie ‘Future-Laugh.’
Soon, albeit not soon enough, some other guys arrive, one clad in what appears to be a highly futuristic striped Izod polo shirt. The sound here is really bad, but I think Izod Guy has brought the others, who look like the cast of a failed Saved By the Bell knock-off, to apologize for some Frat Prank Incident gone awry. In response, the errant Frat Team begins to swear in a manner suggesting that the producers wanted an ‘R’ rating, but couldn’t be bothered to actually earn one.
There are further party antics I’ll spare you. But hey, it’s not like they called the movie ‘Future-Entertain.’ Following a discussion centered on, if I’m following things correctly, who thinks the Pet Shop Boys are more totally rad, the Frat Team is sent to find the guy they need to apologize to. By the way, and I really doubt I need to confirm this, but yes, one of Fratsters is indeed wearing a sports jacket with the sleeves pulled up.
The guys (?) wander through the building, drinking in the amazing sights and sounds of wild, DeSadeian debauchery that mark this Totally Awesome Pajama Bash. Thus we can add ‘parties’ to the list of things that can be assigned an Informed Attribute.
Our, well, protagonists, I guess, arrive at the office of a Snobby Rich Guy’s Son. (His status is announced by his smoking jacket and the silk cravat he wears under his open-necked shirt.) ‘Comically,’ Snob Guy is holding before him the steering wheel of his previously new Corvette, which the Frat Guys apparently wrecked. He is also flanked by two glowering body builder types. By the way, if, as is indicated here, Our ‘Heroes’ possess the means to buy this fellow a spanking new Corvette, well, it’s sort of undercutting the whole class warfare, Snobs vs. Slobs element, isn’t it?
Snob Guy announces the other part of their required recompense. They must attend a party at another frat house the following evening, whilst wearing only women’s underwear. It was pretty much at this point that I really began wishing that the ‘Kill’ part of this movie wasn’t quite so ‘Future.’
Steve, the big Frat Guy with the rolled jacket sleeves, proves the group’s Designated Comical Hothead and has to be dragged outside. There the group stands around listlessly bitching. Until, that is, Steve reaches down and pulls a gloopy mixing stick from the large, open container of black paint just sitting out on the porch this fine late evening. (!!) “Go inside and get me five pillows,” he smirks, as a synth version of Thus Spake Zarathustra (!) plays on the soundtrack.
We cut back inside, as aghast and appalled looking partygoers part before a roving POV shot. This goes on for a while, with the camera moving around the room and allowing all the extras a few moments of screentime (presumably in lieu of being paid), while we in the audience wait with weary, stoic fatalism for the inevitable anti-comic payoff.
Eventually the camera arrives before Izod Shirt Guy, and we are finally allowed to see the, er, whatwhosis. The punch line is that our Mystery Figure is Snob Guy, who’s been covered with tar and feathers. (So it wasn’t black paint. OK, then, because having an open container of tar out on one’s porch makes so much more sense.)
Aside from gut-busting hilarity, however—cue ‘loud’ silence and cricket-noises—this revelation raises several questions. How did the Frats get the tar bucket and feathers inside? Or, conversely, how did they get Snob Guy outside? What happened to Snob Guy’s bodyguards? How, as we shall soon see, did the Frats manage to cover this guy with tar while getting none of it on their clothes? But hey, maybe I should stop being so uptight. Look, buddy, when a joke is THIS FUNNY, you just go with it, alright?
With this guerilla act of Street Justice so righteously and hilariously perpetrated, the Frat Guys head off, all a’hooting and a’hollering and making chicken noises. Yes, chicken noisesâ€¦because of the feathersâ€¦oh, never mind. OK, Animal House this ain’t. In fact, it’s not even ‘Animal SRO Apartment.’
Anyway, further zaniness is executed—read that as you like—when Steve climbs into a highly futuristic 1980’s Mercedes and drives off, leaving his compatriots behind. (I couldn’t help noticing, by the way, that we see quite a few other vehicles here that are also presumably highly prized antiques, given the whole future thing.) The latest punch line, and I did indeed feel punched by it, occurs when a bunch of guys from Snob Guy’s frat house come spilling out after the others, seeking revenge. Cue the short of wacky chase that makes one weep anew over the death of Benny Hill.
I know I raised this already, but it’s still bothering me. How exactly did they manage to get Snob Guy outside, tar and feather him and all that without attracting any previous attention? Perhaps some futuristic time-freezing technology?
These issues yet unanswered, we cut to a street punk, who is spray painting (or ‘tagging,’ as us hip kids call it) Splatter’s name on a brick wall. Yeah, if that doesn’t establish Our Villain’s bad-ass, murderous cyborg cred, I don’t know what would. Meanwhile, a small crowd of extras, er, demonstrators, are harassing some firemen as the latter attempt to extinguish a small fire.
Reporting from the scene is a TV newsman, who looks like a slimmed-down version of Al from Home Improvement. Using this broadcast as a brilliant expository device allows the filmmakers to establish our present location as an “abandoned nuclear research laboratory.” I’m not sure why you’d bother demonstrating outside an abandoned facility, but there you go.
