November 2, 2006

DVD Review: Future-Kill

"Warriors! Come out and......" Uh, sorry, wrong movie. I could have sworn I was watching some gang kids trying to get back to their home turf in the dark through a hoarde of strangely attired denizens of the night who want their heads on a stick. Wait, maybe I was, or something nearly identical.

Future-Kill is a low budget movie, the only one made by writer/director Ronald W. Moore (not to be confused with Ronald D. Moore of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Battlestar Galactica fame). With the starpower of the reuninted stars of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Edwin Neal and Marilyn Burns, they raised the money necessary to put the movie together. The end result is a rather campy homage/copy of 1979's Walter Hill classic The Warriors.

The movie opens in the near future (well, the future of 1985, which looks suspiciously like 1985 and a half). There is an argument between two strangely dressed men, one going by the name of Eddie Pain, the leader of an anti-nuclear movement called the Anti-Nuke Mutants, and another wearing a good deal of armor, including a face mask, called Splatter. It seems that Splatter loves the splatter a little too much for peace loving Eddie's sensitive nature. The setting goes a long way to setting up the darkness and low budgetness that is to come. However, it was not to last long.

The "good guys" are a bunch of frat boys that are being forced to apologize for a frat prank gone terribly awry. It doesn't take long before the problems escalate and the over-sexed, over-boozed boys the school find themselves in a bit more trouble. The only way they can get out of their current predicament is to paint up their faces, head to the bad side of town and kidnap a Mutant. Unfortunately, they stumble upon another conver between Eddie Pain and Splatter. The rash decision is made that Eddie is the guy they want. As the inept gang moves in, Splatter seizes the opportunity, kills Eddie Pain, and accuses the frat boys of the infraction. From here the chase is on, the boys are on the run to get out, and Splatter's boys are out for a little splash of the red stuff, preferably emanating from the accused.

I cannot say that this is really worth watching, although it is a curious work. I admire what they were able to do with their limited budget, but it is not all that good. The acting is sub par and there isn't nearly enough blood for my tastes. I could not help but be reminded of The Warriors, which I only watched for the first time earlier this year. This is nowhere near that level, but the concept is nearly identical.

The best thing that the movie has going for it is the excellent poster (and DVD cover) art. The art was provided by cult biomechanical artist H.R. Giger. There are conflicting stories about how Giger was persuaded to do the art, especially after his disillusionement with Hollywood following his experience on Alien. Whatever the case, the production was well along its path when the artwork was created, and it is a highly stylized, and much more interesting, take on the Splatter character.

Besides Edwin Neal and Marilyn Burns, there was a number of behind the scenes staff that also were involved in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Plus, Bill Johnson is one of the mutants, and he would go on to don the Leatherface mask in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2.

Audio/Video. The DVD boasts newly restored audio and video, and considering the low budget roots, it looks pretty good. It is an anamorphic 1.85:1 widescreen transfer. It is nowhere near the quality of a current blockbuster, much of it is soft looking and at times a bit muddy, but still, it looks good for what it is. The audio is also decent, presented in Dolby Digital stereo.

Extras. There are not plentiful, but they are in entertaining and informative.

  • Trailer. The original trailer is here in all of its glory.
  • Bios. Text biographies of the stars and director are here.
  • Ed Neal Interview. This is a fun interview with Splatter. It is a fairly recent interview and Neal proves to be quite chatty. They discuss what it was like to be in TCM and how they did not want anyone to know they did it, until it became popular, then they were happy to play it. They talk about his work as a voice actor and his experience on Future-Kill. He also speaks on how they never had any permits for the shoot, guerrilla filmmaking at its finest.
  • Commentary. There is a full length commentary track with Ronald W. Moore and Edwin Neal. This is a very good listen as a lot of information is given about the shooting of some of the scenes as well as the movie in general. They say that the first edit was only 50 minutes long and they had to write and film more footage to add to the length, and increase the amount of blood and nudity. It is learned that Splatter's voice was dubbed, as was the girl at the frat house early on. It is funny and chock full of good stuff, it actually made me like the movie a little bit more. I could tell you more, but I don't want to give it all away! I will say that originally the movie was slapped with an X rating, due to the violence (which is quite tame). They trimmed 2 seconds, consisting of a trident thrust at the end, and that got them to the R level.

Bottomline. Is it a good movie? No. Is it worth watching? Yes. It is a curious oddity from the 1980's. It is a movie that cannot be judged on par with the big studio hits of the day, or any day for that matter. This is a small film with a small budget and it is always good to see what these guys can do given such cramped ways of making a movie work. Splatter is a cool character, and I think it would be interesting to see what would happen if it was develope don the A list. This is definitely a film that is fun to check out, just be prepared for a little dated cheesey fun.

Mildly Recommended.
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