Waffle, Review by Case Wright

I do love a good short film. I love a good comedy horror and loathe the ones that are terrible like this garbage trash “Origin” that I reviewed last year: https://unobtainium13.com/2021/10/06/origin-film-review-by-case-wright/ I’m not saying that the person who unleashed “Origin” or any terrible Short Film should be imprisoned forever, but I’m not saying that they shouldn’t either- Listen, I’ll back your play.

Waffle was ….. not bad. There were some stunners last year. I mean true artworks and please if you have the ability to hire these actors, writers, and directors – please call them. I’ll spot your month’s IMDB Pro dues if you do. *winks with sexy Italian eyebrows, makes click sound – Sup?*

Kate Marovitch and Kerry Barker created Waffle and they hit a number of good points. It’s a self-contained story. They were on a budget, but made the film look awfully slick. There’s a clear plot and narrative thread. I put this short-film in the good category, which I don’t give out lightly. Shorts are a unique storytelling artform- Every word matters and every second matters. I wouldn’t mind seeing another one of their shorts; however, I’d like to see what they could create for a series.

The short takes our phone induced isolation to another level. In this world, you rent friendship and love with a finger swipe, but Katie uses the evil Tinder to find her victims. Yes, this plot is straight-forward, but it had some funny lines and a heart. They are tapping into the interpersonal relationship version of there are “ten-thousand channels and nothing’s on.”

I don’t want to spoil the ending and would recommend this ten-minutes for you. Yes, you!

The TSL’s Horror Grindhouse: The Astrologer (dir by James Glickenhaus)

Quite possibly one of the most boring film ever made, 1975’s The Astrologer tells the story of …. well, I’m not really sure what the point of it all is.

Basically, an astrologer named Alexi Abarnel (Bob Byrd) has figured how to combine the zodiac with 70s technology and, as a result, everyone’s potential for good and evil can be determined simply by typing their birthdate into a computer.  The U.S. government funds his agency, which is known as Interzod.  And let’s be honest, that does sound like the type of dumbass thing that the government would fund, especially when the Democrats are in power.

According to the stars, the second coming of Christ is only a few days away.  Alexi is convinced that he has married the woman who is destined to give birth to the Savior.  Because of this, he refuses to consummate his marriage because it’s very important that she remain a virgin.  However, he hasn’t bothered to inform her of any of this so poor Kate (Monica Tidwell) spends all of her time wondering why her husband hasn’t touched her in five years of marriage and why it’s also so important to him that she never tell anyone the actual date of her birth.

Meanwhile, a group of gypsies are traveling the country and, under the leadership of Kajerste (Mark Buntzman), they are both murdering people and also compelling people to commit suicide.  Interzod is concerned about Kajerste because of his “zodiacal” potential but Alexei is also concerned that he doesn’t have Kajerste’s exact birthdate.  But the fact that Kajerste is commanding his followers to kill people should be enough to clue Interzod into the fact that Kajerste is bad guy, regardless of whether he’s a Capricorn or an Aquarius.  Fortunately, Interzod has come up with a plan on how to kill Kajerste, one that involves implanting thoughts in his head via electrodes and tranquilizer dots.  A young congressman (Al Narcisse) wants to help because he’s so interested in Interzod’s work.  However, it turns out that the ludicrously complicated plan to take out Kajerste is …. well, ludicrously complicated.  If my tax money is going to fund Interzod, I would hope they would make better use of it.

The film’s plot definitely has the potential to be interesting but, unfortunately, The Astrologer is a very, very talky film.  It only has a 78-minute running time and the majority of the film is made up people having very long and very dry conversations about how Interzod works and why its work is important.  The problem is that there’s not really any need to convince the viewers that Interzod is important or to show us how it works.  No watching this film is going to be interested in an in-depth examination of a fictional government agency.  Everyone knows that this isn’t 60 Minutes and it’s not like the NSA has hand-picked the correspondent who is going to be reporting on them.  This is a film about spies, astrology, and a killer cult.  It should be a lot of fun but instead it’s incredibly boring.

That’s not to say that it’s a total waste.  This was James Glickenhaus’s first film as a director.  Glickenhaus went to direct some well-regarded action films in the 80s and there are a handful of isolated moments in The Astrologer where it is obvious that the film was made by someone who had a good visual eye.   A cult ceremony scene that is almost totally made up of freeze frames is nicely done.  And, as always, it’s hard not to admire the ambition of someone trying to make a metaphysical thriller and tackle the big questions of existence on a budget.