Cut to the Slob Guys’ frat house, where the guys are currently assembled. How exactly they escaped their pursuers, more or less unharmed, is left to our imaginations. In any case, here they are safe and sound, and in fact watching the aforementioned reporter on their TV. Wow, another brilliant location transition. Bravo! Auteur!
The *cough* riot, we learn, commemorates an incident a few years earlier in which “some scientists and innocent bystanders where killed.” You get a lot of innocent bystanders, you know, in a remote, grubby industrial district. Also, it’s Eddie Pain and his crew—all of about five of them—who are running the protest. This group, by the way, call themselves the Mutants. (Wow!)
Steve, who I remind you drove off and abandoned his friends to an imminent beating, now himself returns to the frat house. His compadres register their displeasure at his fecklessness by throwing several magazines and pillows in his general direction. Holy crap, don’t kill the guy!
Having survived this hazardous fusillade, Steve offers to make amends. In what I think is meant to be a hilarious gag, the others stoutly aver that they will never forgive him, no matter what. Until, that is, they see that he’s brought a lingerie-clad girl with him. Oh, my achin’ sides! Wait, not my sides. My head. That’s it, my head hurts like hell. Stupid movie.
Anywayâ€¦Ewwww! We learn that Steve has brought the young lady with the intention that sheâ€¦serviceâ€¦at least a coupleâ€¦ugh. Never mind. It’s too nauseating. “Two at a time?” one guy gulps. Uhm, I know I’m speaking in broad generalities here, but to the extent that guys fantasize about a mÃ©nage de tois, it usually doesn’t involve another dude. I’m just saying. In any case, there ensues further antics from the horny gents which are just too gruesome to describe. We’re not just talking unfunny, here. We’re talking Robin Williams unfunny.
A few of the gents follow Steve and the lady up to Steve’s bedroom (!), where the, er, festivities are about to commence. “Gentlemen,” Steve grins, “start your engines!” At this the soundtrack blares forth stripper music and we get a nice long boobie shot of the young lady as she positions herself on the bed. During this her head is cropped out of the frame, indicating that this film wasn’t perhaps directed by Andrea Dworkin.
The lights are doused, and the two nebbishes run inside and begin frantically undressing, all while we wait with grim despondency for another ghastly comic turn. And sure enough, like an implacable freight train of horror, it bears down on us. Here it is: Once abed, the Nebbishes eventually intuit that something is wrong. So they turn on the lights, and somehow—and I’ve no friggin’ clue how, because given the way the scene was set up, the exchange is flat out impossible—they find themselves in bed not with the hot chick, but with a really fat topless woman who laughs manically at their discomfort.
OK, maybe this was directed by Andrea Dworkin. Those Hitchcock-esque cameo appearances were really quite the rage for awhile.
Izod Shirt Guy shows up at this juncture, having returned from trying to placate they guy they just tar and feathered. He declares, in a fit of Homer Simpson-esque logic, that the only payback for the gang’s latest zany scheme isâ€¦an even zanier scheme! (Never has the plaintive query “Why does it have to be zany?” been more poignantly apt.) We cut to what I imagine is meant to be a wacky montage of the various Frat Guys being ‘punked’ up; i.e., garish facial make-up applied, hair spiked up, and donning what I suppose are meant to be ‘street’ clothes.
Their transformation into rejected extras for DeFalco’s “Rock Me Amadeus” video complete, the boys gather around Izod Shirt Guy to hear their wacky assignment. Should they accomplish this task, he avers, “I won’t report you to the national office.” ‘National office’ of what exactly? Really Bad Movies? Anyhoo, they are being sent down to the area of the aforementioned demonstration, where they are to kidnap (!) one of the “freaks.” Yes, really.
One of the Frat Guys suggests thisâ€¦plan, I supposeâ€¦has the potential to get out of hand. “We’re just going to bring [the kidnap victim] back here, and let him go,” Izod Guy replies. Well, obviously nothing can possibly go wrong, then. Assured by this airtight guarantee, the gang quickly agrees that the whole thing sounds like a bit of a larf. To the sound of futuristic ’80s pop music, and driving their futuristic pseudo-’80s vehicle—which undoubtedly runs on water or a cold fusion cell or something—the gang heads downtown.
Packed tightly in their car, the six (Izod Shirt Guy is along to pick out an appropriate target) begin to argue, which dialogue I again had trouble making out due to the continuing poor quality of the soundtrack. It’s nice that they whipped up a documentary and audio commentary for the DVD release, but frankly some subtitles would appreciated.
In any case, the driving sequence lasts longer than is perhaps strictly necessary, save in terms of padding out the film’s rather too amble 83 minute running time. Or perhaps it’s a cunning metaphorical device illustrating the vast psychological and sociological distance that normally separates the comfortably bourgeois Frats from the downtrodden, anarchic Mutants.
Yeah, that’s probably it.
Irony also raises its head, as the Gang finds itself accosted by a similar bunch of drunken, upper class frat types who drive up alongside them in a futuristically retro 4×4. They are the recipient of this ire, of course, because they are decked out to resemble Mutants. Thus are they afforded an opportunity to learn a Valuable Lesson about, I don’t know, judging people by their appearances or something. In any case, this would all make a hell of a “NBC: The More You Know” segment.
