Tag Archives: Blatant knock-off

Deep Rising (1998)

'From the special effects team...' That's reaching.
‘From the special effects team…’ That’s reaching.

“Full scream ahead”

Directed by Stephen Sommers
Starring Treat Williams, Famke Janssen, Kevin J. O’Connor, Anthony Heald and Wes Studi

Boat pilot Finnegan (Williams) and his engineers Fantucci (O’Connor) and Leile (Una Damon) are hired by the sinister Hanover (Studi) to transport his team of goons to a mystery location in the middle of the ocean. They soon discover that their passengers are mercenary bandits, intent on robbing the colossal cruise liner Argonautica. Unfortunately, the liner has much worse problems.

Continue reading Deep Rising (1998)

The Kentucky Fried Movie (1977)

Buckle up, kids; we're in for a weird ride.
Buckle up, kids; we’re in for a weird ride.

“This movie is totally out of control”

Directed by John Landis
Starring… Well, no one really.

This film is not so much a single film as a series of sketches, including news and current affairs parodies, mock advertisements and movie trailers and spoof pornography. The longest single segment is A Fistful of Yen, a half hour parody of Enter the Dragon which ends up as a Wizard of Oz pastiche.

Continue reading The Kentucky Fried Movie (1977)

The Summer of Lovecraft: The Dunwich Horror (2009)

Even most SyFy original movies have posters mocked up for them. Even Dragon Wasps.
Even most SyFy original movies have posters mocked up for them. Even Dragon Wasps.

“The devil’s spawn is about to open the gates to hell!”

Directed by Leigh Scott
Starring Dean Stockwell, Jeffrey Combs, Griff Furst and Sarah Leaving

The Story

Wilbur Whatley is the weird one in a family including a mad grandfather and an albino mother, a fast-growing freak who frightens animals and children with his odd smell. He studies sorcery with his grandpa and continually buys cattle for a herd that never increases.  He and his grandfather carry out constant conversion of the farmhouse in order to fit some thing connected to Wilbur’s mysterious father, named only as ‘Yog-Sothoth’. Grandfather and daughter disappear or die, and Wilbur is killed by dogs trying to steal an original Latin Necronomicon from Miskatonic University. When the thing in the house breaks loose, Miskatonic academics Henry Armitage, Warren Rice and Francis Morgan confront and destroy it. Wilbur is revealed to have been not quite human, and the thing to have been his twin, who looked more like the father.

The Film

Wilbur Whatley (Combs) is a serial killer, abducting tourists to feed to his monstrous brother (this fact is dropped in about a third of the way through the movie and never questioned.) Henry Armitage (erstwhile Whatley Stockwell) and his assistant, Fay Morgan (Leaving), are monster hunters and freelance exorcists.


Continue reading The Summer of Lovecraft: The Dunwich Horror (2009)

Safe (2012)

'From the Producer of...' is rarely a good sign.
‘From the Producer of…’ is rarely a good sign.

“They have the code. He is the key.”

Directed by Boaz Yakin
Starring Jason Statham and Catherine Chan

Mei (Chan) is a 12 year old mathematical prodigy, kidnapped by the Chinese mob to calculate and memorise their financial operations in New York. When she is re-kidnapped by, but escapes from, the Russian mob, she discovers an unexpected protector in the form of down-and-out former cage fighter, Luke Wright (Statham).

Continue reading Safe (2012)

Bounty Killer (2013)

Despite the 2042 dateline on that poster, the film was originally set in 1997, inspired by a 70s grindhouse tagline.

“If the suit fits… waste it!”

Directed by Henry Saine
Starring Christian Pitre, Matthew Marsden, Kristanna Loken and Barak Hardley

After rampant corporations went to war with world’s governments in a drive for total deregulation, the shattered remnants of civilisation survive under the benevolent rule of the Council of Nine, who stand for hope, redemption, and the violent execution of white-collar criminals by flamboyant celebrity bounty killers.

Continue reading Bounty Killer (2013)

I, Frankenstein (2014)

The I Frankenstein is fully compatible with the complete range of Apple products.
The I Frankenstein is fully compatible with the complete range of Apple products.

