Pound Shop Movies

Corrupt (1999)

In: mudwig, crime, reviews

12 Dec 2008
Suprisingly, Master P wasn't involvedGangstas and incompetently run pie shops, what more do you want?

It's rare that you're watching a movie and are forced to check that it was in fact directed by Albert Pyun because it's so awful, but Corrupt inspires exactly that reaction. It's short, clocking in at less than 70 minutes, but don't let that fool you into believing it's a taught, pacy affair. Instead imagine a world of flame throwing gangstas, bin-hiding hoods, and of chip shop operators that get involved in the murky, high-stakes games of drugs (I think) and bizarre haircuts (for sure). 

MJ (Silkk the Shocker) is a young up and comer in a tough, yet generic, inner-city environment. Corrupt (Ice-to-tha-Tizzle) is the drug lord that rules aforementioned inner city environment with an iron fist, with the assistance of his right hand, right eye, number 2, Cinque (TJ Storm). MJ and another hoodie rob a poorly defended stash house, taking three bricks of finest intended for Corrupt, in an attempt to break out of the cycle of drug crime and violence that grips their lives.

To be honest, up until the robbery things were going OK for this film. There were some shots of a guy messing around on a bike, some vaguely menacing Ice-T time, and the heist itself. It started to go down hill about the time Corrupt went to confront his connect, who sported one of the most bizarre haircuts I've seen outside Sigue Sigue Sputnik. It was a sort of side pony tail, which would be bad enough, but was unaccompanied by any other hair leaving some sort of hair tentacle growing out of the side of his head. He also spoke in what sounded like a deeply dodgy Jamaican accent, so enraging Ice-T he actually burst into flames, incinerating Sidepony, before throwing fireballs at Sidepony's henchmen and leaping out of the window.

The amount of foresight needed to get that haircut is staggeringLuckily, being that Corrupt was several stories up, his suport team were passing in a truck with fire extinguishers at the ready. With some off screen detective work, Ice-T twigs MJ was involved in the caper, beats up Lisa, MJ's girlfriend, and goes to hang out at the pie shop where MJ's sister (Jodi, Karen Dyer) works to see if he can worm MJ's location out of her, and himself into her pants.

In much the way that the dodgier modern action films tend towards being a plotless collections of stunts, this movie tends towards a plotless collection of bizarre and improbable scenes. Two of my favourite characters are credited as The Sayer and 'Snackbar Dude'. The Sayer is an apparently homeless guy that turns up in the pie shop, calls our heroine Jodi a 'fly ass bitch', and gets his pie gratis, in what is the only succesful (though unprofitable) transaction the snackshop actually has.

Snackbar Dude is the source of most of the other, failed, transactions attempted in the movie. His lengthy initial attempts to buy anything are met with disappointment, to which he responds by squirting tomato ketchup all over the place, gangsta style. His second attempt results in some food, but instead of the number five he has ordered, he receives a number two (not a euphemism). Snackbar Dude lodges a protest with the management, but only receives a swift elbow in the face from Miles, Jodi's better half, who happened to wander in. You'll be pleased to learn Snackbar Dude does order a burger at the end of the movie, but unfortunately whether or not he gets it is left as a question for the sequel.

Don't look at the mirror, don't look at the mirror...

One fine example of the work of the many, many lineless extras comes when Jodi is trying to sneak into the mob courts where MJ is awaiting his mob justice. She slips around the side of Corrupt's limo convincingly, and the driver clearly had instructions not to look in his wing mirror, lest he should notice the sneaking and disrupt the viewer's suspension of disbelief. He tries valiantly to stare in every other possible direction, but just can't hold out and has to get a glance in, right at the end of the shot. 

Speaking of extras, there is also a rather poorly filmed, but massively overpopulated, shoot out at the climax of the film, during which pretty much every character gets shot and Ice-T justifies his fee with some wonderful expressions. Do stay for the credits though to see the approximately 6 speaking roles and the ridiculously large number of stunt men who were presumably used in the final gunfight. 