Eventually they escape with little worse than a beer bottle tossed in their direction, and the Longest Drive continues. In fact, after the initial song playing on the soundtrack to accompany this vital scene runs its course, they begin a whole other one as the ‘action’ continues. Probably my favorite part of all this is when they actually show Our Heroes stopping at a street light. (!) Eventually they do arrive in the Freak section of town, yet still continue driving on for a while even after that. In the end, the scene in the car runs slightly over four straight minutes of screentime.
During this, the incomprehensible bickering amongst the Frats continues. While I readily admit I don’t have a very good ear, I don’t think the problem was all on my end. Again, the vocal track for this movie is atrocious. They really should have re-looped the dialogue in post-production, although presumably they didn’t have the money.
They finally pull over to a curb and disembark, in an area with zillions of car headlights and heavy traffic readily apparent. Yes, this really does seem like some dangerous urban wasteland, one deserted by all civilized people. Two Freak Women walk by, drawing the attention of the most irritating of the Frats—a crown fiercely contested, I must add—one who seems like an early, failed attempt to genetically engineer the younger, wackier Jim Carrey.
And so the group trods down these Mean Streets, looking for a target. (By the way, what’s the point of dressing like Mutants if the Frats are going to walk openly down the street with the clearly yuppie-ish Izod Shirt Guy?) There follows a walking sequence that lasts not nearly as long as the driving scene, for what that’s worth. Finally, though, Izod Shirt Guy randomly selects as their victim none other than Eddie, a.k.a. Racoon Eyes Guy, a.k.a. the Leader of the Mutants street. Of course, a young, fit male is certainly the wisest kidnapping target, especially one strolling down the street with a couple of friends clearly in tow.
Even worse, the guy trailing along behind Eddie is none other than Splatter, a fact that become apparent when he emerges from some convenient shadows. I have to say, his Homemade Halloween Costume appearance isn’t exactly selling his bonifides as a dangerous homicidal menace.
It’s kind of difficult to make out everything that happens here, due to the fact that the nighttime photography is as murky as the vocal track is muddled. In fact, considering that a good portion of the time you can’t even make out what’s happening in the DVD version, I can only imagine who bad the film played on the old VHS copies.
Anyway, the Frats make their move, getting the upper hand over Racoon Eyes and the girl with him, yet inevitably meeting stiffer resistance from Splatter. After disposing—killing?—two of the Frats (and let me here offer unto Splatter a Laurel and Hardy Handshake, from the bottom of my heart), Splatter plucks an object from one of his victims. “A frat pin?” he bewilderingly notes. In what is the film’s only nice touch so far, he takes the pin as a trophy by jabbing it into his own chest.
Izod Shirt Guy, seeing his harmless prank somehow going awry, runs over and tries to settle things down. Splatter replies by producing some long spikes from his robotic arm and jamming them up into Izod Guy’s head. (He also calls him “Zod,” so apparently it is an Izod shirt. That’s a nice subtle piece of slang, though, so I’ll give the film another point for that one.)
At this the others stop messing around, and Eddie comes over to berate Splatter’s violent tendencies again. Unsurprisingly, at least assuming you’ve even seen a movie with a psycho guy before, Splatter replies by killing Eddie with what appears—at least as far as I could see anything—to be a spring-loaded Ninja Star launcher. At this the five Frats run off (apparently only Izod Guy was actually kacked, worse the luck). Splatter then inevitably tells the other Mutants that it was they who killed their leader.
Oh, you might be wondering what happened to the girl. Uh, I don’t know. I rewound the scene, and I still couldn’t tell what became of her. If I had to guess, I’d say she ran off after Splatter killed Payne, thus leaving a witness who the other Mutants would believe, and can thus reappear at the proper moment for the film’s climax. However, that’s pure conjecture based on the viewing of thousands of similarly clichÃ© movies and TV episodes. Good work, though, makers of Future-Kill. That whole ‘actually show the audience what the hell is happening’ thing is clearly only for wussies.
Earlier the Frats were in an area jam-packed with traffic. Now, of course, the area really is deserted and desolate. They run through the streets, with a couple of Mutants trailing after them, in a scene that wincingly suggests that this film will be a rip-off of Walter Hill’s The Warriors. I foresee a rather brutal hour of the various Frat Guys being killed off one by one as they spend the night trying to escape from the Freak’s territory. Sort of a, I don’t know, Bore-iors, I guess.
In their panic, the group gets separated, and two of the Frats—too generic for me to even bother providing with a label, much less a name—find themselves alone. They run off to hopefully join the others at their car, but fail to note a Freak positioned over their heads. Bum bum bum. Actually, the only suspenseful part is how they are going to manage filling out the 55 minutes of movie still to go. I’m hoping for at least twenty minutes of end credits, because there’s no way they actually have enough material to justify that running time otherwise.
Cut to a warehouse, where we see a woman, whose name (eventually) proves to be Dorothy Grim (Marilyn Burns). I can only assume that Dorothy is, in fact, the aforementioned Witness Freak Girl. Yes, it would be nice if we could actually identify her as the barely visible figure in the scene where Payne was killed, but whatever.