“200 Years Later, He is Still Alive”

Directed by Stuart Beattie
Starring Aaron Eckhart, Bill Nighy, Yvonne Strahovsky and Miranda Otto

After killing his creator’s bride and returning the body of Frankenstein – dead of exposure – to his family graveyard, the Creature (Eckhart) is attacked by demons intent on his capture, and so becomes embroiled in the age-old war between the Gargoyle Order, led by Queen Leonore (Otto), and the 666 infernal legions of the Demon Prince Naberius (Nighy). Despite his best efforts to avoid the conflict, he is tracked by the demons and intercepted by the Gargoyles when he tries to take the fight back to his hunters.

Meanwhile, Naberius is working with human scientist Terra Wade (Strahovsky) to recreate Frankenstein’s work as a means of reinforcing his legions and breaking the deadlock in the war. Only the nigh-indestructible Creature – named Adam by Leonore – has the power to stop him. Continue reading I, Frankenstein (2014)

Rise of the Shadow Warrior (2013)


(Also called Dragon Lore: Curse of the Shadow and Saga: the Shadow Cabal.)

“When death called, three renegades answered.”

Director John Lyde

Starring Richard McWilliams, Danielle Chuchran, Paul D. Hunt

Stop me if you’ve heard this one: there’s the Shadow, right, which is bad, and the Order, which is good, and there’s a prophesied Shadow sort of evil messiah character who’s going to turn up and lead a legion of the undead to, y’know, cover all the lands in a second darkness. When a tough-as-nails elf bounty hunter (Chuchran) gets infected with a Shadow curse, she has to join forces with a doubting paladin (McWilliams) and a gruff but honourable orc warrior (Hunt) to prevent the evil Goth Azul (Spanish for “blue goth”) from rising again.

What’s wrong with it?

OK, guys, I’ve got a pitch for you. I want to make a fantasy movie, right, and it’s going to be exactly like every other goddamn fantasy movie ever except that I don’t have the same level of budget, experience or technical ability as other filmmakers so it’s going to be kind of half-assed and slightly inferior. That’s going to be a huge hit, right?

Rise of the Saga of the Shadow Curse Cabal Warrior doesn’t really bring very much new to the table. Its orcs look like they’re wearing official Peter Jackson orc costumes, its characters are Ranger, Paladin and Barbarian, everyone starts out distrusting each other but eventually learns to get along, Dwarfs wear goggles and have bombs and generally look like they’re from WoW.

Its pacing and narrative are also a little clumsy. A lot of individual scenes are quite well done, but their role in the overall structure isn’t really clear. At one point, for instance, we see our heroes climbing some mountains on their way to confront the baddies. The camera pauses for a moment to do a big twirl around Nemyt, the elf. It’s a nice shot: the mountains are pretty and Nemyt is pretty. But I’m not sure why it happened then or what it had to do with what came before or after it.

I guess that’s not too uncommon with twirly landscape shots, though. Let me give you a better example: at one point, gruff orc warrior Kullimon leaves the party for a bit. He runs for a while across some landscapes, a la Conan the Barbarian. Then he gets in a boat and paddles it, using a tree branch for some reason. He is confronted by some mermaids. They drag him into the water, he stabs them and they swim away. Eventually he rejoins the party. So this whole scene happened because … ? I guess it was important because the filmmakers wanted to have scenes with just Keltus (the pally) and Nemyt, but the Kullimon scenes serve absolutely no purpose. Also, the mermaids have nasty pointy teeth, like every other fucking mermaid in the last ten years.

Also, there is a gang of slow motion in this movie, often in scenes where its meaning is not readily apparent.

Fight choreography in films is something you can’t just approximate. In fact, a lot of the swordfights and punchups in this film are not bad; Nemyt in particular leaps around athletically and puts a lot of effort into it. The problem is the larger battle scenes, where the choreography breaks down, leaving a lot of the lesser combatants standing around visibly in the background waiting for their turn to charge in and get mown down.

What’s right with it?

It’s pretty brisk. As soon as the opening narration and swoopy map shot are done, we’re right in to Nemyt shooting down a dragon with a giant ballista, then having a swordfight with an orc, then Keltus hunting down some weird old Dwarf and getting into another poorly-choreographed fight. Unlike a lot of bad movies, this one at least starts off with stuff happening. It saves all its tedious walk-and-talk for later.