Other than Silkk and Ice, most of the cast are mostly smaller players. Karen Dyer has a reasonable number of credits, though on her IMDB page there is the notice that she also performs as burleque artists Eva La Dar. One of the more interesting careers goes to Tahitia Hicks, playing MJs fairly mental girtfriend Lisa, whos acting career stops with this film, but from 2003 she has a number of camera and cinematography credits. I would make a crack about Corrupt killing off her future as an actress, but on balance I suspect it would be more likely to be a case of  'even I could do better than that'.

Ice-T actually covers this performance in his 'Masterclass' seminars

On the backend, the main name is of course Albert Pyun, one of the heroes of the modern B movie. The writing talent comes from Hannah Blue and Andrew Markell, names I haven't previously encountered. They technically have three credits with the great one, as, in a grindhouse sort of way, this movie was originally part of a greater whole.

There are two other films, Urban Menace and The Wrecking Crew that make up the other parts of Pyun's street trilogy, and judging from IMDB all were equally well reviewed, and all somewhat trimmer than the average movie. 

On the positive side, the picking are slim. Ice-T puts in a pretty stallwart performance, and often appears to be wearing his SVU standard outfit (including hat) so Finn fans should be pleased. Silkk the Shocker gives what could be called a natural performance, only fluffing his lines once, and Karen Dyer makes a mostly not half-hearted attempt at the dialogue. And it's pretty short!

Sound track fans will enjoy the 2 ice-t tunes that seem to be repeated through out, and I believe the box claims an isolated music score, though I couldn't actually find that on the DVD after a superficial examination. There was an entertaining quiz (tip: note all number plates you see in the film), though clearly the DVD developers expected no-one to finish this, as whle there was a 'you got caught slipping' failure screen, winning just returns you to the menu, making it more of a moral victory.

I can only imagine this film being of significance to Silkk the Shocker or Ice-T completists, and I really would question whether Albert Pyun even turned up, bar a couple of shots. That said, I actually can't think of any other movie where Ice-T spontaneously combusts, and I would be interested to see if Urban Menace and The Wrecking Crew bring this series to something greater than the sum of its parts, or just drive my dvd player to self immolation as well.

Cyber-Tracker 2 (1995)

In: mudwig, reviews, action, sci-fi

02 Feb 2008
Cyber Tracker 2 - Featuring Terror 2.0De Longis gets no cover love.

Having seen it years ago, I've been intending to review Cybertracker 1 for some time now, but never quite found a way to write it without using the word "Terminator". However, while browsing the revitalised pound store DVD range I discovered a Prism double sider with Cybertracker and it's previously unavailable seque, and decided to skip past the first film entirely.

We are first (re)introduced to Eric (Don "The Dragon" Wilson) at a drug buy - of course he's just working undercover, and soon finds himself, and thirty or forty cops, up against laser wielding bad guys - and these lasers explode! Much like Terminator 2, we're also introduced to a friendly version of the previous film's villain, in the form of a combo Chaingun/Flamethrower wielding Tracker called number 9, who sports a fine cosplay tinfoil Robocop look. 9 rescues Eric and the Cops in the buy, using the power of exploding things, and shows that maybe Trackers are OK, and were just misunderstood.

However, the baddies are busy making next-generation of Trackers, now super advanced killer androids that appear human, and using them as assassination machines. Unfortunately for Cyborg Cop fans John Rhys-Davies was no where to be seen (and you're not likely to not notice him, lets face it), though at least this movie does, in fact, feature a cyborg cop.

The evil assassin corp have been hired to bump the Vice Governor up a pay grade, and do so with an evil robot version of Connie from the first film, a successful reporter and wife of our hero, Eric. The police, of course, assume it's her, and the plucky pair (plus their cameraman) are forced underground as they try to dodge both the forces of Law & Order, and Evil Corp. attempting to clean house.

The celebrity mags were all over the subtle nip-slip hereMost of the heroes will be familiar faces if you haven't blocked out memories of the first movie. Eric, pictured, Connie, the former anti-Tracker terrorist and good looking Journalist, played by Stacie Foster, and Jared, the former anti-Tracker terrorist and good looking cameraman (with a Because I'm Worth level of bouncy hair), played by Steve Burton, both return. John Kassir turns up as a C4 wielding not-so-former anti-tracker terrorist, complete with some excellent Mr C4-Head dolls, to round out team Good Guy.

