Thursday, October 25, 2018

HubrisWeen 2018, Day 20: Terminator 2: Shocking Dark (1989)

When it came time to choose the title for this film to review it, I decided it was best to just settle on the version that combines its two best known titles--and also shows how wonderfully shameless an example of the great Italian rip-off machine that it truly is.

You could be forgiven for thinking that the poster and title of the film mean it is merely a rip-off of The Terminator. You might even be thinking that it's a rip-off of another successful Hollywood film and The Terminator, in which case you would be correct.

However, it is understandable that you might not have guessed that this film is the most shameless rip-off of Aliens that I have ever seen--yes, it puts Carnosaur 2 to utter shame--that only remembers at the last minute to also be a rip-off of The Terminator. You think you have some idea what that means, but you really have no concept until you see it for yourself.

Bless those maniacs at Severin Films for putting this abomination out on Blu-ray, because I had no idea how much I needed it in my life.

In the future year of 2000, the city of Venice in Italy has had its famous waterways choked by toxic seaweed. The oxygen-less water has begun to corrode the foundations of the city and a cloud of toxic fumes has made the city itself unlivable.

A planet ravaged by environmental catastrophe and an overzealous police state? Good thing that future never happened!
This, apparently, makes it prime real estate for the sinister Tubular Corporation (yes, really) to set up shop and perform secret experiments. Except the latest experiment has gotten out of control, as you would expect. We don't yet know what that means, aside from a bunch of terrible actors running around dimly lit industrial tunnels and screaming.

Seriously, not only are they acting in a manner that a silent film actor would suggest is over the top, but they aren't even good at that. Sadly, this will be pretty standard for the performances in this film.

Whatever they are running from seems to involve some briefly glimpsed monsters in steam. However, one of our fleeing idiots bumps into a scientist named Drake (Clive Riche), whose clothes are torn and he seems to be covered in some kind of slime along with his sweat. The doomed idiot notices Drake is acting very strangely--and horribly--and then Drake suddenly attacks and strangles him.

Well, on the other side of a quarantine bulkhead in a control room, a group of soldiers had been watching as much of this as they could before their surveillance feed cut out. They don't have a clue what's going on, but they decide to call in the marines known as Megaforce (sadly not the Barry Bostwick Megaforce). They also assign a civilian scientist named Dr. Sara Drumbull (Haven Tyler) to accompany Megaforce as an expert, and they are forced to bring along a Tubular Corporation representative named Samuel Fuller (Christopher Ahrens).

The leader of Megaforce is not cool with Fuller being along, but he doesn't have much of a choice. Besides, Fuller has an impressive amount of experience in the marines to back up the fact that he can take care of himself.

We then meet the rest of Megaforce, but the only one you're likely to remember is Koster (Geretta Geretta, here credited as Geretta Giancarlo Field). Not only is Koster the film's answer to Vasquez in Aliens, but she is probably the closest thing to a competent actor in the film. Plus Koster is hilariously introduced when she delivers a badass monologue about being back to kick ass--and then is revealed to have been addressing nobody because everyone else in the room is way too far away and not paying attention to her.

I guess she really just wanted to impress the viewer.

"Hey Koster, you ever been mistaken for Barry Bostwick?"
There's also the really strange wrinkle that Koster hates the token Italian in the squad, calling him by slurs and mocking him for being smelly and greasy, while he calls her "black bitch" right back. I don't know what this is about, unless the filmmakers somehow saw Do The Right Thing and really missed the point.

At any rate, Megaforce have not gotten very far into the Venice facility before they are being shot at by a mysterious figure--who turns out to be Drake. His acting has not improved, but when the Megaforce manage to surround and disarm him, he reveals a new trick: he can open his mouth and let out a sound that causes any humans nearby to clap their hands over their ears in pain.

Drake uses this opportunity to abscond with one of the marines. By the time Koster and another marine find him using their personal tracking devices, he has been wrapped up in the kind of fake webbing you string up for Halloween and is turning into a rubber monster. And when Koster's companion kills the mutant to save her from him, the other rubber monsters appear and go on the attack.