It has some varied locations. I don’t know where this was shot — somewhere in the American west, by the looks of it — but there’s a lot of scenery and it isn’t all the same. If the scene in the mine shaft is a clever use of a found location, then good for the filmmakers. Although the movie tries to make its world look more alien with lots of fantasy-type filters on the sky, which is really distracting.

Nemyt may be an attractive girl in tight leather armour, but she’s not as terribly over-sexualised as many of her equivalents elsewhere. That is to say, she’s clearly intended to be sexy in a tough-bad-girl sort of way, but the camera doesn’t particularly leer at her, and it’s only the male characters who get their kit off. She does get captured and threatened with rape (or maybe cannibalism), but it’s not too salacious and it’s over quickly. That’s not a very high standard, but sadly even that level of common decency isn’t universal.

The costumes are really pretty good, except for Keltus’s which is a bit blah. The Orc helmets are nice, and there’s a lot of little attention to detail. The design aesthetic is a little … derivative, shall we say? It’s basically a mashup of D&D, WoW and the Lord of the Rings films. But it shows care and enthusiasm.

How bad is it really?

There’s clearly a lot of enthusiasm in this film, just not married to an equivalent level of resources, technical skill or experience. It’s like a bar-band cover of a popular song from the last 20 years. Not bad per se, but why seek it out?

Best bit (if such there is)?

Keltus and Kullimon are waiting for Nemyt to go make a fake exchange of some gold for a relic with evil orcs. Kullimon starts singing a little orcish song about snapping spines and how his enemies shit themselves. There is a pause, then he says “the Common Tongue does not do it justice.” It’s not the best joke ever, but it’s one of few in a movie that takes itself really seriously.

What’s up with…? 

  • Keltus addressing the random prophesyin’ woman he meets in town as “old crone,” when she is clearly about his age?
  • The same woman later turning out to be a goddess who saves Keltus during his death/crisis of faith scene? He reveals that he’s switched goddesses later on like it’s supposed to be a big deal, but I think it would have more of an impact if we knew anything at all about either of them.
  • The Wandering Monster Table? Encounters with mermaids and some kind of sea serpent for no apparent reason.
  • The final fight scene, where our heroes are battling the baddies, the plan to resurrect Goth Azul hangs in the balance, and most of the evil cultists are just … swaying gently from side to side in the background?
  • The evil lich guy cursing the orc leader to make him immortal and thereby winning his loyalty? If he could do that all along, why was there even this convoluted plan to buy the relic with some gold hidden in a hollow log?
  • Kullimon exclaiming “ha ha ha!” all the time? That’s not what laughter sounds like.


Production values Doing their best; strong in some areas (costumes, locations) and weak in others (soundtrack, CG) – 14
Dialogue and performances Uninspired. – 16
Plot and execution Someone’s beloved fantasy setting, with all the usual derivativeness. – 15
Randomness Occasional flashes to relieve the predictability. – 12
Waste of potential Frankly, it’s impressive it’s as good as it is. – 10

Overall 67%

Vikingdom (2013)


“Live by the sword. Die like a Viking.”

Directed by Yusry Abdul Halim
Starring Dominic Purcell, Conan Stevens, Craig Fairbrass, Natassia Malthe and Jon Foo

When Norse god Thor decides he’s going to conquer all of Midgard, Viking warrior Eirik (Purcell) gets dragged out of retirement to make sure he doesn’t get all the magical treasures he needs to pull it off. Eirik assembles a ragtag band of adventurers, including rough-hewn woodsman type Sven (Fairbrass), misplaced kung-fu master Yang (Foo), sexy archer lady Brynna (Malthe), a couple of muscle-bound oafs, an impetuous youngster, a bard, an eccentric wizard and so on, and goes off to face Thor. After a few double- and triple-crosses, he overcomes the baddy. Everyone is happy except for about half the team, who are dead.

What’s wrong with it?

The basis of this film’s terribleness is its series of shockingly inappropriate visual choices. I’m not talking about its crap visual effects so much as its … perhaps I’d better show you.


This is Conan Stevens as Thor. Someone put that costume together, dyed his hair Kool-Aid red, looked at it and went: Nailed it.

And throughout the film, there are just tons of inexplicable things like that. Here’s another one: Eirik has to descend into Helheim to retrieve the horn of blah blah blah, and to do so he has to get past Garm. You know the drill. But this is what Garm looks like:


A T-rex with a giant comedy dog head on.