The replicant based baddies are lead by evil weapons dealer Paris Morgan, played by the wonderful Anthony De Longis, who, it must be said, handles the Evil Genius moments and the brief fight sequence he has with total maniacal cool.

Of course, the casting director had little to do with the biggest stars in the movie, the heroic Explosion and his brother "Boom!". No matter what the actors are doing, there's always time to cut away to a model house getting blown up, or one of the many, many exploding police cars that PM Entertainment presumably had a factory cranking out somewhere. To be fair, the explosions were pretty good, and the models not totally unconvincing, though the lasers left something for the asking.

Which is the real Dragon? We may never knowThat said, while "Boom" is rendered pretty well by the Sound FX department, there is a somewhat annoying choice around AGNES 3000 (sister of Outkast rapper Andre 3000 presumably), Eric's computer system. Throughout it's limited selection of scenes the computer emits a truly irritating high pitched whine, which is a shame as the effect is fairly decent - a bit like the digital pixie woman off the Robocop TV series.

The movie doesn't let up on car chases either. Again, in an entirely unTerminator moment there's a chase through some kind of concrete river passage, with an evil Tracker chasing Eric and Mrs Eric in a truck. Eric luckily stole a humvee with a machine gun on the back, which he puts to good effect. One chase scene even involves what is apparently the longest tunnel in the world, where the citizens appear to get actively involved, as the chasing parties overtake the same car a number of times, from a variety of angles.

Realistic weapons were the number 1 priorityInterestingly, the film throws in a reference to VR fighting masterpiece Expect No Mercy, when during a extended Eric nipple scene, a random girl arrives to train with his VR headset. Rather than the fine "slightly glowing person in a silly suit" technique of ENM, the VR characters here are poorly modeled Ninjas with detachable limbs, whose asses the girl then eKick. She the proceeds to bear no further relevance to the plot.

This film was released just after the original, implying a somewhat tight schedule, and unfortunately, the back to back nature of the filming seems to have taken it's toll on The Dragon. Mr Wilson is lacking flair, both in his plank like performance, which instead of it's usual supple willow is more of a sturdy oak, and even his kicks and chops don't come across as dynamic as normal.

Indeed, despite the multitude of action sequences, and event some Swayze-level shirtlessness from Jared, the film is actually a bit listless, and rather predictable. When it succeeds in breaking away from this, the film seems to run to the other extreme. There are a few disposable moments, such as VR girl, that contribute little, and I'm pretty sure at one point the Evil Corp. openly assassinate the Governor in the rather public lobby of their secret base without much regards to the consequence - which is fair enough as there weren't any! Traditionally I tend to associate PM movies with a fair bit of pace (and plenty of explosions), but while it does cover a lot of ground, the viewer is left feeling every step.

All in all I found Cyber-Tracker 2 somewhat of a disappointment, a little lacklustre even when compared to the first one, and not up to fine Wilson efforts like Out For Blood. Yes, there is some good quality violence - the EricTracker's assasult on the police station was undeniable fun, but there are better films out there from both The Dragon and PM. Do keeping checking out the pound stores though, as there have been some reasonable releases recently - Bride of Chuckie, £1, bargain!

The Secret Craft (2001)

In: mudwig, reviews, sci-fi, thriller

11 Nov 2007
Note that this is clearly and legally defined as THE SECRET craft, and not in any way just The Craft.The tagline "Always Believe... Never Deceive" openly has nothing to do with the movie whatsoever.

Also, and originally, known as The Source in the states, The Secret Craft is a movie about four thirty something high school outcasts who gain incredible powers - and there's not a copy of Activating Evolution in sight!