In any case, she’s rifling through a trunk. As this proves full of plastic arm bracers, presumably it belongs either to Splatter, or a particularly impoverished renaissance faire aficionado. Hearing a noise, she ventures forth into the darkness (albeit a darkness that at this juncture is markedly overlitâ€¦nice to know that the bad lighting goes both ways). Following the voice, she finds a bulky old tape recorder of a type that apparently has become fashionable again in The Future, andâ€¦.three guesses.
Inevitably, Splatter looms out from the darkness with homicidal intent, although Dorothy talks him out of killing her. She’s all that remains of his human past, you see, and moreover we learn that before his Cyborgization the two had been lovers. Laughably, we now get what the filmmakers apparently considered ‘characterization,’ albeit in the form of some laughably obvious, not to mention awkward, expositional dialogue.
“You’re so far gone,” Dorothy declares, “all you want to do is make everybody hurt as much as you.” Yeah, wow, it’s like we’re peering into his very soul. For her part, Freak Girl tends to attach herself to whoever is the head honcho, which is why she left Splatter for Eddie in the first place. Now, however, Splatter’s back in charge. If he’s to stay that way, she cautions, he has to make sure the Frat guys never leave the neighborhood alive. Nodding, Splatter leaves to tend to that chore.
Meanwhile, the wandering threesome of Frats—Steve the Joker, the Nominal Leader Guy and the Jim Carrey ManquÃ©—discuss what to do next. Steve proves a bit of a hot head, and when they draw jeers from some random street punks, he charges them. Dude, really, eyes on the prize, you know what I’m saying? Not exactly the way to blend in.
Anyway, the Frats manage to gain the upper hand, which I wasn’t exactly buying. Then Jim Carrey Guy goes into Berserker Mode and beats one of the Mutants to death in dramatic slo-mo. Well, OK, it’s not really that dramatic. It is slow, though. In any case, I assume this is supposed to be some sort of Lord of the Flies moment, where Jim Carrey Guy is confronted with What He Has Become.
No, not boring. Murderous. He was already boring.
Meanwhile, two Freak Hookers, or maybe just Floozies, see Splatter walking around. They ponder his remaining sexual abilities, if any, and one of them decides to investigate the issue for herself. She follows him into a warehouse, and flashes her boobies at him. And us, of course. I think you can safely assume that things don’t end well. Or interesting. However, as you might expect, the scene runs on rather longer than it really needs to, before the girl opens his pants, gasps in inevitable horror at his presumed radioactivity-scarred weiner, and Pays the Ultimate Price. Well, actually, the viewer is the one Paying the Ultimate Price, but you know what I mean.
Meanwhile, the Two Other Frats make it back to the car, but find its engine has been (duh) trashed. Hilariously, there is still tons of moving traffic maybe a block down the street, meaning that all they’d have to do is run over and flag down a ride. In an attempt to hide this, they then have the actors look in that direction, and cut in stock footage of an empty road. This technique might have been more effective, however, if they hadn’t, you know, shown us a crapload of background traffic all of like ten seconds earlier.
Other Signs of Things to Come: The car is parked in front of a shop offering Magazines, which, OK; and “Records”, whatever those are. (And looks, there’s a Texas Chainsaw Massacre poster in the window. Oh, my sides.)
In any case, the Generic Two decide to take off rather than wait for their friends. Then we cut to Splatter organizing a hunting party with his two lieutenants. The main underling, with his mop of curly black hair and walrus mustache, looks like a young Victor French. Furthermore, with the kohl circles around his eyes, he thus strongly resembles the Victor French-looking zombie cyborg from the laughable Future Wars. Life is just one big circle.
Splatter issues his orders, which are to catch the guys alive so that he can have the pleasure of killing them. (Which is dumb, since he’d want them shut up as soon as possible, but is meant to help explain their continued survival.) He then passes out a supply of weirdly dated—by future standards—weaponry, including an M16 and an Uzi. Maybe the government is hoarding all the up to date guns and these antiques is all the revolution can muster.
The Generic Two are meanwhile just sort of ambling slowly down a supposedly desolate street, again with regular traffic evident behind them. They begin to compare the horrible poverty about them with the shallow bleakness of their fraternity lives, which allows for further examples of the film’s awesomely limned characterizations. “My father pushed me into [joining the fraternity],” one of them muses. Wow! It’s like I’ve known this guy all my life.
Just when we are cresting on this wave of jejune and knowing cynicism, the stakes are raised. Seeing flashing police lights, the Generic Two run for help. However, the cops are molesting a young woman Freak. (“We’re peace officers,” one cop sarcastically notes. “Yeah, baby, so give us a piece!” the other japes.) “We’ve got to help her!” one of the Generic Two declares.
They decide to intercede by interrupting the festivities, but the cops believe them to be Mutants. “I don’t like faggots!” one cop charmingly declares, grinding Generic #1 into a wall. They continue at assail the lads until Generic #2 reveals that he’s the son of the Chief of Police. (!!) I couldn’t hear what the one cop says after he radios in, but apparently it confirms the kid’s claim. This is weird, since they didn’t get any ID off of him or anything. What kind of two second radio call can possibly identify a completely unidentified person who hasn’t even stated his own name? Must be some sort of Future Technology.