In the end, though, the most interesting thing about The Astrologer is its insistence on having its characters frequently use the term “zodiacal.”  Take a drink every time that you hear someone say, “zodiacal” but don’t drive afterwards.

Downdraft (1996, directed by Michael Mazo)

When an out-of-control general was on the verge of destroying the world, Col. Jack Slater (Vincent Spano) did what he had to do and he killed him.  Now, Slater is in a military prison and separated from his family.  However, he’s offered an opportunity to win his freedom.  All he has to do is reassemble his old crew of military/scientist specialists and deactivate an underground computer.  The problem is that a mad scientist named LaGrange (Zdenek Maryska) is threatening to use the computer to destroy the world and the underground chambers are patrolled by a killer cyborg that has melded with LaGrange’s mind.  Meanwhile, above ground, General Devlin (Paul Koslo) is willing to sacrifice Jack and his team if it means covering up what’s happening underground.  If the cyborg doesn’t kill them, the super computer will.  If the super computer can’t get the job done, the government cover-up will do what has to be done.  If the government can’t do it, the earthquake will have to suffice.  Either way, it seems unlikely that Jack and his people are going to escape that underground chamber with their lives.

“Game over, man!”

No one shouted that in Downdraft but they could have because the scenes of the team searching the underground chamber will be familiar to anyone who remembers the space marines exploring the destroyed colony in Aliens.

“I’ll be back.”

No one says that in Downdraft but someone could have because the computer turning on the humans that created it will be familiar to anyone who remembers what John Connor told Sarah in The Terminator.

“Thank you and have a nice day.”

Again, no one says it in Downdraft but they could have because the killer cyborg might as well be named Robocop.

Downdraft takes elements from all of those films and then adds in the type of corrupt general who would send John Rambo to Vietnam and then abandon him there once it became obvious that Rambo had found evidence of American POWs.  There’s not much about Downdraft that feels original but I will give Downdraft credit for including a little bit of everything.  Not only is there a killer robot and a super computer and an untrustworthy general and a government coverup and a team of quirky nerds who know how to fight but there’s also a race against time to defuse a hydrogen bomb and several scenes of people having to climb rickety ladders and cross over chasms on unstable bridges.  The action is impossible to follow but when there’s so much of it, it almost doesn’t matter.  The main message of the movie is that humanity shouldn’t become reliant on supercomputers to run the world.  It’s a good thing we all learned that lesson, right?

Vincent Spano was a good actor, even in this.  Whatever happened to him?  While he’s saving the world, he also finds time to fall in love with a Russian scientist played by Kate Vernon, who went from playing a key supporting role in Malcom X to starring in this.  Everyone has bills to pay.  That was as true in 1996 as it is today.

Retro Television Review: A Little Game (dir by Paul Wendkos)

Welcome to Retro Television Reviews, a feature where we review some of our favorite and least favorite shows of the past!  On Sundays, I will be reviewing the made-for-television movies that used to be a primetime mainstay.  Today’s film is 1971’s A Little Game.  It  can be viewed on YouTube!

Twelve year-old Robert Mueller (played by 13 year-old Mark Gruner, who would later go on to play one of Chief Brody’s kids in Jaws) just hasn’t been the same since his father died.  Robert idolized his father, who was an architect who built bridges and reportedly pushed his workers to take a lot of dangerous risks to get the job done.  Perhaps that explains why Robert is not getting along with his new stepfather, Paul Hamilton (Ed Nelson).  Robert’s mother, Elaine (Diane Baker), is convinced that Robert will eventually come to accept Paul but Paul isn’t so sure.

Robert is a student at a private military academy.  When he comes home for the holidays, he brings his “best friend” with him.  Stu Parker (Christopher Shea) is friendly and polite but he’s also easily led and has a difficult time standing up for himself.  Paul immediately sees that Robert is bullying Stu.  Elaine, however, thinks that Paul is being too critical.  That’s just the way boys are!

In his diary, Robert has written that he killed someone and that he’s sure that he got away with it.  When Paul comes across the entry, he worries that Robert might be telling the truth.  Paul goes as far as to hire a private detective (Howard Duff) to investigate whether there’s been any mysterious deaths at Robert’s school.  Stu, meanwhile, explains that he and Robert sometimes play “a little game” where they imagine that best way to murder someone and get away with it.  But Stu assures Paul that it’s just a game.  They don’t actually kill anyone.