And that’s leaving aside the more basic visual goofery: unconvincing CGI, ropey sets and possibly the worst collection of wigs extant.

The other problem is that the acting is dia-bloody-bolical. Purcell and Malthe were cast for looks. Malthe talks like she’s memorised her lines but doesn’t know what they mean. But English is Purcell’s native goddamn language, and he delivers every line like he’s reading off a list of menu items. Dude is swole, though. I’m not gonna lie. Veteran British goofball Patrick Murray is the main exception; he mugs his way through it like a man who is well aware how goddamn dumb this movie is.

Also, no one can agree how anything is pronounced.

Oh, and Brynna is a super tiresome Action Chick but she still gets undercut to make a male character look better.

What’s right with it?

When I started watching this film, I thought that it was going to be one of those awful movies like Almighty Thor — just bland and boring and dumb. But it’s really eventful and dumb. Say what you like about the quality of the stuff, there’s always a lot of stuff happening, whether it’s Vikings jumping over castle walls like bearded kangaroos or Eirik retrieving a big black horn from a wall made out of writhing women covered in gold paint. There are big fights, and weird visuals, and kind of a lot of exposition, but still. A lot of shit definitely happens in this movie.

Also Jon Foo is pretty good. In fact, the fights in this thing are a lot of fun. Foo runs around flipping and kicking and really giving it some gusto, and everyone else does their best as well, although not quite as well. But still — the fights are fast-paced, crazy stuff happens, Thor wallops the living hell out of people with his hammer, people get shot with arrows, different characters have visibly different fighting styles … they’re really not half bad!

How bad is it really?

It could actually be pretty good, if it weren’t for the terribly dull and po-faced acting. In fact, if this movie were at all funny, it would be a legitimately good bad film. But every time it goes for stirring heroism, it ends up falling flat, and you just hate Eirik and never want to see him hunt a bear with his shirt off ever again.

Because, believe me, when Eirik is boring, he’s really boring. And Brynna is super boring. And Eirik + Brynna is just about the most boring thing on God’s earth, except perhaps some random Viking you don’t care about telling you about his backstory.

Best bit (if such there is)?

  • Eirik descends into Hel, which is this weird green-lit world full of glowing crystals and zombies that looks like a Peter Davison episode of Doctor Who.
  • Freyr does a last-minute heel turn and reveals that he manipulated Eirik all along to get him to retrieve the horn, which only he could do, and now Freyr’s gonna cover all the lands in a second darkness or whatever, and then Alcuin the wizard pops up to mention that he’s known the whole time and switched the horn for a fake one like thirty minutes previously.
  • Jon Foo kicking dudes.

What’s up with…?

  • Eirik’s quest? It’s like … it’s like double Raiders of the Lost Ark. Not only was the horn perfectly safe where it was, Frey and Thor would never have got it without Eirik. And he didn’t even fix the problem — Alcuin did. And Brynna died, along with like six other people. So in fact the whole thing was completely for nothing and the world would have been much better off if Eirik had just stayed home wrestling bears.
  • Freyja? She saves Eirik’s life because she loves him, but then he never thinks about or mentions her again until he’s about to get off with Brynna. Then she turns up in his mirror for him to be all wracked with guilt at, but she gives him a hall pass and he forgets all about her again. She’s 10 minutes of the movie that could have been taken right out as long as some other reason Eirik could enter Helheim could have been ginned up.
  • The weather? Eirik is ass-deep in snow when he hunts the bear, but it’s all green and springy when he gets home. And no matter how cold it is, Brynna rocks her sports bra whenever she can. Eirik’s outfit of sleeves but no shirt is particularly bizarre.
  • The ripoff scenes? Eirik confronts Thor, who literally tells him that he’s his father and that together they can rule etc., etc. (Oddly, this is more tightly plotted than The Empire Strikes Back, because the fact that Thor is Eirik’s dad is immediately relevant to the action.) And then afterward, they do a shitty, inept, noncommittal version of the funeral scene from The 13th Warrior.


Production values: Oh dear me no – 15.
Dialogue and performances: Boring and inept – 18.
Plot and execution: Derivative and/or crazy – 16.
Randomness: Sensible in the outline, but the devil’s in the deails – 14.
Waste of potential: Fantasy Viking Magnificent Seven? That’s a solid B+ – 14.

