AKA The Martian Colony Wars AKA John Carter of Mars AKA Lol You Thought This Was That Disney Movie You Moron
Okay, a couple of things I find really amusing before I get into this review. First, my DVD has two hilarious taglines on its cover:
“The classic story that inspired James Cameroon’s Avatar.”
“The heart pounding Creature action of Starship Tropers!”
And yes, both of those misspellings are on there.
Second, while you might think this thing was released to piggy back off of Disney’s expensive flop, it was actually released three years before to capitalize on the release of Avatar. The Asylum probably picked this story to adapt because it inspired James Cameron’s bloated CGI fest, which they could flaunt on the cover, and because it’s in the public domain and they wouldn’t have to pay anybody fees. That means that this was actually the first filmed version of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ influential Barsoom series. Chew on that for a bit.
Of course, this being The Asylum, this is Barsoom done on the cheap. The very cheap. While Disney’s film cost over 250 million dollars to bring to life, Asylum regular Mark Atkins made his version for a reported 300,000 dollars. John Carter’s production probably racked up more in freaking cratering bills than that.
Say what you will about this company, but that is kind of impressive. Hey, remember when they got sued for their Battleship rip-off and basically turned around and give Paramount Pictures the middle finger? Good times, man. Good times…
The first thing you’ll notice about this movie after you sit down with some strong whiskey to soak it into your eyeballs, the movie not the whiskey unless you’re into that kind of thing, is that it’s surprisingly close to the original book, except when it’s not. Like the opening which changes our hero from a Confederate war veteran that mysteriously gets transported to Mars, to a present day John Carter who is now a sniper wandering around unsupported in Iraq, shooting at random targets. The Asylum must have a whole warehouse full of military fatigues and guns because they use them in just about every fucking film. Switching to the present day was probably a budgetary move though, because it’s cheaper, and easier, to not have to bother about things like “period costumes” and “historical accuracy,” although they don’t seem to care much anyways. They did have Sherlock Holmes fighting dinosaurs…
At any rate, this opening really sets the mood for the rest of the film: really fucking stupid and nonsensical. Not that you’d expect anything else, really. Carter (played by a beefy Antonio Sabato Jr. of General Hospital fame) winds up getting into an opium deal gone bad and gets shot fulla holes. Then for some reason the government decides to send him to Mars using a flash drive…yeah I still don’t understand it. It’s not even our solar system’s Mars, it’s some random planet out beyond our galaxy. Why the Hell would you change that? Oh, that’s right. Because we know now that there’s nothing fucking living on Mars, which we didn’t when the original book was written in 1917, so if you updated the story, but didn’t alter that point, it would make no sense. But nothing makes any fucking sense anyways, so why bother? Gah!
Anyways, Carter wakes up on Mars and winds up with the brutal Tharks, one half of the planet’s inhabitants. In the books, if I remember right, the Tharks were four armed giants and were colored green. Of course when your budget is less than most people’s college loan debts, you can’t really depict that, so The Asylum went to an after Halloween sale at Wal-Mart and bought all of their creature masks. Seriously, that’s what it looks like. They even have useless tusks that you can see flapping in some shots because they’re obviously made of rubber.
He also eventually runs into this version’s Dejah Thoris, leader of Barsoom’s human population and the “princess” of the film’s title. In a bit of an odd, although probably once again budgetary, move Thoris is played by former underage porn star and John Waters regular Traci Lords! The problem with this is that even though Lords is a decent actor, I don’t care what anybody says, she’s a bit too old to be a “princess” and instead looks like somebody’s hot mom. She also spends the whole movie in a Princess Leia type slave outfit which, even though I’m not complaining, isn’t quite the nudity that the book describes. Oh well. In Burroughs’ original vision everybody was nude. At least we were spared Sabato Jr.’s probably beefy dingle.