Reese, played by Mat Scollon (who was in CSI once), is a moody young goth who has just moved to a small town in California with his father, a chemistry teacher. On his first day at school, in fine blazing Cali sunshine, Reese's black on black Hot Topic ensemble stands out, and he is mercilessly picked one - despite his array of Eminem style put-yourself-down comebacks. Reese soon runs into Zack (Edward DeRuiter), a nerdy rich kid who defeats some bullies with his knowledge of latin (or Zach, the coolest kid in the school, according to the completely misinformed back of the box), Zack's cocky sister Ashley (Melissa Reneé Martin) and her ditzy, hippyish friend Phoebe (quiet you), played ably by Alice Frank.

On a jaunt into the woods to take drugs and download illegal music, or whatever the kids do these days, Our Heroes discover some weird glowing rocks, and take the earliest opportunity to stand on them. This provides a euphoric experience, and, naturally, a superpower - though Zach quickly explains this with science, and a laptop.

Goth SMASHZack gets the power to read minds, and broadcast creepy messages telepathically, Phoebe gets the power of telekinesis, Ashley gets The Voice, and Reece gets the power to heal/hurt himself/others, and have flashbacks to his mother's death. Pumped up with their psionic abilities, the team get down to the business of petty revenge on the people that have irritated them over the years, or in Reese's case, days.

Now I'm not an American, and I never went to school in the US, but I have seen all of both Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Veronica Mars, so I think I'm pretty up on the difficulties those in their mid-to-late twenties have in high school, but some of the educational methods at Secret Craft High seem a little off.

Head on the desk - that's where the learning is.I'll give them the teachers sitting up on the desks, and generally having a relaxed and freewheelin' attitude - it's California - and I'll even give them the ridiculously unbalanced teams in the various sporting segments shown. However, if I was taking a test and some Aussie woman inaccurately accused me of cheating, then took away my paper and told me to spend the rest of the lesson with my head on the desk, that would be probably make me head straight for the NiN mp3s.

Throughout the film the teachers' main imperative seemed to be to belittle the students over their lack of knowledge - knowledge that, presumably, it was the teachers' job to impart to them. Perhaps it was all a clever ploy on the part of the film makers to cause us to empathise with Our Heroes, once they start abusing their powers for petty, petty revenge.

Zach, after enduring another assault on his intelligence by the fine and understanding history teacher, uses his mind reading skills to answer every question on whichever bit of historical trivia pops into the teacher's head, until he finally calls the bespectacled historian on an attempt to fake an answer. Phoebe, on the other hand, takes revenge on the evil Aussie by repeatedly breaking her chalk, and eventually, in a final act that surely destroyed all of AusTeachers self confidence, proffering some chalk of her own. Sir Gothalot gets his own back during another of the finely balanced games of dodgeball by making the non-nerd side unable to throw, so their balls require little dodging - harsh in anyone's book. Ashley uses her power of Command to have one of the male teachers to kiss her, and tells a bitchy blonde girl to get into a bin - though once in the bin the girl handles the bewildered gazes of the friends with an admirably dismissive "what?".

And we're spent.This section also features lots of posing for promotional effect, and walking up and down some grass in a sassy and in control way, but it wasn't too bad, for a montage. Of course, after this brief happy togetherness the abuse of powers starts to turn deadly, and what was once a kooky game for these wacky outcasts turns into a battle - a battle that (unexpectedly) is won with polka music - and if that doesn't want to make you see the movie, I don't know what will.

The film was written, directed and edited by Steve Taylor (he's a triple threat!), who went on to direct the somewhat better known, though probably not better regarded, horror movie Detour. The cast doesn't fare much better when it comes to notoriety, with a variety of TV credits to their names. Melissa Reneé Martin actually appeared on Veronica Mars as an 09er called Ashley, which I would say is validation of her performance in this film.

The effects aspects of the movie actually worked pretty well. The Beautiful People soundalike that our gothy hero rocks his deep inner hurt out to isn't a bad homage, and the rest of the soundtrack ticks along on the same kind of note. The special effects are roughly Highlander level (with some fine Quickening-y lightening at one point), and certain serve their purpose - letting the audience know that these people are Magical Wizards enhanced with the science of psionics.

