Friday, October 29, 2010

'90s Trash: Unknown Origin

It's hard to talk about low-budget, direct-to-video films from the 1980s and '90s without mentioning Roger Corman.  Considering that the last film he really directed was 1990's Frankenstein Unbound, it is amazing to think that he's had so much impact.  Well, here's a bigger number for you: between 1980 and 2000, Corman is credited as Producer or Executive Producer on 216 films!  Damn!  So yeah, as you may have guessed, this is one of those films.  If you like The Thing and you like Aliens, but felt that both films were too clever, I have a film for you.  The film stars Roddy McDowall and William Shatner's daughter Melanie (who was also the sister from Subspecies II and III), as well a bunch of other people that I don't know.  Fun side note: the Captain is played by Alex Hyde-White, the man who played Mr. Fantastic in Corman's Fantastic Four.  Let's get right to this, shall we?  Get out your blue Kool Aid for my review of...
The opening text crawl explains that "In the year 2020- man has used up and destroyed most of the Earth's resources."  Don't go all 'hippie' on me now, Roger!  The point of all this is to establish that the world is kept running by deep-sea miners.  Of course, we've used up "most of the Earth's resources," so there are plenty of resources...on Earth.  The crew of the ship in question is a motley one, including a former American Gladiator woman, an old man, a bossy Captain, a black nerd, a stoner technician (good combo), a character who's totally not a robot and Roddy McDowall.  Every ship should have a Roddy McDowall!  There's trouble on the ship when their workload quota is raised and everyone must work in the mines, even Roddy and his robot.  In addition, a government employee (Shatner) is sent down to oversee them.  During some mining with the old man and McDowall, the former gets exposed to some radiation due to an accident by the latter.  The Captain bitches at him about the error, but he's pretty nonchalant.  They receive a distress call from a Russian ship.  They discover a lot of corpses and one angry man, who ends up getting shot by the captain.  The robot gets shot as well, revealing it's form.  Yeah, we all knew!  In addition, they bring on a sample of rock that's 1,000,000+ years old.
Quick side note: their control room is clearly the same one from Carnosaur 2.  I mean, just look at that (above).  Anyhow, one of the crewmen gets exposed to something from the material brought on board & gets sick.  When he goes through some spasms, the Gladiatrix breaks quarantine to try and save him, but fails.  Guess what happens to her.  When she gets infected, she smashes things up and dies.  The Captain orders them to burn the bodies (plus the Russian ones), but McDowall presses to be allowed to do an autopsy.  He's only given 48 hours to do so, however, and must make do.  During this, he resets the robot to fix an error caused when it was shot.  Keep an eye out for that plot point to come back later.  During all of this, the old man is recovering from his radiation poisoning.  Unfortunately, he gets attacked by an alien puppet...I mean, creature that attacks him.  He is found in the room alone, but he somehow managed to break out of the restraints.  This leads to numerous 'he's infected- I don't trust him' exchanges.  I hope you like those, because there about 600 of them in the film.  The group splits up like in Aliens and looks for the creature, but ultimately just ends up spraying each other with gas and burning a parakeet.  Oh joy.
I hope you like 2nd and 3rd Act plot twists, because there are about 700 of those!  Basically, a bunch of people shoot at the aliens, some of them get killed and people complain about how they 'can't trust anyone.'  The Captain is a complete tool, offering to give up his gun as a trust exercise- only to pull it back out again a moment later.  Eventually, we learn that the aliens can place spores in the dead bodies that they use up.  This allows them to kill some alien puppets...I mean, deadly creatures and still have people be possessed.  The major target is McDowall, who has reprogrammed the robot to help him.  He sets the base to self-destruct, gets an escape pod ready and calls for a ship to meet him.  He does all of that without losing his glorious accent too!  His plan is foiled, however, when he gets burned alive by the stoner guy.  In one twist, we learn that the old man is possessed and he too gets killed.  Shockingly, the stoner is also a host and gets shot too.  It all comes down to the Captain and Ms. Shatner (who's done a lot of nothing here) who...are both possessed by some aliens.  Why did they kill the spores earlier?  Because these aliens are dicks and want all the power for themselves.  As the ship blows up, the pair agree to split up and wreak havoc on the rest of the world separately.  The End.
This movie sucks.  I mean, it's so generic and silly that it defies all attempts to make it sound really interesting. You took the aliens from Aliens, throw in a dash of intrigue and possession from The Thing and put it all in an environment that is basically space.  Yes, it's underwater, but the motif still fits.  Speaking of being underwater, the film likes to randomly cut to establishing shots of the base, even though they remain stationary the whole time.  Oh good, you're still on the ship- thanks!  The acting in this film ranges for good (McDowall) to dull as dirt (Shatner).  Nobody is really terrible, but they do nothing to distinguish themselves.  If you want to be in a movie so bad, try acting!  The effects in this film are nothing to write about, so I won't.  If you have to see every direct-to-video film, have at this movie.  If not, you can skip this movie.  You've seen this movie twice when it was better- Aliens and The Thing.  Enjoy this shot of an obvious stunt man covered in goo.  Way to use that angle, guys!
Next up, how good can a film with a super-generic title be?  Does it help if I told you that it starred a famous hypnotist from The Johnny Carson Show.  Stay tuned...

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