Sunday, June 30, 2013

Light Blast (1985)

Original title: Colpi di luce

Beautiful San Francisco is in trouble! Mad scientist Professor Soboda (director Enzo G. Castellari's brother Ennio Girolami) wants astounding amounts of money, or else, he will destroy the city - and he has the face-melting death ray and henchpeople to do it. Later, in his mandatory speech about his further plans, the good Professor will cast his blackmail attempt as only the first step in a highly optimistic plan for world domination.

Alas or fortunately, between Soboda and a lot of money (and later: the world!) stand two of San Francisco's finest policemen, Inspector Ronn Warren (Erik Estrada) and his partner Inspector Swann (Michael Pritchard) of the stupid hat. Ronn, with his ability to commandeer improbable and fast vehicles at the drop of a hat, his tough guy habits and his librarian wife/girlfriend (Peggy Rowe) is just the right man to chase, shoot, and punch his way to the safety of his hometown. Why, he'll even be doing a bit of investigating between the violence! However, even a manly man like Ronn might just not be able to get to his enemy before Things Get Personal™.

1985 sees Light Blast's director, the wonderful Enzo G. Castellari right at the end of the awesome phases of his career, before he stepped into the arena of desperately bad TV (believe you me, those Bud Spencer TV movies are even more painful when you think about the actual potential of the man directing them), but when already so little money came his way, even a man who never had high budgets to work with must have felt rather dispirited.

However, what Castellari still and always had was a great eye for pacing, for the visual and emotional rhythms of action cinema, an ability to use a silly set-up (Light Blast's final chase must be seen to be believed in this context) and just run with it. If you're like me, willing to accept the whole death ray business, and able to ignore that Estrada's chase and shooting actions generally put as many people into danger as they may save, then the experience of watching Light Blast is the movie equivalent of sinking in your comfiest of comfy chairs - at least, if your comfy chairs have a propensity to explode - or cuddling up to a lovely yet possibly dangerous and clearly mad kitten.

Apart from driving me into the arms of dubious metaphors, Castellari has two secret weapons, one of them obvious to anyone who has seen masterpieces like Warriors of the Wastelands, the other one quite particular to Light Blast. The latter secret weapon is - perhaps a bit surprisingly - Erik Estrada. Now, Estrada is clearly not on the acting level of other male leads Castellari worked with in the past, but then, we are talking about people like Franco Nero here, and Light Blast isn't really as subtextually complex as some of those films, so all Estrada needs to bring to the table is natural charisma and a believable physique for the fights. Both are things Estrada brings in spades; when it's needed, he's even helping the film's sillier moments (and boy, do they get silly) out with a bit of dignity.

Of course, and that's the not so secret weapon in Castellari's arsenal, the director's 80s work always showed a particular hand for taking the silly and turning it into the sublimely awesome. Case in point (and absolutely not the only example in the movie) is Ronn's introduction and declaration of badassitude. In that scene, our hero solves a hostage situation the old-fashioned way, by undressing down to his underpants and shooting a guy with a gun hidden inside a turkey. Wonderfully, both Castellari and Estrada play the scene perfectly straight, as if that sort of thing were a perfectly natural part of police work and reality.

Light Blast is full of this sort of thing, scenes which should be complete, probably even annoying, nonsense but that turn out exciting and delightful (in a bad face-melting special effect sort of way) through the sheer conviction of everyone involved.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

In short: Running Red (1999)

Russian special ops soldier Gregori (Jeff Speakman) retires after a job that leaves his brother dead and an innocent child killed by his superior Alexi (Stanley Kamel). Eleven years later, Gregori has become Greg, some sort of American business person, happily married to Katherine (Angie Everhart), with one daughter, Amanda (Cassie Ray).

Unfortunately, Greg has never bothered to tell his wife anything about his past, an omission that makes it that much easier for his past to come back to him with a vengeance. Alexi and his associate Strelkin (Elya Baskin) are involved in some rather shady deals surrounding an American Football stadium (oh the irony!), and they really need somebody to kill a few people for them. Greg (who, we are repeatedly and helpfully informed, "is the best") is the ideal candidate for that kind of job. And my, wouldn't it be sad if anyone told his wife about his past, or, once things escalate, if something happened to that fine family of his? At least, Alexi does sweeten the deal for Greg with the identity of the person he wants dead: Mercier (Bart Braverman) just happens to be the man who killed Greg's brother, so there shouldn't be too many conscience problems for our hero.