Is Stu telling the truth or is Robert just as dangerous as his deceased father, a man who Paul claims was a psychopath?  Or is Paul himself the one who has become delusional with jealousy of his stepson?

The answer to those questions is pretty obvious from the minute that Robert and Stu show up at the house.  In fact, it’s so obvious that it kind of leaves the viewer wondering how everyone else in the film could be so clueless.  On the one hand, it’s understandable that Elaine would not want to admit that there is something seriously wrong with her son.  On the other hand, how many times can anyone close their eyes to a very obvious truth?  From the minute that Robert shows up, wearing his uniform and curtly ordering around the family’s maid (played by High Noon‘s Katy Jurado, who deserved a better role), he might as well have psychopath tattooed on his forehead.

That said, evil children movies are always somewhat effective, even the ones that are a bit too obvious in their approach.  Psychologically, we’ve been conditioned to always associate children with innocence, optimism, and hope.  Children are the future, so the saying goes. As such, it does carry some impact when they’re portrayed as being a force of danger.  As I watched this film, I did find myself wondering if there was any hope for Robert.  With all that he had done, could someone still reach him and turn him around?  Or was he destined to go from being an evil child to an evil adult?  It really does get to the question of whether evil is a real, almost supernatural force or if it’s something that’s created by a combination of environment and social taboos.  Was Robert born evil or did he become evil?  A Little Game doesn’t answer that question but I doubt that anyone could.  Some questions are destined to be forever unanswered.

International Horror Film Review: Light Blast (dir by Enzo G. Castellari)

Produced in Italy and first released in 1985, Enzo G. Castellari’s Light Blast is a hybrid of several different genres.  There’s a lot of action, there’s a bit of horror, and there’s also some sci-fi.  Like the majority of Italian exploitation films that came out during the 80s, it’s designed to have a little something for everyone.

Erik Estrada plays Ronn Warren, a detective with the San Francisco Police Department.  (Though the film was filmed on location and it did star American television star Erik Estrada, it’s still very much an Italian production, complete with badly dubbed dialogue and clumsy attempts to capture the peculiarities of American culture.)  When we first see Ronn, he’s in his underwear and he’s carrying a turkey.  Two inbred criminals are trapped in a bank and they’ve taken hostages.  They’ve demanded that the police provide them with dinner and that the food be delivered by someone “not wearing a stitch of clothing.”  Ronn is happy to oblige, though he doesn’t go completely naked because Ronn is one of those police detectives who has trouble following orders.  Of course, as soon as he gets inside the bank, Ronn proves that he doesn’t need to be fully dressed to stop the bad guys.  He just needs for the bad guys to be stupid enough to continually let their guard down and fall for extremely obvious tricks.

While Ronn is showing off his physique, Dr. Yuri Svoboda (played by Enio Girolami, who is credited as Thomas Moore in this film) is planning on terrorizing the city of San Francisco.  He’s developed a giant laser gun that he transports on top of a van.  Whenever he shoots the laser at any digital clock, it causes people to melt and buildings to explode.  His first victims are a teenage boy and girl who are having sex in an abandoned railroad car.  His next victims are the innocent spectators of a stock car race.  What does Dr. Svoboda want!?

It turns out that he wants a lot of money.  Now, if Dr. Svoboda tried this today, I imagine the city would quickly pay up and Dr. Svoboda would be given a police escort to the airport.  But this film was made in the 20th Century, back when people were still willing to fight back against mad scientists with lethal death rays!  Soon, Ronn Warren is running around San Francisco, battling Dr. Svoboda’s henchmen while trying not to get melted himself.  And, of course, it would not be a movie about San Francisco if there wasn’t at least Bullitt-inspired car chase.  For this chase, Ronn steals a stock car and chases the bad guys throughout the city.  Whenever anyone gets in Ronn’s way, he and the car just jump over them while the film’s synth-heavy musical score goes appropriately crazy.