Overall 77%

Snow White and the Huntsman (2012)



“The Fairy Tale is Over” (possibly; it doesn’t seem to appear on any posters)

Directed by Rupert Sanders,
Starring Kristen Stewart, Chris Hemsworth, Charlize Theron and Sam Claflin

A beautiful queen wishes for a beautiful daughter, but the queen dies, the king remarries, and the new Queen (Theron) carries the kingdom in a coup d’etat, locking the princess – Snow White (Stewart, eventually), whom everyone adores for her beauty, dauntless spirit and pathological kindness to vermin – in a tower because reasons. Ten years later, the Queen’s powers – which appear to be fuelled by either youth or beauty, depending on whom you ask and when – are waning, and only Snow White’s oh so fucking perfect heart can save her.

Snow escapes, and is later aided by the Huntsman (Hemsworth), her childhood chum William (Claflin) and a band of semi-mystical British character actors CGId onto the bodies of little people, as well as a village of Amazon archers, and a horde of faeries who will basically never show up again after a scene apiece. Returning to the castle, Snow leads a bloody stupid charge that somehow works, kills the Queen and saves the world.


What’s wrong with it?

Snow White and the Huntsman is a film that is replete with symbolism, but doesn’t actually seem to know what much of it means, or which bits of it are important beyond the visual moment. Snow White is purity, she is life, she is fire; she is innocence, she is inspiration, she is a warrior, she is a weapon. She is almost worn down with despair when her horse is pulled into the Swamp of Sadness (in a blatant knock-off of The Neverending Story). She is kissed by both of her love interests when ‘dead’, but neither is given any symbolic weight in her waking, instead being pointless gestures kept in because the film doesn’t seem to realise that they don’t matter without that weighting.

It also doesn’t seem to know how to build to a climax. It foreshadows the village of self-scarred bow-women, the faeries and the trolls, hinting at a climactic battle in which all of those whose lives have been touched by Snow will come together and defeat the Queen’s army together, but in the end that doesn’t happen at all. The archers who could have been so useful on the cliffs above the castle? Not there. The trolls that could have smashed the gates while the dwarves took on the catapults? Nowhere to be seen. After pitching Snow as a pseudo-mystical force of supernatural vitality, her gambit for the final battle was commando dwarves opening the gates for a cavalry charge against a defended fortress across more than a mile of open beach into a surrounded courtyard.

Kristen Stewart is not a terrible actress, but she is utterly incapable of delivering the sort of stirring speech she is given in this film.

William is entirely pointless, and basically seems to be present to fulfill some contractual  obligation that Stewart must have a love triangle.

The actors seem to be being whipped into some manner of frenzy by the director, and the end result is an almost theatrical over-exaggeration of facial expressions. Theron is the worst, apparently trying to swallow the world with every line. Meanwhile the Queen’s brother (Sam Spruell) just looks completely baffled by her choice of outfits.

The dwarves in this film (who caused upset among the pressure group Little People of America for the casting of full-sized, British actors) are quasi-magical healers from an otherworldly place, which in this instance appears to have been a much less po-faced film, with a rough, scatological approach to humour.

What’s right with it?

As you’d expect from a film on this level, the production values are top notch, and the design – especially of the Dark Forest and the Sanctuary – is impeccable.

Chris Hemsworth has tortured soul down to a tee, even with that accent he’s doing, and underused as he is, Claflin plays his role – essentially a poor man’s Legolas – to the hilt.

How bad is it really?

Oh boy, is it bad; laughably. In a cheaper, more cheerful movie a lot of its flaws could be forgiven, but this stinkburger cost real money and involved some pretty serious talent.

Speaking of cheaper, more cheerful movies, this came out around the same time as Mirror, Mirror, another Snow White movie which featured broad comedy throughout and ended on a Bollywood-style dance number. From the trailers, it looked as though Snow White and the Huntsman would be the better movie, but Mirror, Mirror is the one without a review here.

Best bit (if such there is)?

The Sanctuary scene is almost mesmerisingly beautiful, although it loses some impact on the smaller screen.

What’s up with…?

