Thursday, August 23, 2012

Nazis At The Center Of The Earth (2012)

Written by: Paul Bales
Directed by: Joseph L. Lawson
Starring: Dominique Swain, Jake Busey, Josh Allen

I really should have known this was an Asylum movie when I first saw the cover. Then, of course, my reaction at seeing that name was, “Ah, dammit”, and I almost shut the flick off. For some reason I didn't. And then I got to wondering, why is it we all hate Asylum movies so much? I mean, they suck, of course. No one's debating that. I think perhaps it's the crass cash-in factor. Ah, they just come up with a gimmicky title or a flashy poster and then write the movie later. Well, yeah, but so did a huge number of those movies from the fifties, sixties, and seventies that we all love. That's kinda what exploitation is all about. Granted, the head of Asylum once referred to the studio as a, “sausage factory”, where they just cranked out the movies as cheap and fast as they could. Again, nothing new there. The producers of cheap, trashy crap from forty years ago didn't care about their product any more than the producers of cheap, trashy crap from today. But the filmmakers did.

Then again, who knows. Maybe the filmmakers who work for Asylum really care about their craft and hope that this is simply a step toward a career where they'll be able to flex their creative muscles and put their personal stamp on a piece of art. I can't imagine anyone's absolute highest aspiration in the movie business is to make slapdash direct-to-video ripoffs of whatever big ticket flick is raking it in at the box office. The owner of the record store I used to work at always used to say that he didn't do it for the money (although the store made plenty), he just loved owning a cool music shop and that every day when the shipments of new CD's came in it was like Christmas, opening up the boxes and looking through all the promos and posters and stuff. But he had a friend who didn't have any interest in doing something he loved, all he cared about was making money. That guy owned a ball bearing factory, and that's what he did every day; went to work and watched ball bearings being made and counted his cash. So it's entirely possible that every – or almost every – single person who works at Asylum is just making ball bearings, and that's why the movies are such uniformly flavorless loads of crap. But there must be a few people who want to have a little fun, because otherwise I don't think this movie would end with Hitler's head on a robot body shooting laser beams out of its chest at fighter jets.

The story, such as there is, follows a team of genetic research scientists working at an Antarctic outpost looking for prehistoric microbes or some damn thing. One of their core samplers hits metal where metal has no business being, and suddenly they find themselves taken prisoner in an underground base run by Dr. Josef Mengele (played by just the finest K-Mart brand Jurgen Prochnow substitute money can buy). How the hell are he and his squad of soldiers still alive after all these decades, you ask? Mengele has been working on an immortality formula, and wait til you see who else wants to be immortal! Oh, wait, I already told you. Apparently, you'd already have known if you played the old Wolfenstein video game, but as I didn't grow up on Nintendo, seeing RoboHitler was a pleasantly wacky surprise.

Aside from one Nazi zombie whose makeup and performance both suggest somebody watched one too many Twiztid music videos (that's right, not even Insane Clown Posse, but one of their even more retarded progeny), the acting is acceptably workmanlike (and who did Dominique Swain piss off, didn't she used to be a real actress?). The supposed-to-be-a-threatening-snarl-but-looks-like-he's-huffing-dead-fish look that seems to be the only expression the dude in the RoboHitler helmet can muster is pretty damn funny, and the bit where you think rescue has come in the form of some fighter jets only for him to shoot them down with a no-really-we-didn't-steal-this-from-Iron Man chest laser is a hoot, but in the end, knowing they ripped it all off from a 20-plus year old video game makes it a lot less special.

In the end, it's better than most Asylum movies. Take that as you will.

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