What to say about Light Blast?  It’s a bit of a dumb movie but, to its credit, it doesn’t take itself too seriously.  The melting effects are both so grotesque and so obviously fake that you won’t know whether to laugh or to scream.  Castellari keeps the action moving quickly and Estrada delivers all of his lines through gritted teeth, an indication that both of them knew better than to worry about things like logic or motivation.  Why Dr. Svoboda melting people?  Because he wants to.  How can he somehow get away with driving around in a van that has a very obvious laser gun on top of it?  There wouldn’t be a film otherwise.  That’s just the way Light Blast is.  It’s stupid but it’s so unapologetic in its stupidity that it’s hard not to be entertained.

Lifetime Film Review: The Gabby Petito Story (dir by Thora Birch)

Last night, when I watched The Gabby Petito Story on Lifetime, my inital reaction was to think that it was a bit gauche just how quickly Lifetime had turned the story of Petito’s murder into a movie.

“Wow, I thought, this only happened a few months ago and they’ve already turned it into a movie?”

However, I then took a look at Gabby’s Wikipedia page and I discovered that it has actually been over a year since Gabby Petito disappeared while driving across the country with her fiancée Brian Laundrie.  It has been over a year since her family frantically asked that anyone with information come forward.  It has been over a year since the release of the footage of the police talking to a distraught Gabby Petito while Brian laughed about the situation on the other side of their van.  It has been over a year since Brian himself vanished.  It has been over a year since Gabby’s remains were found and the coroner confirmed that she had indeed been choked to death.  And it’s been over a year since Laundrie’s skeletal remains were found, along with a note in which he confessed to killing Gabby.

It’s been over a year but it seems like it was just yesterday.  That’s how invested many of us became in the search for Gabby Petito and that’s how fresh our anger over what happened remains.  Why did Gabby Petito’s disappearance capture the public imagination in a way that so many other disappearances haven’t?  Some claim that it’s because Gabby was young, pretty, and white and that might be the case with some people.  But, for many of us, the reason why Gabby’s disappearance captured our imagination is because every woman has known at least one man like Brian Laundrie, the self-declared nice guy who is actually controlling, manipulative, and mentally (and often physically) abusive.  We watched the footage of Gabby telling the police that Brian’s anger was all her fault because “I just get so OCD” and we realized that the same thing could have just as easily happened to us.  Brian hit Gabby because she asked him to not track dirt and mud into the van in which they were going to spend the next few months living.  And, when the police showed up to ask what was going on, she blamed herself.  No one was there to save Gabby and we all felt that if we had found ourselves in the same situation that there would not have been anyone there to save us either.

The Gabby Petito Story stars Skyler Samuels as Gabby and Evan Hall as Brian Laundrie.  It follows them from the moment that their relationship began and we watch as Brian goes from being endearingly awkward to being an out-of-control monster, one who hides behind his anxiety disorder and his nerdy persona.  It’s not always easy to watch, as the film does a good job of showing how an abusive relationship develops and also how it will inevitably end.  It’s difficult to be comfortable with any show that uses a true life tragedy to generate ratings (and knowing that Lifetime was probably started planning the film even while Gabby was still missing doesn’t help) but The Gabby Petito Story is well-acted by Samuels and Hall and it’s well-directed by Thora Birch, who also plays Gabby’s mother.  If nothing else, it shows why so many of us became obsessed with Gabby’s disappearance and why her tragic fate continues to haunt us a year later.

Horror Film Review: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (dir by Tobe Hooper)

Welcome to Texas-OU Weekend!

First released in 1986, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2 opens with two idiots driving down an isolated highway in Texas.  They’re heading down to Dallas for the Red River Showdown, the annual football game between Oklahoma U. and the University of Texas at Austin.  They’re drunk, of course.  And, being rich kids in the mid-80s, they’ve got a car phone.  They place a call to a local radio DJ named Stretch (Caroline Williams, giving a great performance) and they force her to listen as they harass the driver of a passing truck.  Of course, when a chainsaw-wielding Leatherface (Bill Johnson) emerges from the truck and kills both of them, Stretch hears that as well.

Yes, Leatherface and the entire family are back.  When last seen at the end of 1974’s The Texas Chainsaw MassacreLeatherface was dancing with his chainsaw while the morning sun shined down on the Texas countryside.  Now, he and the family have moved to North Texas and the eldest brother, Drayton Sawyer (Jim Siedow), has become a bit of a local celebrity due to his chili.  (Everyone loves Drayton’s chili but that’s mostly because they don’t know who the main ingredient is.)  Though one of the brothers was killed at the end of the original film, he’s been replaced by the manic Chop-Top (Bill Moseley), who has a metal plate in his head.  Of course, Grandpa (Ken Evert) is still alive.  He’s well over a hundred years old but he still enjoys trying to wield a hammer.