Like most Asylum films there isn’t much of a plot to speak of. Everybody just kind of wanders around getting attacked by giant insects and spouting large chunks of painfully stupid dialogue until the film suddenly realizes that it needs a climax and finishes up. We get some really bad Star Wars “influenced” sword fights and then a fat sack of crap gets stabbed in the guts. Hooray! Interestingly, the whole thing finishes up without a happy ending. I’ll give them points for that…
You know what? screw it. I had fun watching this movie. Its pure trash, but it’s entertaining trash. It’s probably the closest I’ve seen a modern film come to being a 1950’s sci-fi b-movie. Aside from the crappy alien masks, this is probably helped by the fact that most of this was filmed around Bronson Caverns, which any b-movie junkie will instantly recognize. Hell, they even got Kirk’s rock in there! It warms my heart. It’s also one of the most epic Asylum films I’ve seen so far. It seems like for the most part, they actually put a bit of effort into things and the special effects are mostly passable, which surprised the Hell out of me.
As far as acting goes, Sabato Jr. doesn’t seem to be giving a shit, Traci Lords seems to be giving too much of a shit and Matt Lasky, who plays warrior Tars Tarkas, seems to be the only one that really felt the need to ham it up and ends up being the most entertaining thing about the whole movie. Of course how could you deliver a line like “that was her pee bucket” with a straight face? And yes, that line is in the movie. I rewound it like three times and laughed like a loon, I admit it….
If I was going to recommend one Asylum film to a friend, it would probably be this one. It’s dumb and impossibly cheap, but it’s almost passable as an actual film and you get to watch a dude drink an alien’s neck sweat and eat vomit. What more can you ask for?
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to check out Starship Tropers. I hear it is very anvilicious and finishes up with a broken aesop. *snicker*
- Was it really necessary for the leader of the Tharks to rip his slave girl’s eyeballs out? Where the Hell did that come from?
- Lol, “pump station.” It looks like Freddy’s boiler room! (Also, shades of Space Mutiny.)
- “Are those bugs going to rip her clothes off? I guess not. That’s a bit lame…”
- When I read Princess of Mars in high school, I didn’t quite picture John Carter with so many shitty tattoos. Dude has a tramp stamp. A freaking tramp stamp!
- Lol, Starship Tropers. That’s gold Jerry! Gold!
You know what kind of sucks? I’m already starting to run out of things to say about Asylum films. I’ve already given my theory that they can’t be judged like normal movies because they’re not normal fucking movies. They’re not made to be “good” in any sense of the word. They’re also not “unintentional” comedies because they’re specifically made to be bad! The fact that they still make me laugh more than a clown with horrible farts probably says more about my sense of humour and taste in film than anything else. So here we go with another classic piece of below Z-grade cinema…
How’s this for a plot: Tiffany (yes, that Tiffany, although in this film she looks disconcertingly like someone’s mom) and her team of scientists working in Venezuela have, for some reason, created genetically modified super piranha that have managed to escape and are swimming upriver towards Florida. They don’t sleep, they don’t need to breed, and they keep growing bigger! Oh, no! Enter Paul Logan (From Days of Our Lives, one of many soaps my mom used to watch) an American secret agent who’s sent down to figure out why people are dying. He moves on the orders of…wait for it…Greg Brady! Well, Barry Williams who seems to be making a living doing these sorts of movies as of late. He also fought Danny Bonaduce in The Asylum’s Bigfoot in 2012.
There’s a lot of other crap that happens involving the Venezuelan army but that’s not important. What’s important is what you came for: murderous fish. And that’s pretty much what you get….
Like I said, you can’t judge an Asylum film the same way you’d judge other films. Mega Piranha is grade school level stupid, the plot makes no sense at all, the CGI looks like it was meant for an original Playstation game, and nobody, except for maybe Barry Williams, can act their way out of a paper bag. That said, it’s probably one of the most competent Asylum films I’ve seen mostly because it can almost, if you squint reeeeally hard, pass for an actual film. There’s an odd sort of style to this thing, achieved through strange quick cut editing and subtitles that announce every single one of our main characters and what their occupation is! My wife remarked that it really does feel like you’re watching an odd mix of Banged Up Abroad and MTV Cribs!