So the cops depart. Now, wouldn’t the Generic Two demand a ride to safety, even after their rough treatment? Or mention the plight of their friends? I guess not. I don’t find that entirely, or even remotely, credible, but there you go. And even if the kids wouldn’t ask for a ride, wouldn’t the cops get in trouble for leaving the son of the Chief of Police alone in a markedly dangerous neighborhood? Whatever.
Anyone, this incident, moronic though it was, has provided the two with an ally. The girl they saved from rapine rises from the ground and attempts to walk away. However, the guys trail after her, begging for help. Now that, you know, they allowed to cops to leave without taking them to safety. Class Differences raise their ugly heads, but following an extremely poorly written dialogue exchange, the girl—who proves to A Tough Chick with a Hidden Heart of Gold—admits that maybe all rich guys aren’t blah blah blah, just as perhaps all Mutants aren’t yada yada yadaâ€¦. Yeah, wow, thanks, movie, for exposing our Common Humanity. You’ve really made me think. Anyway, she reluctantly offers them her help in getting out of Dodge.
Back to the Slightly Less Generic Three, who are strolling down an alley. Jim Carrey Guy pulls them aside when they see a small group of Mutants watching a guy in KISS facial make-up doing fire-eating tricks. (??) Apparently the street theatre of the future is equally lame. Nominal Leader Guy decides to ask them for directions to the bus station. (!!) Apparently Splatter is keeping a low profile on this thing—although you’d think news of Eddie’s death would have exploded through the neighborhood by now—and one woman gives them the directions and tells them to keep walking.
Andâ€¦there we go. The guys are about ten yards away when Victor French Guy and his two assistants arrive on the scene. The Three run off, with their pursuers close behind. There follows a time-wasting foot chase, and Victor French guy reminds his helpers (and us) the Three are to be taken alive at Splatter’s orders. The two groups of three split off for some extended—again, the time-wasting thing—mano-a-mano fighting. All of the ‘action’ is about as poorly staged and clumsily executed as you’d imagine. Meanwhile, the fact that each of the Three emerges unscathed and triumphant over their designated street tough opponent doesn’t exactly enhance the film’s credibility factor.
By the way, as noted, at least one of the Mutants was armed. Needless to say, though, none of the Three ends up grabbing his gun or anything. I mean, c’mon, wasn’t that particular, highly boneheaded clichÃ© pretty much passÃ© by the time this film was made?
As is evident by now, Future-Kill is indeed an entirely rote carbon copy of The Warriors. (In fact, if we assume said copy is one of those heavily smudged ones that you can barely read, then the analogy is nearly perfect.) The guys trapped in enemy territory, framed for the death of an influential gang leader, etc. However, the protagonists of The Warriors were supposed to be bad-ass gang members themselves. When they took down opponents, you could believe it. These guys, though? Not a chance.
Meanwhile, the Two continue openly walking down the street—man, these guys are all like ninjas or something—trailing after Tough Chick. (Hey, Movie, how about some freakin’ names here?!) There follows even more Discovering Each Other’s Common Humanity stuff, which frankly is just giving me a headache.
“We’re basically the same,” Tough Chick pontificates. “We have feelings and dreams, too!” Wow, makes you think. It made me think how much I pity all the poor schlubs who rented this hoping for an entertaining knock-off of Alien and ended up with an After School Special apparently made by George Miller’s extremely untalented brother-in-law.
My favorite part is the insistence that the Mutants represent a pacifist movement dedicated to doing something about the fact that “nuclear armaments are everywhere!” Yes, that’s a highly believable motivation for a punk-styled street gang. Quick, break out the Giant Papier-mÃ¢chÃ© Heads and Street Theater Brigades! Take that, G8!!
“Eddie started this society in the hopes that conservatives would listen to him!” Tough Chick reveals. (!!) Uh, yeah. The ‘conservatives’ would surely listen to a bunch of mascara-wearing Thompson Twin rejects living in a Houston tenement area regarding the issue of nuclear disarmament. Although I will admit that the Mutants do represent a pretty accurate portrayal of what many members of the Nuclear Freeze crowd movement were like.
As further discussion of The Great Issues of the Day continued, I considered a) shooting myself in the head, or b) at least employing the fast forward button. Amazingly, I did neither. The things I do for you people.
After several minutes of such gabbing, Tough Chick figures out that Splatter is after the guys. She naturally fears Splatter, because as a violent being he risks contaminating their Utopian, Pacifistic Cause. She then is called over to some fellow Mutants, who inform her of Eddie’s death. (Which she takes rather in stride, actually, consider that big speech she just gave about what a big guru he was.) She returns and the Guys inform her that Splatter killed Eddie and is framing them. She agrees to continue helping them to find their friends and escape.
Back to the Three. They are being tailed, but not directly confronted, by a group of four Mutants. However, the respite doesn’t last long, and the Mutants move in after them. (Guess that Uzi would have come in handy right about now, huh?) The Three take off, and an extended half-tempo pursuit ensues, with everyone basically just jogging along. Man, is there really over half an hour of this yet to go? Yeesh.