Of course, things become problematic quickly.

Jerry P. Jacobs's Running Red is as fine an example of US direct to DVD action filmmaking as you'll probably find, with nary a flaw disturbing the series of bus chases, shoot-outs and scenes of Jeff Speakman kicking ass.

Of course, if you're very deeply into logically sound plots, Running Red won't make you happy, even though it's actually one of the better motivated direct to DVD actioners I know. Well, Greg's actions do at least make sense; it's a bit doubtful why Alexi doesn't just hire a professional killer for the job and be done with it without going to the trouble of making "the best" very angry at him, something that never works out too well in action movies.

But really, that sort of thing isn't too important in this kind of movie. What's important is that Jeff Speakman has enough motivation to go through an escalating series of cheap yet well-staged action sequences, the audience has enough motivation to cheer for him (and what's easier to relate to - and more caveman simplistic - than a guy protecting his family from problems that are completely his own fault?), that people are pretend-shot, and something exciting happens at least every second scene. Running Red is a movie really good at that important stuff; in fact, from time to time it's downright riveting.

As an added bonus, Jacobs also has a bit of fun with the concept of Being American, rather sarcastically declaring both Alexi's criminal enterprises and Greg's conservative family life to be expressions of the American Dream. Give me that and scenes of Speakman kicking and shooting people, and I'm happy.

 

Thursday, June 27, 2013

In short: The Anderson Tapes (1971)

aka The Anderson Clan

Professional thief Duke Anderson (Sean Connery) is being released from prison after a ten-year-stint that has left him wanting to make one last big score so he can finally retire. Duke finds a place to rob quickly enough: he wants to plunder every single apartment in the luxury building his former and now again girlfriend Ingrid (Dyan Cannon) lives in. Duke gets together a merry band of thieves consisting of old friends like the gay antique show owner Tommy Haskins (Martin Balsam), as well as a prison acquaintance only known as The Kid (a young Christopher Walken in his first major cinema role), and some fresh professionals. He does, however, need money and organisational help for the job, so Duke also puts his old mobster contacts into play. The help of bipolar mafioso Angelo (Alan King) has its price beyond the monetary, though, and Duke has to grudgingly agree to take a certain Socks (Ralph Meeker) - a guy too violent even for the tastes of organized crime - on and kill him when the heist is done. Of course, the heist always goes wrong anyway.

Despite my general dislike for that sort of thing, I think the best films by Sidney Lumet are those with a clear and consequent thesis holding the director's disparate impulses in check. The Anderson Tapes lacks that kind of throughline - I'm quite sure it's meant as some kind of comment on the ubiquitousness of surveillance and/or the vagaries of technology, but this aspect of the film seems vague and underdeveloped. The film shows a lot of scenes of Anderson being secretly filmed while crossing the paths of people government organizations are actually interested in, but that aspect is neither actually explored nor used in the plot beyond a last minute plot development that has nothing whatsoever to do with government surveillance, so it really feels like a wasted chance at actually taking a look at what permanent surveillance might mean.

What's left is a rather disparate film whose tone permanently meanders between hard-nosed realism, unfunny humour, and Lumet's customary sense for the absurd without ever either deciding on a tone or managing to make its tonal shifts feel organic. Consequently, The Anderson Tapes feels a bit disjointed and episodic, as if we were actually watching scenes from three or four different movies that just happen to share an acting ensemble and a basic plot. Viewed on their own, many of these scenes are actually as effective as one would expect from Lumet, full of small telling gestures, straight-faced weirdness, and fine acting that completely lacks showiness. However, these separate moments of accomplishment and interest never come together to build an actual whole, leaving The Anderson Tapes as a series of scenes which surely are worth seeing, but not as an effective movie.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

SyFy vs The Mynd: Sands of Oblivion (2007)

Professor of archaeology Alice Carter (Morena Baccarin) is attempting to dig out and rescue the Egyptian sets for Cecil B. DeMille's (Dan Castellaneta) The Ten Commandments at the Guadalupe Dunes, before they will be washed away in an oil industry related high tide.