But when you get right down to it, this was meant to be stupidly entertaining and, for me at least, it succeeded. Paul Logan bicycle kicking a bunch of fish and Tiffany trying to pass for a real actor was just what I needed today after a stressful job interview and a doctor’s appointment that ended with a large wart on my foot getting frozen off causing me a large deal of pain (although not half as much as the job interview).
A lot of people rip on this studio but I think they’re really missing the point. The Asylum is pretty much the modern equivalent of the grindhouse film companies of the 1970’s. They just want to entertain and do it as cheaply as possible while making as much money as they possibly can. They have no qualms about the “quality” of their work.
I, for one, will watch as many of their films as I can. Well, at least as many as I stumble across that are as cheap as possible to view…
- There are boobs in the DVD version, but they’re all relegated to the very beginning. And no, we don’t see Tiffany’s boobs. If you really need to see those, god knows why, she was in Playboy a few years back.
- This film was probably The Asylum’s first big hit. During it’s initial airing on the Sci-Fi Channel, 2.2 million people tuned in! It was followed by Mega Python Vs. Gatoroid in 2011, which stared both Tiffany and Debbie Gibson! (Gibson has also posed for Playboy, god knows why)
- Why hasn’t there been a movie yet where they got all the old Brady Bunch actors together to fight a giant monster snake or something? It’s a missed opportunity!
- Barry Williams character is named Bob Grady. Get it? Har har. Wait, that’s…actually kind of clever. That might be the cleverest thing in this movie, actually. It’s only competition is really that scene where the giant piranha gets impaled on a pointy building.
A bunch of US marines are running around in the woods on an “island”. They get killed one by one by a group of modified super soldiers until only one is left and, conveniently, it’s the best looking girl. Some more stuff sort of happens, there’s a giant robot, and then the movie ends. There’s background info on what’s supposed to be going on but it doesn’t really matter. You’re in Asylum town now, boy! Leave your brain at the front gates…
Like most Asylum films, Universal Soldiers is a rip-off and not even a rip-off of what you’d think. While the title makes you think you’re going to get an even cheaper version of the already cheap Jean Claude Van Damme/Dolf Lundgren series Universal Soldier (singular) it’s really a combination of Predator, The Most Dangerous Game, and Lost all sort of hacked together with a dull knife. What I love about this film, and Asylum in general, is how shameless they are in their thievery. Not only does a character actually make a reference to Lost, there’s also direct lines stolen from Predator! I guess you could call this an homage if the studio’s mantra wasn’t “steal and be as cheap as possible.”
Watching an Asylum film is always kind of a toss up. Their output is either brain numbingly boring or hilariously stupid with not much in between. A lot of this is balanced on three things:
1. How game the actors are to over act
2. How stupid the dialog said actors have to spew is
3. How much gore is present
Thankfully Universal Soldiers scores well in all three departments. On the actor front we’ve got the lovely Kristen Quintrall, an Asylum veteran who seems to do quite a bit of double duty as an editor as well, and Jason S. Gray, another regular who overacts so hard that at times it seems like his head should just explode right off of his shoulders and shoot into space!
We’ve also got Dario Deak who’s biggest claim to fame is that he almost got chosen to play Conan in the recent reboot attempt, and Rick Malambri, a former fashion model who really cannot act for shit. As is the prerogative in any Asylum film, most of the screen time is spent with the actors standing around screaming at each other and dying in graphic but oddly repetitive ways. For this film the usual mode of death is for one of the modified robo-soldiers to give them punches through the stomach with hand crafted spears (Really more just chunks of wood, but whatever). Why they don’t just use guns is never explained but you’re not supposed to think about it. You’re not supposed to think about anything! Just laugh at the words that somebody actually had to write down on paper and that then came out of actual human mouths, gawk at the piss poor special effects, watch the credits roll, and then run out and rent/buy another Asylum film. You knew what you were getting into so you shouldn’t have any regrets. I sure as Hell don’t. But then, I never do…
- This thing looks like it was filmed on a very windy day. This becomes a problem when it starts to mess with the audio! I have never watched a film where this happened and it’s really weird to sit through. There’s a part at the end where all you can hear is the wind through the microphone and there’s not even soundtrack playing! It’s kind of disconcerting…
- Does every Aslum sci-fi film have a drunk professor character? Every one that I’ve seen does. What a strange and hilarious trademark. The one in this film sucks straight from a bottle of Jägermeister! Barf!