By the time the Mutants assemble outside an abandoned building the Three have ducked into, their numbers have been reinforced, and include Victor French Guy and his lackies. They enter after them, leaving the other guys to guard the exit. (There’s only one way out of the building?) Presumably realizing that the audience was probably wondering about of the paucity of bloodshed so far, after reaching the roof Steve stays behind, covering his friend’s escape. It’s not exactly Horatius At the Bridge, but you take what you can get. For how can man die better / than facing fearsome odds / whilst boring all the viewers / in a film produced by clods.
The flaw in Steve’s plan, of course, is that there are three guys after them. He intercepts one, but the other two run past him. Further mano-a-mano ‘action’ follows, Steve up on the roof, the others on the building’s fire escape. One Mutant is sent downstairs in the most direct possible fashion (ouch), but their compatriots guys below surge up the fire escape to join the melee. However, at that exact moment, who should also show up but the Generic Two? Hazaah!
A triumphant Steve also joins in, and epic battle is waged. Sure enough, the Frats again decimate their opponents, and even bump off a few more of them. I think. Man, it’s hard to make any of this out. It’s like I’m watching the film through gauze. In any case, the chums are reunited. They join Tough Chick, who seems oddly unbothered by the deaths she just witnessed. (And again, Victor French Guy at least was clearly carrying a gun, which of course they again left behind.)
Meanwhile, Splatter is slooowly nearing our heroes, stopping to once more terrorize one of the Mutant girls. We do learn that Tough Chick’s name is Julie, although it’s a little late for that sort of thing. There follows more unseemly, sexually-tinged violence, and the girl is dead by the time Victor French Guy pops up to inform Splatter of where the Frats are.
By the way, Splatter is by now clearly out of control, walking around the streets and openly killing Mutants. I don’t necessarily expect him to be directly confronted, but wouldn’t the rest of the Mutants at least start helping the Frats escape? By which I mean, really, all they need is a phone, so they can call the cops or something. At least in The Warriors nearly everyone the protagonists met was out to get them or at least block their escape. Here, you’d think they could have gotten away by now.
Anyhoo, Tough Chick leads the Frats into a Mutant dance club. There they take a breather to have a beer (!) and rock away to the live punk band playing on the stage. (And yes, the film pauses for several minutes to let us ‘enjoy’ an entire song, which, unsurprisingly, is pretty lameâ€¦. OH, NO!! NOT A SECOND SONG!! YOU BASTARDS!!) “Now you’ll get a chance to see how the other half lives,” Tough Chick avows. See, she and Generic Guy are developing a bit of a thing, despite their cultural differences. Yeesh, a moment ago the movie was ripping off The Warriors, and now all of a sudden it wants to be Valley Girl.
It takes a lot to get me to use the phrase, “Luckily, Splatter shows up.” I’m using it now, though. Generic Guy and Tough Chick are too enrapt in each other to notice him, and warnings from the others go unheard due to the din. However, fate—or a bad screenplay—is with them, and a gyrating dancer takes the spikes that Splatter meant for Generic Guy. This allows the couple to make their escape, the rest of the Frats close behind. (Give how spread apart they were, and how crowded the place was, this seems unlikely. On the other hand, it’s in all our interests to get this thing over with, so whatever.)
Sorry jobbing ensues, so at least everyone’s getting a good cardio workout. They again all duck inside an abandoned building, with Splatter and his two remaining henchmen close in tow. “Barricade the door!” Tough Chick yells out at one point, and luckily there’s a swinging steel crossbar conveniently waiting to be used. (??) Then they make it back outside, and stop for a breather. “Good work,” one Frat notes. “That’ll keep ’em busy!” Uh, yeah.
Needless to say, the door doesn’t slow Splatter down for long—again, is his fist just supposed to be armored, or is it actually robotic—but by the time they get back downstairs, the Frats are out of sight. Victor French Guy and the Other Dude split up to track them down.
By they way, really, nobody Tough Girl knows has a car? Because really, they just need a ride. And again, Splatter is just offing Mutants in front of tons of witnesses now, like in the Club, so it’s not like he’d really be getting much support. In fact, even given the anomisity between the Mutants and the cops, wouldn’t all the bodies have gotten the latter involved by now. And wouldn’t the Police Chief be wondering what his son was getting up to by this point?
One of the bad guys gets the drop on the Frats, but Leader Guy executes a spin kick (!) and knocks him over. Again, all six of them instantly run off and don’t try to strip the guy’s weapon. At this point, you’ve really got to be rooting for Splatter, don’t you?
Predictably, they end up in a dead end, with the two armed henchmen right behind them. However, there’s stuff to hide behind, and when the henchmen hear a noise, it turns out to be a cat. Hilariously (if you’ve got a sick sense of humor), the frustrated henchguy machine guns the feline (!) and they actually have a gore shot of the kitty’s blown apart body (!!). Well, I haven’t seen that one before. Anyway, the henchguys take off, allowing the Frats crawl out from their various hidey holes.
