The once beloved word Grindhouse has been so overused as of late when it comes to cult film that it is all but meaningless. Does it refer to the time period of the seventies before the mandatory “R” rating of all modern day film, where nasty hyper-sexualized violent movies played in double and triple features in small filthy theatres or small town drive-ins? Does it refer to the Planet Terror/Death-Proof double feature by Rodriquez and Tarantino, which sought to reclaim the authentic feel of a double feature from long ago by using stressed film, fake trailers, and a finished hardcore product which still packaged the same tame lame MANDATORY R-rated viewing experience that might as well have been filmed on digital all along? Whatever the true, “according to Hoyle” meaning of grindhouse, Full Moon has recently released an ongoing series of movies which, hopefully, will reintroduce this overused phrase to a whole new generation of moviegoers, most of whom won’t remember when it actually meant something.
From the first moment the opening credits treat us to a scenic alternate high tech New York future where the World Trade Center still stands and the synthesizer riffs are loaded with brooding menace and metallic clanging reminiscent of the TERMINATOR theme, you know that this is another late eighties rendition of a dystopic mechanized future, a special effect laden film that would be a struggle for humankind, even if only to present you the viewer, with a litany of believable, human characters that you could identify with.
It seems there is a man named Z who is an evil industrialist mastermind who enjoys financing the creation of “Delta Six” (Think Blade Runner’s Nexus six) cyborgs that all look like weightlifters in sunglasses and grey boiler suits. This an intimidating army of mutant machine men indeed, especially since their appearance makes them look more than a little like a Devo cover band consisting entirely of mute Arnold Swartzenegger clones. Of course, Z isn’t satisfied with the pure eighties awesomeness of such walking iconoclast abominations so he starts feeding them a pleasure drug called “euphoron” which upgrades the firmware to a “Delta 7” classification and perhaps more importantly causes three of his creations to go berserk, tear up the lab and escape to the New York streets. Of course, being the responsible physicist with a gift for public relations that all corporate madmen seem to be in a film like this, he immediately orders his two chief robotic engineers, a (a brother and sister) named Paul and Darla Hanes to be arrested. Darla soon escapes and seeks out a man named Matt Riker who is best described as the accomplished cyborg killer (Think John Connor) of this particular TERMINATOR knock off.
She eventually tracks down Riker at his slum apartment just as cyborg bad guys burst in shortly after. The action scene that ensues follows the laws melee combat according to HIGHLANDER by proving once again that there are no magical creatures (even with the strength of ten men) that can defeat the power of archaic martial arts weapons clumsily wielded by a shirtless main character played by an actor with little or no previous martial arts training. Nonetheless it seems there can only be one…….(or in this case, three actually) as Riker contacts a couple of mercenary friends and together they seek out the bad cyborgs menace and deactivate them in the way you would expect by now in a film this tightly wrought and futuristic-they simply beat them to death. From there they lead an assault on “Z”’s warehouse, assisted by the most unlikely possible ally possible…Of course all bets are off when Domina, a leather clad euphoron addict who has her own agenda throughout much of the film makes her big power play and releases her own creation, a still larger, goofier and meaner cyborg that is naturally known as a “Delta 8!” As a savvy sci-fi viewer I just knew that any cyborg that sounded like a certain model of used Oldsmobile just had to be the epitome of cutting edge technology. Sadly, the conclusion is a mix of unconvincing laser effects on the part of the special effect crew, unintentional laughter from most viewers and unequivocal laziness by director Tim Kincaid who should have stuck to directing simple pornography fantasies, instead of this Terminator techastrophe.
One thing I simply must go on record for. There is a scene where a fallen character becomes animated again and it is so incredibly; awesomely well done that I simply cannot believe it is in this film. Any aspiring special effect artist or budding film creature designer should check these sequences out for themselves, just to remember what type of B movie effects were still possible without computer rendered special effects. As for the film, I happen to have a slight soft spot for any ambitious B movie that seeks to reunite TERMINATOR with BLADE RUNNER all with an eighties street punk aesthetic that looks like it was stolen from THE WARRIORS. For viewers who are weren’t products of the eighties and are not impressed by speculatory, synth music futures inhabited by super cyborg super soldiers smashing Styrofoam sets it is best to ignore this MUTANT HUNT and seek your sci-fi strangeness elsewhere.
Extras Include Charles Band schooling us on the delicate nuances of the Grindhouse phenomenon.