Pennsylvania is a huge state. Between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, is the same distance as from Philly to Boston, which crosses five states! And while the urban centers keep PA voting blue nationally, the local governments are a good slice of ol’ fashioned God and guns. This is the state of Romero, where zombies first walked, but it’s also a state with a lot of small, isolated towns that seem stuck in the past. In 1987, Mark and John Polonia made Splatter Farm, a direct-to-video release that launched their B-movie, cult company. Since then, they have churned out 32 films, to date. One of their most recent offerings,Empire of the Apes doesn’t disappoint…in absolutely disappointing you.
The Polonia Brothers, working together until John died in 2008, have gained a small legion of twisted fans who relish their shock value, microbudget releases. These aren’t Hollywood microbudgets either. In fact, their entire oeuvre spanning almost three decades is undoubtedly still less than one Jason Blum film. Empire of the Apes continues the tradition: terrible acting, backyard movie quality, and costumes bought at the local Halloween store. Following three scantly clad female convicts, who crash land on a weird planet that looks shockingly like central Pennsylvania, the action follows their attempts to survive pitted against warrior apes, whose voices even echo in their plastic masks with no post dubbing. It’s really that cheap.
At any second, the film feels like it could devolve into hairy pornography and, tragically, it does not. Instead, the campy action and inconsistent lighting bounce from one ridiculous set-up to the next, making us wonder more than anything, how movies can still look so bad in 2014. Sadly, the charm that their early films might have had, directly connected to their shoddy production quality in the glory days of VHS, just doesn’t hold up as well anymore. Not when a five-year-old can shoot a better looking film with an iPhone. Times have changed and audiences want better quality, even from the bottom tier.
“Empire of the Apes” is on sale April 22, 2014 and is not rated. Action, Sci-Fi. Written and directed by Mark Polonia. Starring Danielle Donahue, Elizabeth V Costanzo, James Carolus, Marie Delorenzo.