The family is being pursued by Lefty Enright (Dennis Hopper), a crazed Texas ranger who is also the uncle of Sally and Franklin Hardesty, who were both victimized in the first film.  (Sally, we’re told, is in a mental institution.  As for Franklin, a skeleton in a wheelchair does make an appearance at one point.)  Lefty approaches Stretch to get a copy of the tape of the two drunk idiots being killed by Leatherface.  Unfortunately, the family also discovers that Stretch has the tape and they soon come after her as well….

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2 is not as universally beloved as the first film but I like it.  It helps, of course, to know something about Texas-OU weekend.  Imagine Mardi Gras without the nudity or the beads but with a lot more beer and a lot more frat boys and you have a pretty good idea of what Texas-OU weekend is like in Dallas.  The entire city goes crazy as it’s invaded by football fans from Oklahoma and Austin.  Why are they playing football in Dallas as opposed to their own cities?  Dallas is considered to be neutral ground and the fact that they need neutral ground to play a football game should tell you just how invested people get in that one game.  Texas-OU weekend is all about excess and the same could be said about The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2.

With the original film, Tobe Hooper fooled audiences into thinking that they were seeing more gore than they actually were.  The first Texas Chainsaw Massacre is nearly bloodless.  Hooper takes the opposite approach to the sequel, filling the screen with blood and viscera.  For that reason, Part 2 is still controversial among fans of the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre films but I think Hooper made the right decision.  Attempting to duplicate the original’s atmosphere would have been impossible.  Instead of just remaking the original film, Hooper did something different.  As well, as opposed to the more subtle social satire of the first Texas Chainsaw Massacre, the humor in Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2 is far broader and a bit more hit-and-miss.  But again, it all links back to Texas-OU weekend.  There may not be much that’s subtle about The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2 but the same can be said of the Red River showdown and Texas-OU Weekend.  For that matter, the same can be said for much of Texas in general and Dallas in specific.  Like me, Tobe Hopper was a Texan.  True Texans know what makes our state great but we also know what makes our state totally batshit insane.  Tobe Hooper got Texas in a way that all the filmmakers from up North never will.

That’s not to say that The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2 is a perfect film, of course.  The film’s second half, which takes place almost entirely in the underground caverns in which the Sawyers have made their home, is considerably less compelling than the first.  The scene where the Sawyers attempt to get Grandpa to bludgeon Stretch with a hammer goes on forever and it’s far less effective than when they tried to get Grandpa to do the same thing to Sally in the first film.  As well, it’s hard not to be disappointed with Drayton’s transformation from being ambiguously friendly in the first film to being a flat-out villain in the second.  The first film showed that Jim Siedow was a far better actor than one might guess from the sequel.

But here’s what does work.  Bill Moseley’s performance as Chop Top is completely manic and over-the-top and, at times, a little bit annoying.  But he’s also so completely unhinged and Moseley is so uninhibited in the role that it’s impossible to look away whenever he’s onscreen.  Dennis Hopper, who was just starting to make his Hollywood comeback when he appeared in this film, plays Lefty as being so obsessive that sometimes, he seems like he might be just as dangerous as the people that he’s pursuing.  Hopper makes the character sympathetic, though.  There’s a gleam of madness in his eyes but the viewer never doubts his love for his family.  It takes a special actor to pull off the scene where Lefty discovers Franklin’s remains and Hopper was exactly that actor.  And finally, there’s Caroline Williams, giving a strong and inspiring performance as Stretch and never allowing the character to become a helpless victim.  Stretch may scream (because who wouldn’t in that situation) but she never stop fighting.  The scene where she “charms” Leatherface is the epitome of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2.  It’s over the top, excessive, borderline offensive, sickly funny, and yet somehow very effective.  If nothing else, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2 is one of the few of the 80 slasher films to acknowledge what’s really going on with those boys and their chainsaws, machetes, and knives.

Though it may not be as good as the original, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2 holds up well on its own.  It’s an effective mix of satire and horror, featuring a strong heroine and a great performance from Caroline Williams.  Hell, I think I’m going to be Stretch for Halloween this year!

