Monday, July 18, 2005

The Dorothy Grim & Splatter Show!

Just saw Future-Kill (1985), a low-budget horror-fantasy movie, for the first time last night. The box art (see pic) is by the legendary H.R. Giger, but has virtually nothing to do with the actual film, which is celebrated in some circles because it's the reunion of Edwin Neal and Marilyn Burn, two stars of Tobe Hooper's Texas Chain Saw Massacre. No, we're not exactly talking Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire. Here, Neal - so memorable as the Chainsaw hitchhiker - plays a mutant/punk villain named Splatter, and Burns is his punk-rocking, heavy-eyeshadowed sometimes friend/sometimes foe, Dorothy Grim. That probably tells some people as much as they need to know but whether or not they want to see the film...

Anyway, the hijinks in Future-Kill commence in earnest when a group of frat brothers get in trouble for tarring & feathering a brother, and are sent downtown to capture a Mutant. A mutant? Well, yeah. You see, this was 1985, and the socially-conscious makers of this film imagined a future where No-Nuke Protesters and punks would combine to start their own sub-culture, the "Mutants," and live in an inner city ghetto, spurned by "the conservatives." This is really funny, because no-nuke protesters are socially-conscious people who hope for a better future, whereas punks are deliberately nihilistic and see no future at all. So mixing the two ideas doesn't make much sense. Whatever. At least it's kind of different. It's like Escape from New York meets The Road Warrior meets Streets of Fire meets The Warriors. All for about $1.50.

So anyway, the frat boys visit the bad part of the Mutant town to abduct an unlucky mutant for a party back at the frat. Unfortunately, they run into Splatter, the major domo of Eddie Pain, the pacifist Mutant leader. Eddie doesn't believe in violence, which upsets the psychotic Splatter, so he assassinates his boss and frames the hapless frat boys. The rest of the movie concerns a night of terror as Splatter and his elite guard of mutants chase the frat boys through a series of abandoned warehouses (supposedly nuclear research labs...) A kindly hooker named Julie helps the boys, and then there's that bad-ass Dorothy Grim, whose allegiance is a mystery right until the climax. Such as it is.

What a strange, strange movie. Yet...there's something to it. Sure, it is relentlessly low-budget, the acting is barely adequate (except for Neal, who is a monstrous and powerful villain...), and the story is absurd. Still, this is one of those movies you can't take your eyes off of. It's an honest (and frankly, kinda silly...) horror-fantasy that attempts to extrapolate what a future America could look like (from the perspective of the Reagan 80s): frats versus freaks. I know it doesn't make a lick of sense, but the same filmmakers could have made an unimaginative, rote slasher film instead, one where they had to tread no new ideas or imagine no interesting concepts. They didn't do that, and I champion them for setting their sights just a little higher. Future-Kill kept me interested in it, even if the execution left something to be desired.

Never heard of Future-Kill? Join the club. This is one of those movies that inevitably turns up at flea markets and sells for a dollar or less, but, hey, I've seen far worse. To name a few: Troll 2, Neon Maniacs, The Stay Awake, and so on.


  1. Anonymous11:22 PM

    Well, suit yourself. Me, I'm waiting for the DVD collector's edition of Crimewave.

  2. Crimewave - now there's an interesting film. One my books (The Unseen Force: The Films of Sam Raimi) devotes a full-chapter to that film, including interviews with the cinematographer, lead actress and others. Sounds like it was a nightmare to make, but somewhere out there is Raimi's director cut, which includes a gonzo chase through the subway that was ultimately edited out. I'm with you on this one. Should we start a petition?

  3. Anonymous2:42 PM

    When I first came accross a synopsis of Future-Kill a few years ago the premise blew my mind in that ironic/i've-got-to-see-it-to-believe-it type way. You've convinced me that it is definately not to be missed - it'll be part of my next schlockfest.

    Ever heard of or seen Radioactive Dreams or Wired to Kill? Now those two are post-apocalyptic visions via 80s direct-to-video no-budgetry par excellence.

  4. Hey Kevin! Thanks for writing in about Future-Kill. It definitely casts-a-spell in one of those "it-has-to-be-seen-to-be-believed" kind of ways. But it is fun. Just don't expect Shakespeare:) I haven't seen Radioactive Dreams or Wired to Kill, but I'm going to have to now, because I'm really getting into these weird 80s "Retro-future" kind of movies. I mean, just imagine a future where there are enough No-Nuke Protesters to create their sub-culture (and consequently, their own inner city ghetto...) Wacky fun!