Alice finds the sets only thanks to John Tevis (George Kennedy in what amounts to a very fun cameo role) and his ex-soldier son Mark (Victor Webster) who are looking for a time capsule John buried when he was at the set as the child of one of DeMille's more adventurous location scouts, for she and her students have been digging at the wrong place all the time. Alas, John and Mark also awaken a powerful jackal mummy thing (whose identity is for no good reason at all explained in an absolutely useless and ugly pre-credits sequence by a different director) that kills John. That's the sort of thing that happens when you use real Egyptian artefacts in your movie sets.

Mark - who has been exchanging flirty looks with Alice all this time - hires on to the dig as logistics expert. Alice's ex-husband Jesse (Adam Baldwin), also an archaeologist, comes in too - to help, massage his own ego, and to have a preening competition with Mark.

Of course, now that it has been awakened, the Anubis-shaped creature starts terrorizing the dig, killing people in various creative ways. It's up to Alice, Mark and Jesse to get rid of the monster they freed.

Now, if you've made a movie whose basic idea is as wonderful as Sands of Oblivion's - seriously, a jackal mummy thing and biblical-style phenomena haunting the set of DeMille's Ten Commandments!? - that also happens to feature two Firefly alumni in form of the always charming Morena Baccarin and the always charming in a somewhat different way Adam Baldwin, you really have to take incredibly large missteps to get on my bad side; you have after all just produced R'lyeh-nip. The whole haunted movie set idea, and the cleverness to use Guadalupe as Egypt stand-in for a mummy curse movie alone are enough to keep David Flores's movie from being a standard SyFy (well, at that point in time still Sci-Fi, but hey) monster bash, particularly since the film's first acts actually get quite a bit of mileage out of these ideas.

Unless you expect the film to be a deeper study of old Hollywood as a place that made myths of its own just as durable and magical as that of old Egyptian culture; as it stands, Sands of Oblivion is not that kind of film, but rather one that uses haunted Hollywood as a way to develop a more personal and individual feel than is typical of TV monster mashes. I'm perfectly alright with this - not every movie needs to dig deep (sorry), and the way the film treats its core concept as a way to charm its audience for most of its running time is more than enough for me.

Much more problematic is that the film - up until that point not exactly subtle but clearly sane - devolves into a very typical SyFy cheese fest for its final act, with a dune buggy chase, Adam Baldwin doing a pizza-faced Renfield, a comic relief gun nut redneck, and Mark fighting living wall paintings. The change from the bloodier version of classic horror the film's earlier stages indulge in to that sort of thing is a bit grating. I would certainly have preferred if the film had kept to that earlier style. On the other hand, the cheese at hand is very tasty, so it's not as if Sand of Oblivion's final act weren't entertaining.

The other surprise beside the film's curious change in tone is that our chief monster isn't a digital concoction, but - in its jackal mummy form - rather what looks like a mix of suitmation and mechanical puppetry to me. It's a pretty great monster design, even though fans of naturalistic special effects will be just as unhappy with it as if it were a digital creature, for realism - whatever the word means when describing jackal headed mummies - does live elsewhere. The digital effects for their part are really rather good, and are, like the sets of the remnants of the old movie sets, made with an eye for the moody detail, something that's generally much more important to me than the effects looking believable.

So, despite my misgivings about Sands of Oblivion's final act, and that unnecessary pre-credit sequence taking place in Ancient Egypt I can really recommend fast-forwarding through, it turned out to be a particular favourite of mine among SyFy/Sci-Fi Original movies. The power of Cecil B. DeMille compels me.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Three Films Make A Post: WHITE WOMAN VERSUS DEADLY PYTHON!

El Gringo (2012): I really wish people would stop making these pseudo-Tarantino movies - or perhaps pseudo-Robert-Rodriguez movies in this case - if they don't have the talent or the intelligence to make them work (of course, if they had, they'd do more than just try to ape other directors). El Gringo wastes a perfectly able Scott Adkins, and two or three decent ideas on an execution that suggests the production being dominated by a couple of twelve year old boys with never a moment that doesn't look as if the actors were playing dress-up, which fits a movie that tries and fails to sell Bulgaria as Mexico without doing more than putting some rickety sets up and turning the colours to "bleached and yellowish".