And what monsters they are! The filmmakers clearly did not want to be so close to the xenomorphs we know and love that they would get sued, but also wanted something similar that would also echo their biomechanical appearance. And so, we end up with drooling fish men with glowing red eyes that usually explode in white goop when shot.

Well, it's either drool or this fish man just ate a marshmallow.
Our heroes barely escape the attack by the monsters, but when they retreat to a control room they are horrified to pick up a signal on their completely unreadable motion trackers. Despite an accidental discharge of their guns, they are relived to discover the signal is actually a young girl--even if she does bite the first person who reaches for her. The girl is Samantha (Dominica Coulson), and she is clearly much older than she is supposed to be. The pink ribbons in her pigtails are fooling nobody.

"Professional spy? Nonsense, I am little girl--see my little girl ribbons?"
Naturally, Sara forms a bond with her immediately.

Fuller finds a sample of the creature's slime and delivers a nonsense explanation that the sample they obtained is some kind of artificial DNA, created by the scientists here. Like a floppy disk (the actual example he uses) the DNA is formless until it is implanted into a host and takes on a form from them.

As Fuller is explaining this, Koster is scouting the hallways with another soldier. She is suddenly grabbed by a long tongue or tentacle, and before he can come to her rescue another fish man chucks him over a railing to his death. And so, Koster goes out like a punk--so much so that the other characters never even know she has been dragged off and cocooned!

That's right, the Vasquez character doesn't even get to be among the last of the survivors before she gets bumped off!

Farewell, Koster. We barely knew you, but you kicked ass in our hearts.
Then the monsters cut the power. The characters flee into a room that is sealed with a huge door and we get a hilarious recreation of the "they're inside the room" scene from Aliens, except they couldn't afford to have the monsters sneak in through vents so they're the room.

A couple more Megaforce soldiers are tossed over railings. Fuller gets his arm clawed by one to reveal that it has glued computer parts to him! Oh, sorry, I mean his skin has been clawed away to expose the machinery underneath--because he's a robot or a cyborg!

It will be a while before anyone but Samantha notices this, though. In the meantime, the film generates some suspense by having Sara be unable to open the door so they can escape. Now, you're going to think I'm kidding when I say this, but it turns out the door isn't broken. No, Sara is pushing the wrong button!

God, all of our main characters deserve death.

"Grrr! Raaarrrr! Hey, uh, you need help with that door?"
Fuller sees that Samantha saw his exposed machinery, so he tries to recreate the Ripley and Newt with the facehuggers scene, but just with two fishmen. He is foiled and the motley crew continue on their mission, which turns out to be heading towards the central office of the Tubular Corporation in Venice. No, I don't actually know when this was established, I just know Fuller is annoyed by it.

Fuller's annoyance turns homicidal when the crew gets to a control room and Samantha manages to play a video for Tubular's board of directors, where a chipper blonde (Elain Richmond) explains that the Tubular Corporation actually poisoned the canals of Venice to help accelerate its inhospitable status. Here's where Fuller reveals that he is actually a robot sent to make sure the misdeeds of the Tubular Corporation never get out--despite the best efforts of their PR rep, apparently.

The two surviving marines find out Fuller is bullet proof before he beats them to death and then sets off the facility's self destruct. Sara comments aloud that that will spread the contamination of Venice throughout the entire world, but Fuller doesn't care. And so now Sara and Samantha have to make a desperate race back to the safety of the quarantine hatch, but Fuller is slowly walking after them with lazily murderous intent.

The soldiers at the base on the other side of the hatch decide to move into Venice, intending to rescue any survivors and shut off the self-destruct. They fail because they are almost all immediately killed by the monsters.

Sara, for her part, shoots an electrical wire above Fuller when he blocks their path and gets him electrocuted. However, this causes Samantha to fall down a nearby slide (!) so Samantha has to go find and rescue her. Except just as Sara gets to the girl, Samantha is dragged off by a monster to be cocooned. Sara barely has time to process that before Fuller appears and attempts to strangle her. He now has a high-pitched, electronic voice and it is silly as all hell.