Horror on the Lens: The Giant Spider Invasion (by Bill Rebane)

For today’s Horror on the Lens we have the 1975 classic, The Giant Spider Invasion!

Directed by Wisconsin’s own Bill Rebane, The Giant Spider Invasion works specifically because it delivers exactly what the title promises.  The title says that you’re going to see giant spiders invading the Earth and that’s exactly what happens!  And, as someone who cannot stand spiders, I can only say, “AGCK!”

This is a fun movie.  Sadly, I don’t think it would be as entertaining if it were made today.  The budget would be too high.  The actors wouldn’t be in on the joke.  The whole production would be more concerned with creating the perfect CGI spider than just having fun with the concept.  For a film like this to work, you need someone who is willing to work with a low budget and you need someone willing to fully embrace the the idea of spiders invading the farmlands of Wisconsin and wrecking havoc, regardless of how silly it might seem.  You need a director like Mr. Bill Rebane.


October Positivity: Second Glance (dir by Rich Christiano)

“Hey Scotty! Jesus, man!”

This 1992 film tells the story of Dan Burgess (played by David A. R. White, who, years later, would be the center of the God’s Not Dead franchise).  Dan is a high school student who fears that, because he spends all of his time going to church, he’s missing out on all the fun that he should be having.  Dan’s probably right.

Consider this:

The other kids are going to a big party.  Not Dan!

The other kids get to stay out as late as they want.  Not Dan!

The other kids don’t have to deal with two parents and a bratty sister.  Not Dan!

The other kids don’t have to keep their grades up.  Not Dan!

Dan can’t even get a girlfriend, because he’s just such a nice guy!  Of course, the girl from his youth group likes him but Dan wants to date Tamara (Denise Weatherly) and she only goes out with the type of guys who enjoy bullying Dan for being such a do-gooder.

One night, Dan prays that he wishes he had never become “a believer,” which would seem to defeat the purpose of not believing but anyway…. The next morning, Dan wakes up to discover that his bedroom is full of empty beer cans, the neighbors refuse to talk to him, and he now wears a backwards baseball cap.  As well, all of the high school bullies are now his best friends and he’s dating Tamara!  Plus, he’s been invited to Randy’s party!  Who is Randy?  Who cares?  It’s a party.

There’s also a weird guy named Muriel (Blaine Pickett) hanging out in Dan’s backyard.  Muriel explains that he is Dan’s guardian angel.  Everyone in Heaven was really upset by Dan’s prayer so they sent Muriel down to do a little bit of that It’s A Wonderful Life magic and show Dan what the world would be like if he wasn’t a believer.  Muriel also explains that only Dan can see and hear him.  That doesn’t stop Dan from arguing with Muriel and it also doesn’t stop people from seeing Dan apparently talking to himself.  But no one cares because Dan is now one of the popular kids.

In fact, Dan has everything that he ever wanted except …. well, his father seems to be missing.  And so is his little sister.  In fact, it turns out that he doesn’t even have a little sister because his parents got divorced when Dan was younger.  When Dan quite rightfully wonders how it could be his fault that his parents got a divorce, Muriel explains that it’s because non-believer Dan wasn’t praying for them when they were having trouble.  Ouch!  That’s harsh!  That’s also actually pretty messed up and a huge burden to put on the shoulders of those of us who grew up as children of divorce.  I know that when my parents got divorced, I kind of blamed myself and the message of this film is that apparently it was my fault.  Seriously, that’s a terrible message.  If you’re reading this and if your parents are divorced or are in the process of getting divorced, it’s not your fault!

Anyway, Dan learns an important lesson about faith and being impulsive in his prayers.  Soon, Dan is back to greeting his best friend by saying, “Hey, Scotty!  Jesus, man!”  Apparently, enough 90s kids were traumatized by this film that Dan’s greeting has become a minor meme.  That’s the power of film!

Insomnia File #56: Exterminators of the Year 3000 (dir by Giuliano Carmineo)

What’s an Insomnia File? You know how some times you just can’t get any sleep and, at about three in the morning, you’ll find yourself watching whatever you can find on cable or Netflix? This feature is all about those insomnia-inspired discoveries!

If you’re having trouble getting to sleep tonight, you might want to try going to over to YouTube and doing a search for a 1983 Italian film called Exterminators of the Year 3000.  It won’t cure your insomnia.  In fact, it’s such a peculiar film that it will probably keep you awake for the rest of the night.  However, you will be having fun.  Seriously, if you can’t sleep, you might as well have fun.