And so Tough Chick finally gets them where she intended, which proves to be the very Thompson Research Laboratory where Splatter had the accident that made him what he is today. Wow, Life’s just a big circle, isn’t it? However, she maintains that she has a friend there who can help them, and they pile inside. Again, couldn’t pretty much anybody with a car help them? Apparently not, as the friend here, Tough Chick maintains, is their only hope.
The ‘friend’ proves to be none other than *bum, bum, bum* Dorothy, a.k.a., Eddie’s (and Splatter’s) old squeeze from previous in the movie. I guess it’s a plot twist. Or something. Meanwhile, Splatter is injecting himself with some sort of drug, following which he spontaneously somehow instantly intuits that the Frats have been taken to the Lab. Um, OK. That’s convenient. Again, though, if it gets the film over with fasterâ€¦.
The Frats are less to pleased to learn that Dorothy’s help entails arming them and, with the help of some traps she’s placed, using them to kill Splatter for her. However, they don’t have much choice, given the car-less condition of this part of Texas, so they grab the guns and deploy themselves.
Rather then emplace themselves, however, they instead split up and slowly roam the various hallways, which are ‘atmospherically’ lit with off-camera, red and green-filtered Klieg lights. (Maybe it’s Christmas time.) Myself, I’d find a spot where I can both have something covering my back and an emergency exit handy, and then wait until somebody showed up and ambush them. But what do I know?
This is all drawn out—or should I say, draaaaawn out—for purposes of ‘suspense,’ as we wait for Splatter to finally kill off one or two of the witlessly wandering Frats. For, you know, tragedy’s sake. And look, the klieg lamp lighting that hallway has a blue gel on it. (Actually, I’m assuming there were only one or two halls, and that they switched the colored gels to suggest more of them.)
Sure enough, the Leader Guy—well, I guess he really wasn’t the Leader—gets himself kacked, as Splatter does what I said I’d do, i.e., wait in ambush and attack from behind. In a particularly lame ‘scare’ shot, Son of Police Chief stumbles across his Friend’s Bloody Corpse, artfully pinned to a wall. Then he is, I guess, attacked himself, a gag muffling his screams.
Tough Chick and Her Boyfriend (previously the Other Generic Guy) prove an even further grasp of battle tactics by deciding to talk while they roam the halls, and then calling out to their friends. (!!) Yeah, that whole element of surprise thing is entirely overrated. Good work, you two.
Splatter and his two henchmen are close behind, but Boyfriend Guy manages to secure some running room by battering through a thin balsa wood wall. Yes, that’s the kind of structure I’d want to conduct radioactivity experiments in. I think I’m starting to get an idea of how Splatter got himself irradiated. Meanwhile—I think, it’s really hard to tell—a booby-trapped grenade goes off and kills one of Splatter’s two henchguys. They were all bunched up in an open hall, so I’m not sure how two of them escaped injury, but there you go.
Somehow all the remaining Frats find themselves in the same room, where they find Son of Police Chief tied up. Despite all being armed, none of them watch the door and allow Splatter and his henchguy to get the drop on them. At his order, they drop their weapons, which strategically I wouldn’t myself consider their best option. But they do, apparently, and who am I to argue?
Despite randomly killing Mutants in front of witnesses, Splatter still intends to blame Eddie’s death on them, and claim the mantel of gang leader after he disposes of the Frats. Whatever. Splatter decides to drag Son of Police Chief into what I can only assume is meant to be the facility’s radioactivity chamber, where I’m sure they kept a lot of radioactive material after the place was abandoned.
However, Delores now makes her move. As Steve jumps the remaining henchman, Delores closes with a miniature pitchfork (!!) and jabs it into Splatter’s unarmored stomach. There’s a pretty lame gore effect of his abdomen getting all shredded up. Then he’s shoved back into the radioactivity chamber and slowly baked to death via some further elaborate, if less than convincing, effects work. By the way, wouldn’t all our characters have been fatally irradiated when the chamber door was open? Guess not.
With Splatter dead, our assorter, er, heroes shuffle outside, where in an awesome poetic flourish, a bright new day is dawning. (Wow!)
However, the film still requires several more minutes of padding if it’s to reach its still short length. And so as they all stand around talking, the Victor French Guy regains consciousness back where they left him. Sure enough, he inevitably grabs his gun and follows after them.
At this point you can really only hope they all get killed. There are three things in particular that always annoy the hell out of action movie fans:
- During a tussle, a gun is knocked right at the feet of the some girl who is watching the hero fight for his life. Instead of picking up the gun and shooting the bad guy, the woman—who is usually the hero’s romantic interest—instead just stands there and screams. [To be fair, that doesn’t happen here.]
- Trapped in an area with many enemy combatants, the protagonist defeats a foe or series of foes, but then runs on without stripping them of weapons or other vital gear. [Check, several times.]
- On a related issue, when faced with a small number of foes, the hero or heroes fight them, knock them out, and then take off with the foes left alive. Obnoxiously, this allows them to be confronted by the exact same guys over and over again. [Check, several times.] There’s a similar moment in almost all slasher movies, too, where some potential victim gets the upper hand over their assailant, but immediately runs away rather than finishing the killer off. In those instances, at least the audience has the pleasure of seeing such stupidity swiftly recompensed with a violent, gory death.
