Thursday, July 20, 2017

Review: Badass Monster Killer

Text © Richard Gary / Indie Horror Films, 2017
Images from the Internet

Badass Monster Killer
Written and directed by Darin Wood
TFO Productions / Wildeye Releasing / MVD Video
96 minutes, 2015 / 2017

After watching this enjoyable spoof/nod to the exploitation / Blaxploitation / sexploitation genres, I had an interesting discussion with a friend while I was trying to explain the basic premise to someone who (a) has not seen the film, and (b) not really into the styles it’s based upon. He said that if a film is purposefully over-the-top, then it loses its association with others that are unintentionally so-bad-they’re-good. My response was that it depends on the attitude of the secondary feature. If it is trying too hard to the point of where it becomes something else, and it becomes so-bad-its-bad, yes, I agree. This is true of films like A Haunted House [2013], or the likes of Vampires Suck [2010]. But there is a fine line where it works, such as Richard Griffin’s Seven Dorms of Death [2016], or this one.

This picture is from the director whose last release was The Planet of the Vampire Women [2011], which was a nod to ‘50s sci-fi (e.g., Queen of Outer Space in 1958) mixed with ‘70s sex sci-fi (such as Spaced Out in 1979). Now, he’s delved a bit deeper, and come up with a fine mashup that is both head scratching WTF? and laugh-out-loud Say What? As I proceed through the review, I will delve a bit into its references.

Amelia Belle and Jawara Duncan
The basic premise revolves around a hyper-cool brother who is a police officer for the Department of Supernatural Security named Jimmy Chevelle (Jawara Duncan). Did I mention this takes place in Camarotown? Anyway, along the way he meets women who fall for him and become sort of an army. Most reviews claim this is based on the Blaxploitation style of Shaft [1971]; early on, we even see the Loveshaft Hotel in the background. To be fair, this could also be a reference to H.P. Lovecraft, as this takes place in his mythos with references to Cthulhu and the Great Old Ones. Or, this is strange enough that the hotel name actually be a cross between both. But more than Shaft, I would posit that it’s closer to Dolemite [1975], and the better for it.

His subject of investigation is a sect that wants to bring back said Great Old Ones via weed that makes you susceptible to them (a motif also used in Todd Sheet’s Dreaming Purple Neon). Heading this group of miscreants is Reverend Dellamorte (Ryan Cicak), a goateed white guy with a thick southern accent – fighting the black guy…get it? – and wearing what I think is a full-length, sleeveless black leather dress. Now, to be fair, his gang of goof-ups include Latinos and African-Americans, so I’m not sure if my mind is interpreting more than I’m seeing. Still, it works for me, even with that inconsistency.

The dialog is hysterical, and occasionally repetitious, in a running gag form (Wood did a similar thing, also successfully, in his previous film around the term “vampire”). The word diabolical, for example, may be in every other sentence. Duncan is really good at spitting out strings of script in an amusing way, making it not feel repetitive as much as humorous. For example, every time he meets a woman who is in danger, he says to her, “Take it easy baby, I’ve got everything under control. Listen ‘cause I’m only gonna say this once: I work for a very top secret branch of the government that exists to do battle with supernatural, diabolical forces that most people don’t even know exist. Now, if you’re cool with that, later maybe you and me can get it together, but right now I got business.” This inevitably leads to a kiss between them before he fights whatever is the threat.

There is a lot of good writing and fine Dolemite-like moments. For example, when some guy is in the street screaming hysterically, Chevelle snarks to him, “What the fuck is the matter with you? Hunh? I’m in there trying to come up with the plan of how to keep the Earth from being enslaved by fucked up creatures from beyond and shit. How’s a brother supposed to concentrate with you out here screaming like a bitch!? Don’t make me beat yo ass!”

In case you’re wondering, I’m actually not giving away too much because there are a lot quotes that could be used as examples.

Another incorrect comparison, in my opinion, is to the film Sin City [2005], since nearly all of Badass is shot in green screen (other than two solid sets), with all the buildings and other objects leaning towards the center. This is more reminiscent of the work of Jimmy ScreamerClauz. If I may digress for a sec, check out some of the signs in the background for a laugh, such as Arkham Sam’s Liquors. So, back to the background art: I can understand the comparison, but it doesn’t hold up for me. Sin City was like a comic book, while this is more cartoon. Okay, another way to phrase it might be the latter is more Wally Wood, while this is more Basil Worthington. Both films take place in a world that couldn’t exist in real life, but SC went for more realism; BMK isn’t interested in any form of reality, it’s nearly surrealistic.

Which brings me to the monsters. Each one looks fake as can be, with cheesy digi-art or rubber limbs when they interact with the actors. They also look silly, again like something from the mind of Worthington. But in this context, they are fun to watch, like bad stop-motion. I mean, they’re right up there with the creatures from The Giant Claw (1957) or From Hell It Came (also ’57). In this completely produced and processed world, I thought the monsters were smile-worthy rather than cringe-.

As for the music by Phillip Baldwin, it’s a nice mix of funk and ‘70s porno chic-a-wah-wah, but if you listen carefully, the lyrics are exactly matching what is happening on the screen. It’s hysterical and incredibly well done.

One might expect – and one would be right – that the acting is a tad over the top. And again, it works here. It’s not so broad that it becomes as cartoonish as the backdrop, but it’s definitely what I call the John-Lithgow-on-a-sitcom level. As I said, Duncan is perfect in the role, able to handle both the smolder and the sass (and afro) to just the right tone for the film. Sometimes Cicak is a bit too Snidely Whiplash, but I understand it. I was almost expecting him to literally say, “Mwah-ha-ha!”

Most of the cast is female (not a complaint), though a majority seem to be strippers, hookers, a crime boss named Lola Maldonado (Amelia Belle; Maldonado is also a surname used in his previous film), and cops. For me, a standout was the Liz Clare, who has done some strong work in other productions, as well.

The Army of Foxes
A chunk of the action takes place in a strip joint, and even beyond that there is dancing, lots and lots of go-go style dancing. You see a street? There are women dancing in the shot. As overtly macho as the men are, most of the women need to be rescued until Chevelle trains them into an army of “foxes” (one black, one Latina, one white). Other than Chevelle’s boss, an exception is Maldonado, who is strong and smoldering from the beginning, but still has trouble resisting Chevelle’s funk-a-wonk-a-wong-wong mojo. This theme does feel a bit like Sin City to be honest.

The first extra is a 6:23 Deleted Scenes that were rightfully taken out, though most of it is related to the infected pot theme that doesn’t go anywhere in the story anyway. However, it is interesting to see the green screen sets to realize how much work went into the background. This is followed by a 14:40 onstage Q&A at a showing during the H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival. It consists of a few of the crew, including Wood, and some of the cast, specifically Duncan and Cicak. The sound is kinda fuzzy, seemingly recorded on a cell phone, so it picks up the fuzz from ambient room echo. Still, the info given is worth the listen. The last two extras are versions of the trailer.

I have no idea of H.P. Lovecraft had a sense of humor, but if he did, he would have gotten a hoot outta this, especially the battle of good vs. evil at the conclusion. How long this review is just an indication of how much I enjoyed it.


  1. Thanks for the kind words, Richard. Glad you enjoyed the film!

  2. And thank you for making such an enjoyable Film, Darin!