Plus, it just isn't funny at all.

The Man From Nowhere (2010): As far as films in the "depressed former government killers go on a killing rampage to free someone kidnapped"/save the babies movies go, I'm not too impressed with Lee Jeong-beom's effort. An at its core simple tale is bloated by much unneeded exposition, and long careful scenes that spend way more time with cops and bad guys than the film's actual plot would need turn the film's pace to a crawl. Worse, these additions never actually add much of substance to the film beyond taking up time, for the characters here are exactly who you expect them to be and will do exactly what you expect of them anyway. As it stands, the movie lacks either depth or speed, either of which would have been enough to make it interesting.

Citadel (2012): This one, I expected to enjoy quite a bit more than I actually did. A clever little low budget film about urban decay with a male lead that is as ineffectual as possible should be right up my alley, after all. And really, director/writer Ciaran Foy does have a hand for the staging of threatening situations and knows how to use a handful of locations for the best. However, I never really warmed to to the movie thanks to my annoyance at various basics of the script: every mistake protagonist Tommy (played by Aneurin Barnard with lots of wide-eyed gasping) makes seems to be attributed to his agoraphobia, which is portrayed in a way that puts the emphasis on plot convenience, as if his anxiety disorder (and believe me, I know about those) weren't so much the aftereffect of heavy trauma but the only way the script could work. Obviously, it's not a good thing when the audience realizes this. I'm also quite unhappy with the absence of any form of authority beyond a priest in the movie. I know, thematically this makes a lot of sense, and cops don't visit the poor part of town all that often but once a horde of hooded demon children regularly runs amok somewhere, you'd expect a certain degree of interest even from them.

In the big picture, these things shouldn't be enough to ruin a horror film for me (I have enjoyed films with much less internal logic) but watching Citadel, I found myself rolling my eyes at the movie more often than not. Perhaps being halfway to a poverty porn horror movie and halfway to something more interesting is not far enough in either direction.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

SyFy vs. The Mynd: Ogre (2008)

Some time in the first half of the 19th Century (or the late 18th, as the film's not forthcoming or, one suspects, doesn't actually know the difference), a small town in some American woods that look disturbingly like British Columbia is beset by a terrible plague. The townsfolk are so desperate, they agree to a dark plan of their local magus (I'll have you know in the olden times every village had its own magus but curiously, no priest) Bartlett Henry (John Schneider) to keep away the plague. After having been made magistrate, Bartlett casts out all of the town's illness, which then concentrates itself into a horrible monster, an ogre.

The ogre is a ravaging beast by nature and has to be kept away from the town by the yearly sacrifice of one of the townsfolk's own. On the plus side, those people who aren't sacrificed will never get ill, don't age, and don't have to think about contraception anymore either - it's all part of the spell. The townsfolk also aren't able to cross the town limits and live anymore, but everything has his drawbacks.

In the now of 2008, a quartet of hikers (among them Ryan Kennedy and Katharine Isabelle in a performance so dreadful and annoying I really didn't think she had in her) in search of the rumoured and lost town stumble upon the charming little place that hasn't changed at all in the last centuries (except for the sacrifice-shrunk population, of course). Their arrival signals the beginning of a change. Those among the townsfolk who disapprove of the whole immortality and sacrifice culture - among them Henry's own daughter Hope (Chelan Simmons) - finally decide to stop whining and do something about their situation. Clearly, that's not a thing ogre and magi approve of.

As is obvious, Steven R. Monroe's Ogre belongs to the group of SyFy Channel productions that attempt to change up the whole monster mash formula by adding monsters to some ideas borrowed from other movies (in this case, The Village without the crap twist-ending nonsense of our buddy M. Night), closing their eyes and hoping for the best.

That technique works well enough in this particular case. While the matter-of-fact presence of a magus in a rather normal village and some of the plot's other basics are of course quite silly, the movie really isn't a bad example of that well-worn narrative in which an isolated group of people first makes one horrible decision and afterwards can't face up to what they've down well enough to change their situation until some strangers demonstrate courage in the face of adversity to them. It's nothing new, but the minimalist set-up works quite well for that very traditional story as seen in many a Western (just without the ogre). I think the film goes for the archetypal here, even though I know well enough that the plot's simplicity is a result of Ogre's low budget.

