Sometimes a movie is so bad...it makes MANOS look like a "fun project." Seriously.
I've seen MANOS, BEAST OF YUCCA FLATS, SANTA CLAUS CONQUERS THE MARTIANS, PLAN 9 and host of other "Worst movies ever" examples. This one ranks up there, and I'll get to why in a moment.
First, though, I'm struggling to 'score' this one. While watching it, I asked my family if I could give a negative score. -2 or so seemed to fit pretty good. But then something strange happened; I found we were laughing a lot. I think our laughter was born of a defense mechanism.
The problem with this one is the score is going to reflect the taste and attitude of the scorer rather than the movie itself much more than usual. On its own merits, the film merits one of Andrew's "Skulls" if there ever was one. It *is* that bad.
But, if one can laugh so much, if there is so much to riff on, if the experience transcends the movie, is it *really* a "Skull?" I want to call it 2 out of 5, but with the caveat that score is ONLY for true movie buffs that LIKE really bad movies. Maybe 1.5, even for bad movie buffs.
Let me set the stage. We don't have "unrealistic expectations" of bad disaster flicks. In the past few weeks, we've watched a number of them...actually, we have multiple viewings of some of the ones shown below. We OWN one of them (I'm not saying which
). My children have decided they really like this genre, and they OFTEN request this genre when we ask "What are you in the mood for?" Some examples of our more recent viewings:
ICETASTROPHE (2014) (aka CHRISTMAS ICETASTROPHE)
ICE QUAKE (2010)
What do all these have in common?
Very poorly done visual effects, very cheezy dialog, ridiculous stories, nonsensical technobabble, questionable acting, questionable direction, plot holes, continuity errors and more to make an IMDB "Goofs" aficionado go to town.
But, there is one positive thing they all have, and it shines through the murk: Someone cared. Someone
cared enough about the film project to have fun
while making the film.
I would argue that even Warren cared "some" while making MANOS, and that gives MANOS an 'edge' over DISASTER WARS.
It is clear no one involved in this projected cared one iota about what they were doing. It has the same craptastic visual effects, STUPID story (premise and arc), plot holes, continuity errors and poor dialog/acting/directing that the above examples have...but it multiplies the effect
of those flaws with a lack of "love."
This film plays like it was a burden to those involved in it. They just did NOT care...and it shows.
"Good" or even "just watchable" is not about budget, either. BLAIR WITCH was shot for less than half of this film's nearly $200,000 budget, and was in the same ball park when marketing and such was added in. TiMER was an excellent "low budget" film (though I could not pin down an actual budget). How about CLERKS or NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD? The list of "low budget" or even MICRO budget films that succeed in some way, even a small way, is long.
So, this film's failure cannot be blamed on the production budget. I rarely buy the budget argument anyway. Even cheap visual effects, for example, don't completely destroy a film if the actors are having fun.
This is the fundamental problem with this film...no one seemed to care at all
. Here's a short, sample only, list of things that show this:
It's not that the acting was wooden or even inept. It was that it was ... not acting. Scenes with multiple characters had one character talking and the rest just looking around ... sitting or standing looking bored.
They may have been TRYING to go for the "look around" technique of showing concern / suspense building (that we see a LOT in movies of this sub-genre, and it can be quite funny), but even at that they failed miserably. Maybe these folks can act, but they did not show it here. Not even Joe Esteves lived up to the word "acting" in this, and we had just come off an MST3K viewing of WEREWOLF about a week ago to set up our excitement when we saw him on screen.
This movie is like the anti-continuity. Really. It is THAT bad.
Continuity errors are a bit of fun for me, but mostly because they are rare enough that they are the 'flaw' that makes a work look "real" in the artistic sense. It reminds me that movie makers are jobbers and not magicians. Continuity errors can be aggravating, but they are also part of the fun of movie watching.
But in DISASTER WARS, the whole thing is one constant continuity error because the footage appears cobbled together in a manner that suggests no one even knew "continuity" in a film is a thing. It is just baseless.
(a) Props changing from one pocket to another in a character's jacket
(b) The character's jacket itself changing!
(c) Two shot of one character talking to another, then cut to four shot of ensemble and BOOM those two characters not even looking at each other!
(Again, this sort of thing happens a lot in movies, but not THROUGHOUT THE ENTIRE MOVIE. I can't recall one single cut in this film that did NOT involve something like this).
(d) The sailboat...long shots, sails up, the boat sailing. Close ups, the sails rolled on the boom with sail covers on, the boat not moving and certainly no one sailing it. By way of analogy, imagine a scene where a car is shown in a long shot zooming along a mountain road, but the interior shots of the characters talking show them in the back seat, facing each other talking with OBVIOUSLY no movement at all to the car...then another long shot showing the car is still zooming along the road. Just Lame.
(e) Okay, I'll stop there...suffice it to say this whole film was just shot and clips stuck together without even looking at them. Maybe everything was done in one take and they didn't have a choice? (If that's the case, handle the continuity during shooting, for crying out loud).
(3) Story / Plot
Just Bad. Like really, really bad. Even within sub-genre, this was crap.
I'm only going to give one example here. I could go on about the "physics" of this movie, but I won't. Sometimes the "physics" they come up with for movies like this is part of the fun.
No, the example I give is this little gem:
Girl driving car (supposedly evacuating to escape the storm) has car trouble. She's in L-Freaking-A, and no one is around. She gets out, pops the hood, stares at the engine for 10 seconds, closes the hood and is approached by...a hood. A "really bad dood" that plans to kidnap/rape her. She manages to fight him off, get in the car and drive away.
Yes...repairs of modern engines ONLY take looking at the engine for 10 seconds!
What genius writing.
All this 'scene' served to show, I THINK, was that this character was not weak. But, this never paid off. She was subsequently attacked AGAIN, LATER, and she had to be rescued.
When four characters sit in chairs arranged in a square with a few techy looking props spouting technobabble nonsense stands in for a crew in a deep water submersible, you've got a problem with planning and executing your film.
At least Ed Wood TRIED to make the plane cockpit in PLAN 9 look like a plane cockpit.
(5) Time Wasting
This movie is listed at a running time of 85 minutes. Easily 20 minutes, probably more than that, is completely wasted on establishing shots and a way overdone countdown to the arrival of the tsunami...countdown done in "T-Minus" text card complete with keyboard typing sounds.
It's not that establishing shots are 'bad;' of course they aren't. But, do we REALLY need a 5 second shot on an empty dumpster to "establish" that we are in an alley before the above mentioned girl-in-car-breaking-down rolls in-camera?
That's probably the least egregious example. We were treated to the same shot of the "door to the top secret military bunker" to establish that the next scene was taking place inside the top secret military bunker (which should have been kind of obvious after the first time) so many times I quit counting.
How about pointless aerial shots of residential neighborhoods...that go on far too long, and are repeated numerous times?
So, in the end, my apologies to director David Palmieri and the rest of the crew. I really dislike the idea of "criticizing" a beloved project. But this thing is a trainwreck NOT because the execution fell short in a few nitpickey areas; it's a mess because NOTHING went into it.
Palmieri has some respectable credits on his IMDB page...as crew. This was not his first turn as director, either.
It is just mind boggling to me how a project like this gets thrown together. There are so many actors, directors, editors, animators, CGI artists, production designers, writers, etc, etc that WANT to work, that LOVE their work, that are WILLING to work (to start at least, to get experience) in the low budget arena that I just find it hard to believe that one film could consolidate SO much apathy.
If the "love" you put into your film compares unfavorably with Harold Warren, it's time for some serious introspection.