  • The eye-shrooms of Sanctuary? For the magical land of lovely, they’re actually kind of creepy. Mind you, so are the fairies who meld into the flesh of animals and control them like puppets, even if you don’t stop to realise that they were guiding poor Atax II into the Swamp of Sadness.
  • Stewart’s final expression? Seriously, is she trying to look like a woman who has just figured out that power is fun? When she looks in the mirror a scene earlier, is she supposed to be being tempted? Is this a downer ending? Actually, that might be much better…
  • The source of Queen Ravenna’s power? Is it youth? Beauty? She talks about stealing youth, but the Amazon village scar their daughters to protect them and it seems to have worked.
  • The whole ‘she is life’ bit? Whatever became of the faeries after that?
  • The glass warriors? This would make way more sense if the mirror were glass instead of burnished bronze.
  • Snow White’s inspirational speech? The whole thing is basically a meaningless jumble of words and trite aphorisms which sounds like the kind of thing someone might offer as an inspirational speech if they were really, really high. I like to imagine that the word ‘like’ or ‘man’ is inserted into every sentence.
  • Geography and travel in this land? It takes days to get Snow to Duke Hammond’s castle, but William can apparently flit across the land as if by magic.


Production values – I can’t take this one away from them, it is pretty beautiful. 5
Dialogue and performances –  Note for future reference: Kristen Stewart should not be given inspiring speeches, and Charlize Theron needs to turn it down a notch. The rest turn in solid performances, but the script is doing them no favours. 14
Plot and execution – Convoluted, weighed down with symbolic scenes which have no pay-off or purpose beyond being there, the plot is also heavily dependent on expounded backstory rather than what we actually see on the screen. 17
Randomness – Random Amazons, random faeries, random dwarfish poo jokes. 15
Waste of potential – So much money, so much talent, so much waste! Lighten up, for crying out loud; it’s a fairy tale picture16

Overall 67%

Treasure Guards (2011)


“Three lost souls. Two lost treasures. One huge adventure.”

Directed by Iain B. MacDonald
Starring Anna Friel, Raoul Bova, Volker Bruch

Hunky ex-priest Angelo (Bova) is part of a secret organisation within the Vatican that protects relics which have been “touched by God.” His brother, Luca (Bruch) is a scoundrelly art forger and ne’er-do-well. Archaeologist Victoria Carter (Friel) is searching for relics and running out of money.  When she discovers the possible location of the Seal of Solomon — and, by implication, Solomon’s diamond mine — she reluctantly joins forces with the bickering brothers to track it down, cooperating or competing with her archaeologist father all the while.

What’s wrong with it?

Obviously, the premise is ludicrous and the plot is simultaneously contrived and uninteresting. The male leads could be anybody — generically good-looking, moderately competent. If Angelo had said “I smoulder with generic rage,” I wouldn’t have been surprised.

The whole thing has that sort of general air of bland, made-in-Europe TV-movie inadequacy about it.

What’s right with it?

It knows what it’s about. The first five minutes of this thing have a heist, a fight, a chase, a secret conspiracy base, gratuitous nudity and a speedboat getaway.

How bad is it really?

It’s not terrible — it’s just completely and inexplicably unnecessary.

Best bit (if such there is)?

Probably the beginning, which promises a rollicking old-fashioned adventure. Sadly, there winds up being a lot of guff about Victoria and her dad that is just 100% stock, the same as every other damn movie that feels like its characters need some kind of personal conflict to make them interesting.

What’s up with…?

  • The Vatican having a top secret base for its Treasure Guards, and Angelo just showing Victoria right in as soon as they decide to be chums with her?
  • Victoria trying to persuade the church to help by focusing on how this is, you know, a relic, the thing they’re supposed to be preserving, and them just blowing her off, but when she mentions that there’s a crapload of money in it, them changing their minds? That is a pretty cynical view for a film in which the church are supposed to be the good guys.
  • Angelo’s dart gun? I am pretty sure that if you put four tranq darts in a dude, he doesn’t just sleep four times as long.
  • The filmmakers expecting the audience to get more excited about a bunch of money than a mythic artefact?


Production values: Not bad, in a TV kind of way. Lots of sand and some fights – 12.
Dialogue and performances: Anna Friel is pretty good, but she doesn’t have much to work with. Everybody else is just exactly OK – 12.
Plot and execution: “Derivative” would be softening the blow – 14.
Randomness: Predictable is the opposite of random, right? – 13.
Waste of potential : It’s a knock-off TV movie – 12.

Overall 63%