Monroe's direction is often atmospheric, particularly if you've grown up with American TV shows filmed in British Columbia, and can't get enough of that wet autumn look. There are, alas, some very obvious continuity gaffes and - particularly during the first act - some rough editing that don't fit into the picture of Monroe's general technical competence and Tom Harting's fine cinematography at all. Ogre's other problems are often weak dialogue - particularly in the villagers' unconvincing olden time speak the modern characters ill-advisedly even make fun of, and in every fucking word Isabelle says - and one of SyFy's shittier CGI monsters. On paper, it's a funny enough idea to use an ogre designed to look like an evil, brown Shrek, but in practice, the thing looks particularly unthreatening even as part of a series of TV movies that often seems to go out of their way to not let their monsters look threatening at all.

Yet still, despite the clear and obvious problems, Ogre is a worthwhile little movie, making up for everything that's wrong with it with Monroe's ability to tell a simple, decidedly not stupid, story in the simple, decidedly not stupid way that befits it.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

In short: Felony (1994)

A D.E.A. raid on a supposed drug house in New Orleans goes horribly wrong, and a good dozen of cops is blasted to high heaven by chewing-gum fan Cooper (David Warner) and his well-armed goons. Cooper is a rogue CIA operative who, together with his boss Taft (Lance Henriksen), has gone into the drug business to acquire enough money to free some operatives imprisoned in some unnamed South American country.

Unfortunately for Cooper and Taft, Cooper's rather impolitic slaughter has been filmed by TV reporter Bill Knight (Jeffrey Combs) and his Vietnam vet hippie buddy Robby (Patrick J. Gallagher). Bill, clearly not the brightest bulb in any chandelier, decides to not give the resulting video tape to the cops investigating the affair, Detectives Kincade (Leo Rossi) and Duke (Charles Napier).

This turns out to be something of a mistake, and soon enough the cops, Cooper and Taft and their men, as well as Cowboy spy "mediator" Donovan (Joe Don Baker) are all after Bill, some of them with rather murderous intent, others with more ambiguous ideas. Bill's only help is nurse Laura Bryant (Ashley Laurence), because we really needed at least one female character on our hero's side (otherwise, there's only Taft's evil girlfriend played by Corinna Everson to represent half of the human population), plus hey, it's Ashley Laurence.

But will that be enough for Bill to survive various shoot-outs, car-chases and double-crosses?

Ah, post Action International David A. Prior films are always something of a wonder to behold. Prior, once an utter weirdo director, had at this point in his career learned so much about the art of filmmaking he was perfectly able to just make a straightforward and cheap little action movie of the type that can never completely deny its cheapness but works so hard making the most out of what it's got it's impossible not to be at least a bit charmed by it.

That alone would be enough to recommend Prior's movies of this period (and really, most of his even cheaper Action International work too). However, it doesn't seem to have been enough for Prior himself, so Felony and its brethren not only feature the affordable amount of action but also scripts which are ever so slightly - or sometimes completely - skewed into the direction of the outré and the weird.

The script of Felony is full of Prior's typical curious mixture of just plain silliness (just try to make sense of what happened in Felony once the last act plot twists have made a mockery of sense and sensibility) and ironic self-consciousness that should really result in the sort of self-ironic winking nonsense I can't stand at all. In Prior's weirdness-experienced hands, though, what should be annoying turns charming with many a scene that is just as funny as it is fun.

Of course, given the low budget movie heaven that is Felony's cast, it's not a complete surprise that even the silliest line in the script is delivered either with scenery-chewing relish or just the right amount of self-consciousness. Everyone involved, from Combs over Laurence to Warner and Henriksen, obviously knows that much of the plot is utter nonsense and their characters aren't actually characters, yet still delves into the whole affair with a palpable sense of fun, projecting none of the bored "just cashing a cheque here, buddy" feelings you sometimes encounter in film's of Felony's price class.

As I always like to say about Prior movies: what's not to like?