Pound shop DVD collectors might be interested to note that this film actually comes with an Unlisted Special Feature, as on top of animated menus, scene selection and the trailer, there is also a gallery option. On the down side, the audio sync was completely out for several scenes, most notably at the very start of the movie, but it doesn't really "spoil" any of the deliveries. US Alice Frank enthusiasts might be interested to know that there is a half decent DVD available over there, including a commentary and all sorts of goodies.

Though a warning to Alias/Lost fans who may be tempted by the fact that David Anders (Sark/Kensei) is allegedly in this movie, - apparently it's only for five minutes, and I have to confess to not noticing him at all.

Overall, I really didn't expect to like this movie, and while I'm not exactly organising a Secret Craft convention, it didn't suck half as bad as it could have. The opening third is a little (glowing) rocky, but the film does get into a kind of a roll, and it ends in a solid, if predictable*, way. If you see it, do pick up The Secret Craft, as you might have more fun than you really should. Or if not, just put your head on the desk till the end of the film.

* bar the polka

Space Marines (1996)

In: mudwig, reviews, sci-fi

07 Jul 2007
Project Shadowchaser the ThirdI honestly don't know how Gunther's one good eye got top billing

In news that's sure to disappoint fans of rubbish South African action movies, I had been planning to review Operation Hitsquad - not, as it happens, a film about finding the latest boy band sensation - but since it's been months since I saw it, I've finally come to realise my subconcious is telling me something. Instead we return to the heady world of budget Sci-Fi, with director John Weidner (of Lamas' CIA and The Dragon's Out For Blood fame) and writer Robert Moreland (who also wrote the second best Air Traffic Control movie of all time, Ground Control) with their mid ninties classic, Space Marines.

Suprisingly, there aren't any other films with thee title Space Marines - at least that IMDB admits to - which is a little suprising given how generic it sounds. That said, Weidner makes an effort to include all the Sci-Fi staples we've come to expect, shake-the-camera impacts, exploding ship's consoles, odd uniforms, swirly space things and all. Luckily for him, and us, the movie is rescued from being a Hamil-less Wing Commander cut scene by the raw genius of John Pyper Ferguson, who squeezes every last brilliant, hammy drop from the script.

JP plays Col. Fraser, the leader of a band of Evil Pirates, and posessor of the accent and moustache of a Confederate general. Apart from plotting his own enrichment, and our heroes' demise, he lurches through weird self aggrandizing conversations with his pirates, and, in one of the best bits of the film, practices his villianous proclamations into a dictaphone before delivering them to his plucky space marine captive.

spacemarines2.jpgSaid captive is Zack Delano (Billy Wirth), our hero and a rebellious young space trooper, serving under the wise Officer Gray Wolf and his plasticy APC of grunts. Zack gets into trouble with The Wolf when he ignores orders and goes literally several feet out of his way to rescue the low-rent Charlie Sheen-alike new guy. Clearly Leave No Man Behind is a bit more of an aspiration than a maxim to Gray Wolf, who was quite content to ditch AlternaSheen in the battlezone, but Zack's Kirk-like dedication to orders gets him a spell in the clink.

The whole shebang got started because Col. Frasier, his main heavy, Gunther, and a bunch of pirates hijacked a shipment of Highly Explosive Substances, and then ransomed it back to the United Earth Federation of Science Fiction Utopian Societies. Unfortunately, before Wolf's team of ultimate bad-asses can retrieve the boom juice, the politicans step in and insist on negotiations. Net result: diplomat, male and female leads taken hostage, Frasier retains both ransom and explosives, flamboyant cackling ensues. From then on, it's up to Zack to sort things in the expected heroic fashion.

spacemarines3.jpgThere's some good mook work on both sides in this movie. As might be predicted there are a variety of Marine types in the unit, including a Computer Guy cleverly called "Hacker", a hot-shot pilot called "Hot Rod" and a guy that dies called "Mike". The main concession to their grunt-y-ness is a trip to a (holographic) strip club, which results in some name calling and hair pulling over the death of "Mike", but does serve to make clear that a holographic strip club is both a silly and ineffectual idea.

