Set in the future of 1998, six years after a nuclear apocalypse that left Earth a ‘blackened husk of a planet’, a group of army deserters seeks refuge in an abandoned former military base. But it’s not long before the survivors realise their sanctuary was a government research laboratory, where a genetically engineered creature still prowls its corridors.
To say this is another Alien rip-off would be accurate right down to a handful of its mimicked set pieces. But this unpretentious effort does not try to conquer the emerging – and hackneyed- film fad that followed the success of the groundbreaking sci-fi blockbuster; ultimately the low budget B movie-type never allows this imitation to be a competitor, and it doesn’t in any way try to be. Instead, it relishes in its rubbery façade and triumphs with its self-aware schlock horror conventions.
The conflicting quartet spends much of their time lurking in the shadows around winding corridors and dim lit rooms, and a lot of the effects work makes its excuses by hiding in the shadows. But it does wonders to create an eerie atmospheric setting, and thanks to the release of the 1:33:1, it isn’t the unbearably dark picture that it once was.
Aside from the looming silhouettes of DeCoteau’s bloodthirsty mutants and a great deal of limbs and heads protruding from the edge of the frame, the cast fight the force by wrestling of bunch of, what seem like, cuddly toys. A giant fuzzy rodent for one (that, rest assured, gets zapped by a laser gun.) It’s good fun, and what it lacks in commitment to the monster, it makes up for it with full frames of blood spurting exploding heads and melting ripped flesh as the victims go through their fatal transformations to their own bloody endings. It’s an enjoyable gore fest and, in hindsight, the FX of the mutilated bodies wouldn’t look out of place in a 90s movie with the same production values. Retrospectively it’s as silly and shabby as the rest of DeCoteau’s catalogue and probably scores below par in comparison to his next underwhelming project, odd horror parody Sorority Babes in the Slimeball-O-Rama (1988).
A raunchy shower scene with Linnea Quigley (Return of the Living Dead, 1985. Night of the Demons, 1998 & 2009) and a lengthy girl-on-girl punch up, which I’m sure has made a few teenage boys squirm over the years, also ticks another box to assume its trashy appeal. But when the bare breasts and cheesy clichés have done their bit, the 69 minute running time doesn’t allow much time for anything more than hasty decisions and sweeping suggestions – though dinner debates and deliberations form theories on government intervention, military deployment and genetic mutation wander in to make up the intervening cumbersome dialogue. Though we long for them to break free form the enclosed danger, the outdoors is as unknown to us as it seems to be for them.
Guy Moon has become a household name in TV and movie soundtracks in the last twenty years, critically acclaimed for his later works in composing music for animation. His familiar trashy score, analogous to Goblin’s sound and the Cannibal franchise’s score, signposts the beloved 80s horror and forms most of the film’s early substance.
It may have only been another stone in the rubble back in the mid-80’s when Alien influences seemed to creep into the booming sci-fi horrors, but today it’s a nostalgic raw piece of entertainment from the “golden-age” of horror that will surely be appreciated by DeCoteau’s few remaining fans and those who didn’t have the patience to squint at its before. Kudos to 88 Films.
Video and Audio:
As mentioned, the 1.33:1 format does wonders to lighten the tone of the gloomy image, making it crisper and more distinguishable without losing its atmospheric charm. The score sounds a little tinny but is, as 88 Films market themselves on, ‘treated with respect.’
With the main event brimming just over an hour, you’d feel robbed without any bonus footage. Luckily, the special features are three times longer than Creepozoids, and hey – you even get another film thrown in! Left in its grainy format, 1983 Film Gore, is a messy mash-up of gore sequences showcasing the best of formative horror and forbidden cinema in the Sixties and Seventies. The bloody medley and subsequent 5-10 minute condensed versions of handpicked feature lengths such as Driller Killer (1979), Bloodfeast (1963) and Snuff (1976), though not restored and tiresome after 90 minutes, is a nice step back in time and, if nothing else, fills the disc. If that wasn’t enough, the original trailer, stills gallery and 88 Films’ Trailer Park features appear to be a standardized added bonus across its releases.