- Worst. Marines. Ever. They would all be court martialed if almost all of them weren’t dead by the end of the movie.
- There’s a line in this that goes something like “Maybe if you stopped staring at these little titties, you’d be able to do your job!” and it’s one of the funniest things ever uttered onscreen.
It’s double the fun with two Asylum films in a row! Actually it’s more like “double the brain cells you’ll be killing,” but we here at Dollar Horror like to celebrate even the dumbest most half assed attempts at our favourite genre. So here we go, ain’t we got fun…
666: The Child (2006)
A child (played by the unfortunately named Booboo Stewart, who would go on to play a werewolf in the Twilight movies) somehow survives a horrible plane crash and is adopted by a couple of lunkhead suburbanites who take fucking forever to figure out that he’s actually Satan. Yup, that’s pretty much the entire plot…
Released at the same time as a certain other demon child movie that came out in 2006, The Child is nothing but a rip-off. And a cheap one at that. That it ends up being a lot more entertaining than the movie it was meant to be cheating is a testament to the direct to DVD market. Basically, The Asylum could do whatever the Hell they wanted and the high amounts of hilarious gore and sleaze make up for the complete lack of anything resembling an actual movie.
The Omen remake might have had an actual budget and actual actors in it but it sure as Hell didn’t have a dude getting a buzz saw to the face! Or a nanny who keeps talking about how she used to be in the punk scene and the peace corps (played by Nora J. Novak, who makes up for her lack of acting talent with…other assets. Two of them to be exact.)
Don’t expect anything resembling coherence or actual characters here and you’ll have a good time. Booze would probably help as well…
- The best scene in the whole movie is probably where grandpa gets cut up by the ceiling fan. It’s so poorly done but it’s hard to tell if that was intentional or not. Either way, it’s quite funny.
- The actual film is just over an hour long but there’s an extra 10 minutes of incredibly slow moving credits! Amazing.
- If you sit through the credits you’ll be treated to this, along with several other ‘hilarious’ jokes: “Why are you still reading this? Go back to the video store and rent another Asylum film. You know you want to.” Oh, I do movie. Do I ever…
Haunting of Winchester House (2009)
Any classic ghost story fan worth their salt knows the story of Sarah Winchester and her crazy mansion. Even if you don’t, a quick browse on Wikipedia will sufficiently fill you in. Therefore there’s no excuse for a movie that claims to be a “terrifying true story” to be so blatantly wrong in every aspect possible. Unless The Asylum really didn’t give a shit, which is probably the case here. This “film” is horror movie making at it’s laziest. If you really want to see what a movie made by people that don’t care about anything that’s going to be on screen would look like, here you go, have fun. I sure as Hell didn’t.
That’s all the review for this one is going to be because, honestly, there’s nothing else to write about and the memory of this movie is already leaking out of my brain like hot air from a politician’s mouth. At least 666: The Child had high amounts of blood and a slutty former punk nanny. This one was just fucking boring and feels suspiciously like other better movies stitched together. Movies which I would rather have wasted my time with. If you’re not going to scare me, at least give me blood and boobs. That’s all I ask. THAT’S ALL I ASK!
A Random Thing
- The dad character at least looks a bit like Stephen King’s hillbilly rube from Creepshow. I guess that’s something? Sigh.
So there you go. I’m sure there will be plenty more Asylum reviews in the future since you can buy them here for dirt cheap. God help us all. I need to go medicate with a nice vodka and coke. Or just vodka. Yeah. Just vodka.