The enemy mooks on the other hand to a good job of looking like space pirates - that is to say they look like pirates - and appear to have spent the required time at bad guy bootcamp, learning to miss at distances down to several inches, jump in front of incoming fire, and perform graceful somersaults during explosions. There's actually some quite funny stuff between Fraser and Gunther regarding their employees, and some old fashioned getting-shot-when-you-fail moments.

Amongst the principles JPF and Michael Bailey Smith nail their roles as Frasier and Gunther. The massive, eye-patched second in command provides an anger-management issue based foil to Frasier's flamboyance, and the two clearly had fun making the film. On the heroic side Billy Wirth acquits himself well, as does Cady Huffman, playing slightly liberal female diplomat, and frosty love interest, Dar Mullin. There's even a sort of little romantic subplot nicely hinted at between Cpt Gray (Edward Albert) and Cmdr Lasser (Meg Foster), veterans with evident sci-fi experience (both including Star Trek DS9 as it happens).

There are plenty of elements that work in the film as well. The soundtrack is big and brassy, and nails the kind of accompaniment you want to watch with what is, essentially, a popcorn movie - albeit £1 microwave popcorn. The CGI is competent, especially given the fact the film is over ten years old, and certainly doesn't detract from the hard won suspension of disbelief. There are some nice throwaway bits of comedy that play reasonably well, including Frasier's dictaphone moment, of course, but Dar's frustrated dealings with a uninterested videophone operator when trying to call for help from the Pirate's lair are almost equally amusing.

On the other hand, the plot is uniformly rubbish, and deeply derivative of things people really shouldn't derive from, like Seagal movies. The budget is probably all on screen, but there clearly wasn't very much of it in the first place, and there are a few too many moments of slow-mo scruffy pirates getting laser blasted. The ending also leaves a lot to be desired, it's almost as if the filmmakers suddenly realised they had to wrap this thing up and just found a convenient place to stop, which is fairly underwhelming.

Overall, Space Marines is probably for the more regular B-Movie watcher, but leans well into the entertaining part of the spectrum. There's a top notch villain performance by JPF, which is worth the £1 entrance fee on it's own, and I certainly enjoyed it more than, say, the much higher budget Wing Commander movie. You could certainly do worse, and I get the feeling that if I turned on the TV and Space Marines was on, I'd probably watch it again.

Project Shadowchaser 3 (1994)

In: mudwig, reviews, horror, sci-fi

11 Nov 2006
Project Shadowchaser the ThirdThis cover from Generic Sci-Fi Images Vol 3: Red Planets.

From what I've read, the first two shadowchaser movies seem to involve, in some way, terrorists, presumably space terrorists. According to the fine people at Stomp Tokyo this is due to the fact that the director is ripping off Die Hard and Terminator (together at last!), while I'm fairly confident that the lack of terrorists in this one is due to the fact he's primarily ripping off Aliens.

Still, the film was a departure for me, as my formative Frank "Frank" Zagarino experiences had him playing the sandy haired hero, not a Guile-haircut sporting killer android. Still, a Zag film is a Zag film, and I was more than willing to try a slice of budget sci fi horror on his behalf.

On closer examination, the rest of the cast isn't too disasterous. That said, I'm not sure the first words you want to appear on your title sequence are Sam Bottoms, who takes the male lead as Kody. Also on deck for our plucky band of heros are Ricco Ross, or as I like to think of him "the poor man's Duane Jones", as Lennox, Aubrey Morris, or "the poor man's Richard Attenborough", as the aptly named "Professor", Mark Phelan, or "the poor man's Willem Defoe" as Mac the Cap, Bill Kirchenbauer, "the poor man's David Koechner", as the X-Men gag inspiring* be-wheelchaired "Wheels", and Christopher Neame, "the poor man's Enrico Colantoni", as the money hungry Rico. The female element is provided by Robina Alston, who isn't really the poor anyone's anything, but does have more photos than credits on her IMDB page, and Musetta Vander as Rea. I'm going with "the poor man's Milla Jovovich" on that one, though I'm fairly sure that's a not entirely undeserved compliment.

shadowchaser3.jpgOur plucky spaceheros are doing their usual space bits on the communications satellite they call home - mostly sitting around and dressing in jumpsuits - when a huge ship called the Siberia starts bearing down on a direct collision course. I am hoping, from the bit of scene setting at the start of the film, that this is the ship from Project Shadowchaser 2, but I know that is being a little optimistic.