It gets sillier. Much like the vampires in Evil of Dracula, Fuller is utterly incapable of strangling Sara to death--maybe because we can tell he has a very loose grip on her throat--and she is able to turn a valve to hit him in the face with steam. Then she grabs a fire extinguisher and sprays him with it, which results in our killer cyborg flailing helplessly before tumbling over a nearby railing. To make it even funnier, shades of Zombie Holocaust, the dummy version of Fuller hits something on the way down and plainly knocks its head clean off--but Fuller has his head when he lands.

Sara finds Samantha and tears her out of the cocoon--which leaves the girl looking like she just dove face-first into some delicious cotton candy--except they don't see the monster looming up behind them. Luckily, a soldier survived and he shoots the monster, yells at them to run, and then gets immediately clawed to death by another monster. And no, I don't even know if he was one of the new soldiers or part of our main squad.

I also don't care, so there's that. I'm a bit more upset that this is the last time we'll see the fun monsters for the rest of the film.

Thanks for the memories and all of the tossing people over railings!
Then the movie gets bonkers. With no time to escape the facility, Sara decides to lead Samantha into a random bunker she finds, somehow getting past the password lock on the outside. Once inside, they brace for death--which I would definitely welcome in Sara's shoes, so I would no longer have to listen to Samantha's repeated and irritating screams of "SARA!"--only for the chipper blonde to appear on a screen before them. The blonde welcomes them to the Tubular Corporation's experimental time travel pod and tells them to buckle up and prepare for time travel in 10 seconds.

Yes, really.

A control remote pops out of a drawer and Sara grabs it. Then the "facility" explodes, but it is plainly shots of unrelated miniatures seeing as how they're in a field. Via some vaguely trippy lens/solar flare effects, Sara and Samantha are thrown through time--and then they find themselves in 1989 Venice. They have barely recovered from their shock when Fuller suddenly looms up in front of them.

Fuller helpfully advises that there were two pods and he took the other one. I mean, naturally.

Sara slashes Fuller's face with a broken bottle, which allows him to peel away the damaged skin to reveal the really terrible machinery underneath. He doesn't even have a clear robot eye, it's just a jumble of wires!

There's a perfunctory chase, during which Fuller tosses a good Samaritan into a canal, before he corners Sara and Samantha in an alley. He gloats at them, but Sara punches a bunch of buttons and tosses the remote to him. This causes Fuller to scream, while a shower of sparks falls from above him (?!) and then the same flare effects are superimposed over him...and he disappears. I guess she sent him away through time? I don't even know.

Sara and Samantha look out at the pristine city of Venice and Sara remarks they have a lot of people to warn. Roll credits.

"Does this look infected to you?"
Terminator 2: Shocking Dark is an experience, that is for damn sure. It isn't a very good experience, either.

This is a film full of terrible acting, poor directing, bad editing, incompetent special effects, and awful writing. The music isn't all that great, either. If you want to know why people recoil at the name of Bruno Mattei (or, in this case, "Vincent Dawn"), this film is a perfect example.

And it is utterly fascinating.

For one thing, the film at first seems to just take the broad outline of Aliens and work from there. Except that it also recreates entire scenes from the film at random moments. The scene where a marine asks Bishop if he needs any help with his examination of a facehugger, and Bishop reacts strangely? Fuller takes on the Bishop role. There's even a poor copy of the exchange about monsters being real between Sara and Samantha.

It boggles the mind that the film would try to change the monsters enough to avoid any kind of lawsuit and then just blatantly copy huge swaths of the film they were aping. That's even putting aside the fact that they hedged their bets by calling the film Shocking Dark in some markets, but then brazenly called it Terminator II in so many others!

There's a lot to enjoy in this film if you are a bad movie lover. It's certainly ripe for enthusiastic riffing. Still, it's not an easy one to recommend because if you watch it by yourself you are going to find that it has a few slow spots--and I am not kidding when I say the acting is terrible. There's a fine line between enjoyable bad acting and painful acting, and this film ends up on the wrong side of that line regularly.

Still, if you find men in rubber monster suits as endearing as I do, there's a fair amount to enjoy with Shocking Dark. As long as you go in understanding that it is a pile of garbage with almost no redeeming qualities, you'll probably have as much of a fun time as I did.

This has concluded Day 20 of HubrisWeen 2018! To see what the other Celluloid Zeroes chose for T, click the banner above!

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