Since the only purpose of this scene is to stretch out the running time, the would-be assassin meanders down the hall in a fashion that makes Cesare the Solmnulist look like Jesse Owens. When they cut back to him—over and over again—making his way down the world’s longest hallway, the soundtrack blares ‘suspense’ riffs taken right off the “Rejected Music Cues of John Carpenter, Vol 4: I Was Really Drunk When I Composed That” album. And suspenseful it is, at least to the extent that it plays upon our fears that this damn movie will never be over. (*Actually, when I checked, this bit ran only 40 seconds. You’ll have to take my word for that fact that it’s a long 40 seconds.)
And so the guys discuss their new found social consciences, as Death Nears. Luckily, due to some awkward blocking, Steve is positioned to the rear of the guy as he bursts out the door. Then the guy just stands there, finger on the trigger, until after several seconds Steve indeed elects to jump him. He exerts several ounces of pressure on the guy’s cheek, which, as this is a bad action movie, somehow snaps his neck. And Victor French Guy falls to the ground in slo-mo (even slower-mo, I mean), finally done in. Thank goodness.
Chastened by this final horror, the group turns and walks away toâ€¦. Well, that’s weird. They were just clearly outside the building, in the daylight. Now, seconds later, they’re in a darkened chamber, where they fling another open another door to let more sunshine stream in and stride forth into it once again. I guess you can never metaphorically banish the darkness too many times. Or maybe twice is the limit, as here they finally cut to the end credits. All three solid minutes of them.
By the way, when the Frat Boy Credits came up, the only one I knew by name was Steve. I’m sure one or two other of their names were used, but if so, I didn’t particularly care. There are several other perhaps intentionally funny credit listings, like those for the “Mean Mutants in Alley” and “Assorted Pretty Faces,” but this represents pretty much the textbook definition of ‘too little, too late.’ In the end, as hundreds of names scroll past, it once more boggles the mind how many people are required to make a piece of junk like this.
Things I Learnedâ„¢ (Concept Courtesy of Andrew Borntreger)
- The future may not be as futurey as we imagine. In fact, it might look a lot like twenty years ago. I mean, a lot.
- Going down to an inner city slum and kidnapping a random street punk may not always prove the harmless lark you’d think.
Just in case you can’t get enough of Future-Kill, there are a couple of extensive extras. Aside from the usual lame collection of trailers and talent bios, there’s a 22 minute ‘conversation’—entirely one-sided—with star Ed Neal. He covers pretty much his entire career, which consisted of a long-running gig with a Texas comedy group (members of which, including himself, he rather improbably turned down offers from Saturday Night Live because they liked their present gigs so much), a couple of films, his work as a anime voice actor, and his life-long job as a movie poster collector and merchant.
Mr. Neal seems a nice enough chap, and he does dish out the info on Future-Kill and Texas Chainsaw Massacre that his fans presumably seek. However, Mr. Neal also suffers from a bad case of Robin Williams-itis, exhibiting an apparent need to be constantly ‘on’ at every moment, via forced wackiness and by regularly breaking out one of his rather small pool of exaggerated ‘comic’ accents. Still, although I did find this aspect wearisome, I was able to watch the whole thing, which is a compliment in itself.
Better is a commentary track that features Neal and director Rob Moore (probably not the Battlestar Galatica one, though). Much pertinent info is revealed, especially the fact that when they originally ‘finished’ shooting, they only ended up with 50 minutes of material. Neal was enlisted to write a bunch of extra scenes, including the early ‘humorous’ ones at the Frat House. I assume such discursive sequences as Splatter’s murder of the hooker/groupie also were afterthoughts.
Happily, neither man labors under the illusion that the movie is any good. (“Our filmâ€¦if you can call it that,” Moore laughs.) For instance, they quickly and casually cop to their ripping-off of Animal House and The Warriors. I mean, they’d be dumb not to, but the their lack of airs is still a bit of a relief.
And to be fair, making a feature motion picture, even one as bad as this, is a prodigiously difficult task, Thus when they evince pride at having made one at all, it’s entirely understandable and justified. And say what you will, the movie has its fans, and who am I (of all people) to cast brickbats at anyone who enjoys it, for whatever reason? It’s schlock, but that was the intention, and arguing over what constitutes good and bad schlock is at best a fairly academic, if often amusing, exercise.
As noted, though, the film’s ultimate financial success almost entirely resulted from the poster art provided by H. R. Giger, which drew the eye of many a prospective video renter. Neal says that Giger provided the art because he was a fan of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Since Giger, especially in the wake of Alien, undoubtedly could have made more money pursuing other assignments, this sounds credible. However, Giger tells a different story, the details of which can be found in his book Necronomicon II.* A brief summation of each tale can be found in the ‘trivia’ section of the film’s IMDB listing.
In any case, the commentary provides a fairly interesting and entertaining look at what is involved in making a film like this. Of course, the movie and the circumstances that brought it about, in a different day and time, are more valuable for their historical interest than as a primer for modern low-budget filmmakers. I will say once more that Neal again have perhaps profitably toned down his perpetual wackiness a notch.
This review was brought to you
through the generosity of our
Jabootu sponsor for March 2007
Mr. Thomas Krug.