After managing to dodge out of the way of the Siberia, it wheels about and moves in again, and this time there is No Escape. As their little satellite is being pushed towards a certain death at the hands of the Martian surface, the crew have little choice but to ignore the warnings being automatically broadcast and board her, in an attempt to shut down the engines. Little do they know that lying in wait in the Siberia's Space Mutiny-esque extensive basement is the hideous deformed creation that is Franky Z's attempt at a Guile-from-streetfighter Halloween costume.

Of course, the former crew are on board as well, one of whom, by pure coincidence, is Rea's long lost scientist father. They're all dead, of course. And frozen, but who would let something like that put them off? From this point on the movie follows a fairly predictable horror route, with the crew getting involved in a variety of close scrapes until they manage to turn off the engines. Of course, at that point they discover that there's a Substance of Inordinate Value on the ship, and in search of profit decide to once again risk their lives, and acting careers.

shadowchaser5.jpgConsidering this movie is on the cheaper side of cinema, the effects work is fairly nice, particularly the external model shots of the Siberia. Inside, other than the omnipresent sci-fi walkways-and-steam-vents warehouse bits, the sets for the ships are reasonably good, without the BBC wobble that often befalls budget sci-fi. There are some nice production touches as well, including the cards which vary from regular playing cards by zig-zagging in the middle, and some graphic displays that, while looking dated, at least look plausible as readouts, and are effective in the film - particularly the heart monitor type readout, which give the crew get their first hint they are not alone. In fact, the director John Eyres keeps the ZagBot under wraps untill around halfway through the movie, which works fairly well. There's even an odd twist in the music, as while most of it is the standard horror/sci-fi leaning on the keyboard variety, there's a jaunty twenties style song about space at the end.

In fact, much of the movie has some element of competence. Most of the actors can act, or at least try really hard, and while the performances might be cheesy, given the subject matter that's not necessarily a bad thing. Where the film falls over is in it's handling of the many, many clich?s employed throughout. Being that ZagBot can shapeshift, we expect and are dutifully served the "But you could be the shapeshifter! Hey, that's exactly what the shapeshifter would say!!1!" scenes where the main characters point guns at each other, and the pure grinding inevitability of one of the characters turning on the others in pursuit of profit is so omniprescent it actually comes as a relief when it finally happens.

Every time the script does accidentally lapse into marginally unfamiliar territory, the filmmakers seem to have been worried about the audience getting confused, and have a tendancy to rehash the main points. In particular, during the scenes near the start of the film as the crew try to propell their satellite out of the way of the Siberia, every time some tension starts to build the film cuts to long lingering shots of the exterior of the spaceship, just in case it was all getting A Bit Much. When that doesn't prove sufficient, there's always "Professor" on hand to launch into some length exposition, as obviously there were fears that the Memento-like story would confuse.
shadowchaser2.jpg

It is fair to say Shadowchaser III does stand out from many of the poundshop movies I've had the opportunity to enjoy. The budget was a touch higher than average perhaps, and certainly what was spent was all up on screen, aided by some decent cinematograhy and editing. Of course there are cheesy special effects, and cheesier acting, but they aren't a serious hindrance to enjoying the movie. What does hurt is the lego block way the movie was constructed, like there was a sci-fi horror checklist and they made sure to tick all the boxes. I'm not convinced the movie is all that worth a watch standing as is, though if you're a horror afficianado there might be something more here, and potentially watching the film as part of a trilogy would give you at the incentive to finish off.

Sharp eyed Project Shadowchaser fans will note I said trilogy, while there are in fact four films. I know this as I have the fourth film, and as far as I can see it has absolutely nothing at all to do with the other three, as even Frank's RoboZag character seems to bear little resemblance to the wisecracking spacejunk we've come to love.

* This statement may be factually a lie.