* (out of four)
Seen 5 June 2004 in the Coolidge Corner Video Screening Room (New England Animation Bash)
Generally, when the guy who runs the theater comes into the room and says "you realize this sucks, right?" before starting the movie, you're not in for a good time. It would probably be wise to head out and give one of the other midnight movies a shot. But, hey, it's only an hour and fifteen minutes; how bad could it be. The answer: Pretty darn awful. Were this and Kaena the only features Ned & Clinton could book for the Bash?
The movie features demons from the Sonic Area of Hell named "Desecrator", "Dominator", and "Decimator". "Dominator" is the one whom Dr. Payne's three daughters summon from Hell by playing The Lost Chord (which they found in one of dad's books of the arcane). The demon he was fighting, Desecrator, sends three demons, including Decimator and Lady Violator after him. I may have Desecrator and Decimator reversed, but it doesn't matter that much. Anyway, Dominator soon agrees to help rid Earth of the other demons in return for Dr. Payne (outwardly an undertaker, but secretly working for Her Majesty's Government to help avoid England being overrun by zombies) finding a way to send him back. See, the thing he'd stolen, the "Key to Hell", doesn't work perfectly for him because he's apparently "not evil enough". It does allow him to conjure up guitars, bikes, and a sort of skull-themed train thing, because this is a "heavy metal" horror movie.
The animation could, generously, be called "poor". It is not up to the level generally seen in video games. I am not referring to cut scenes, but actual game play. Five years ago. I was surprised to see the Sci-Fi Channel credited, since aside from being too R-rated to actually run on the station, I expect slightly better from the station that gave the world The Dream Team (for the sarcasm-impaired, this is bad). This is the UK Sci-Fi Channel, though, which is apparently a lower-rent operation. The models are silly-looking, and they barely have any sort of articulation. You can tell that most of the effort went into making the women curvy.
But, hey, they always say, you don't need actual production values if you've got a good script. Not happening. Alan Grant adapts his own manga - an English writer making Japanese comics struck me as odd, too - and I wondered how many pages of comic this 75-minute movie represents. It introduces new characters late in the game, and seems to connect several smaller stories. It is unintentionally funny (I think it's unintentional) in how nobody quite seems to react to events like a believable person. There is a subplot about the girls' band that comes out of nowhere and is, in the big picture of the end of the world, fairly unimportant. It's also the kind of movie where saying "I'm sorry" doesn't make the demon hordes go away, but it appears to earn instant forgiveness. Or where women are attracted to Dominator despite him being completely hidden underneath his armor. And, you know, a demon.
How much credit should a movie get for being "so bad, it's good"? There is something peculiarly watchable about this movie - well, for the people who didn't walk out. It is so low-budget and cheesy that the mind rejects it as possibly being the work of professionals, but it does feel like the work of enthusiastic amateurs. By so convincingly appearing to be something that high school or college students pieced together, one's instinct is to cut it some slack... Until one remembers paying actual U.S. currency to see it.