The film’s plot will be familiar to anyone who has seen The Road Warrior or Mad Max: Fury Road.  Due to a series of nuclear wars, society has collapsed.  The world is an arid wasteland.  Some survivors live in tiny communities.  Others drive motorcycles across the desert and prey on anyone that they can find.  Water is the most valuable commodity in this world.  The second most important thing to have is a good car.  Your car can be the difference between life and death.

Fortunately, Alien (Robert Iannucci) has a good car.  Unfortunately, Alien keeps losing it.  Alien is a wasteland drifter who spends half of the film looking for his car and the other half of the film helping a kid named Tommy (Luca Venantini) search for water for his community.  Tommy has a bionic arm.  When he’s captured by a group of evil bikers led by Crazy Bull (Fred Harris), his bionic arm gets ripped off.  In one of the strangest scenes that I’ve ever seen, Alien use duct tape to reattach the arm.  If that’s not odd enough, it also appears that he accidentally attached the arm upside down.

That’s just one of the many weird details that sets Exterminators of the Year 3000 apart from all of the other Italian Mad Max rip-offs.  There’s also the fact that Alien eventually and somewhat randomly runs into his ex-girlfriend, who looks like a model and, for some reason, is named Trash (Alicia Moro).  Alien and Trash agree to help Tommy but, the entire time, Alien keeps casually suggesting that maybe they should just abandon Tommy and take all the water for themselves.  This isn’t one of those things where Alien is just pretending to be a cynic, either.  The film leaves little doubt that Alien would have no problem just abandoning Tommy and taking the water for himself.  Even if Trash can convince Alien not to sell out the kid, they’re still going to have to fight a group of people who are all dressed like the Black Knight from Monty Python and the Holy Grail.  While Alien and Trash travel to get the water, Tommy gets a new arm that’s so strong that he can literally throw a piece of metal into someone’s forehead even while standing a few yards away.  Tommy also has a gerbil, which is not only cute but, in something of a rarity for an Italian exploitation film from the 80s, manages to survive the entire film.  (Seriously, I instinctively cringe whenever I see a cute animal in an Italian film from the 80s because I’ve seen enough of them to know what’s probably going to end up happening.)

Of course, Crazy Bull and his bikers continually show up and cause trouble.  Fred Harris gives such an enjoyably over-the-top performance that not even the usual bad dubbing can hurt it.  For whatever reason, Crazy Bull refers to his gang as the Mothergrabbers.  How can you not love a film that featured the main villain shouting, “Into battle, my merry band of Mothergrabbers!?”

Exterminators of the Year 3000 is a fun movie.  The action moves quickly.  There are lot of explosions.  The villains all snarl with panache.  There are plenty of slow motion shots of cars crashing.  And there’s enough odd moments to keep things interesting.  The film even ends with a sudden miracle.  How could anyone resist?  This is Italian exploitation as it most entertaining.

Previous Insomnia Files:

  1. Story of Mankind
  2. Stag
  3. Love Is A Gun
  4. Nina Takes A Lover
  5. Black Ice
  6. Frogs For Snakes
  7. Fair Game
  8. From The Hip
  9. Born Killers
  10. Eye For An Eye
  11. Summer Catch
  12. Beyond the Law
  13. Spring Broke
  14. Promise
  15. George Wallace
  16. Kill The Messenger
  17. The Suburbans
  18. Only The Strong
  19. Great Expectations
  20. Casual Sex?
  21. Truth
  22. Insomina
  23. Death Do Us Part
  24. A Star is Born
  25. The Winning Season
  26. Rabbit Run
  27. Remember My Name
  28. The Arrangement
  29. Day of the Animals
  30. Still of The Night
  31. Arsenal
  32. Smooth Talk
  33. The Comedian
  34. The Minus Man
  35. Donnie Brasco
  36. Punchline
  37. Evita
  38. Six: The Mark Unleashed
  39. Disclosure
  40. The Spanish Prisoner
  41. Elektra
  42. Revenge
  43. Legend
  44. Cat Run
  45. The Pyramid
  46. Enter the Ninja
  47. Downhill
  48. Malice
  49. Mystery Date
  50. Zola
  51. Ira & Abby
  52. The Next Karate Kid
  53. A Nightmare on Drug Street
  54. Jud
  55. FTA