Saturday, August 3, 2013

SyFy vs. The Mynd: Ba'al - The Storm God (2008)

Technically, archaeologist Lee (Jeremy London) and ancient Sumerian translator Carol (Stefanie von Pfetten) are sent by their museum to check what the heck elderly archaeologist and Lee's former mentor Doctor Stanford (Scott Hylands) is doing at his dig in the (muddiest, warmest part of) the arctic circle. However, they soon find themselves involved in Stanford's hunt for four Sumerian amulets hidden all around the world (those Sumerians really travelled far) that are supposed to awaken the storm god Ba'al.

Unfortunately, even the excavation - or what the obsessed Stanford calls an excavation - of the first amulet is already enough to produce a supernaturally nasty storm - with a face - that ravages whichever part of the planet it touches. Further amulets will probably make the thing strong enough to destroy the Earth, or something. It takes quite some time until our heroes realize that Stanford is a raving lunatic, the kind of guy willing to risk destroying the world, rob his own museum and blame Lee for it, and rant whenever possible if it gives him a chance to cure the cancer he's dying from. Once they get it, it's time for a race around a world whose every country looks surprisingly like British Columbia.

Apart from Lee's and Carol's efforts, the storm squad of the US military and rogue meteorologist Doctor Pena (Lexa Doig) are also rather interested in the whole affair, what with super storms destroying the planet and all; there may be h-bombs in Baal's future.

Needless to say, the script for Paul Ziller's Ba'al is of glorious stupidity, mixing half-digested bits of archaeological lore, cultures that have fuck all to do with each other, ley lines, bad meteorology, illogical character motivation and all kinds of weird crap into a cocktail of sheer implausibility.

Also needless to say, the resulting film is highly entertaining in its overwhelming drive to be a low rent pseudo-archaeological adventure movie taking place all around the world while visibly never leaving Canada, and a low rent disaster movie at the same time, providing its audience with double the silly pseudo science, random chases, and a storm with glowing red eyes. Like nearly all films directed (and co-written) by Ziller, Ba'al is exceedingly well paced, which is to say, barely stops for a one minute breather before the next stupidly awesome thing happens, and always goes out of its way to provide as much thrills (in the classic and in the Bollywood sense of the term) as its budget can provide.

Ba'al may be stupid (and I'm hopeful everyone involved realizes that) but it sure as hell isn't letting itself get away with wasting time on winking at its audience, or being ashamed of its nature as contemporary pulp entertainment - that's after all time better spent on having Doig mumble outrageous stuff about super storms fed by the Van Allen Belt or have London and von Pfetten solve utterly idiotic "archaeological riddles".

I'm always astonished by the tenaciousness with which the better SyFy (in particular the ones directed by Ziller) movies actively work at being as fun as they can be, when really, they could get away with just putting any old crap on screen, something the bad SyFy movies of course do (I'm looking at you, Arachnoquake). That's probably not the spirit of art, but surely the spirit of the kind of low budget filmmaking that does care about its audience.

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