Friday, June 21, 2013

On Exploder Button: Assignment Naschy: Horror Rises From The Tomb (1973)

Heads. We all know their fiendish ways, their horrible roundness, their hypnotic powers. Now just imagine a head belonging to Paul Naschy himself, rising from his tomb to do typical evil head stuff, like hypnotizing people into carrying him around and bringing him fresh human hearts.

Hold that thought and click on over to this week's column on Exploder Button!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

SyFy vs. The Mynd: Swamp Shark

The Bouchard family, led by intrepid big sister Rachel (Kirsty Swanson), owns a charming little eating place named the "Gator Shack" down in the swampiest part of Louisiana, an establishment that combines the charms of local live music, local food, and watching the place's very own gators eat.

Trouble brews when Sheriff Watson (Robert Davi) accidentally releases a rather primordial looking deep sea shark into the local waters while working his second job as the middleman in illegal animal smuggling operations. The shark, let's call him Swampy, soon proceeds to eat the Bouchards' gators, as well as a guy who was on rather unfriendly terms with former football-playing Bouchard brother Jason aka "Swamp Thing" (Jeff Chase). Despite Rachel having seen the shark's fin when it did the deed, Watson thinks this is a good opportunity as any to confuse the situation, and blames the Bouchards' gators for the death.

Clearly, there's just one logical way to clear the Bouchard family name and keep the restaurant open: hunt down the shark. So Rachel packs in all fighting-fit members of her family, her pretty pretty younger boyfriend (Richard Tanne), and the mysterious Tommy (D.B. Sweeney) who just might be an agent of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service out to catch the Sheriff.

Now this, ladies and gentlemen, is how you make a fun low budget shark movie without having to resort to giving the thing tentacles or having it munch on airplanes (next up: Wing Shark). Not that there's anything wrong with the latter approach, of course.

After living through the horrors of his dreadfully unfunny "comedy" Arachnoquake (write-up to be posted one of these days but surely not the movie I'd want to think about in my triumphant return to health), I didn't expect anything at all of director Griff Furst for this one, but where that movie seemed proud of its stupidity and rather mean-spirited to boot, this one's something of a feel-good movie with a few shark victims (but who cares about them, right?), and the ability to sell its silliness with a friendly grin instead of jumping up and down shouting "look how crap I am! Isn't it hilarious!?" (it never is).

Swamp Shark is also, at least for a SyFy movie, rather subtle when it comes to its titular CGI creature, only showing it off in short glimpses during surprisingly effective suspense scenes as you know them from other shark movies, and the mandatory mutilations, though there really aren't all that many of them. Usually, that's a very bad sign in a SyFy movie, for if there's one thing even the shittiest of them do, it's showing off their monsters proudly and regularly. Who cares about the humans anyhow? In Swamp Shark's case, however, I'm all for spending as much time with the human main characters as possible, for the Broussard family is a fun and likeable bunch of slightly crazy working class people it's easy to fall a bit in love with. Sure, every single one of them is a variation on a cliché, but then aren't we all? Plus, Swamp Shark's screenplay as written by Eric Miller, Charles Bolon and Jennifer Iwen does sell its clichés by always getting the tone of the situations they are put in just right.

The characters' general likeability is further increased by a cast of game actors. Kristy Swanson is pretty great as butt-kicking older sister matriarch, Robert Davi has already played cops crooked and straight when CGI sharks were only a blink in the eye of Mister CGI, and everybody else is just as much of a caricature as she or he needs to be, and feels pleasantly relaxed at it.

Being and feeling relaxed and sure of itself really seems to be Swamp Shark's main virtue to me. I'm even tempted to conjure up the old "laidback South" cliché to describe it, which is something a film this much interested in going for Louisiana swamp local colour pretty much wants me to do anyway.

In any case, this is a film visibly never embarrassed being what it is. Sure, it's a silly monster movie made for TV, but isn't that just about the most fun thing a movie can be when its done as right as this one?

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Even people pretending to be tentacled horrors get sick sometimes

Since a bacteriological infection makes my right hand pretty much unusable right now, I have to take a timeout for hopefully not longer than a week or so.

If I owe you tweets, guest blogs or emails, I'll get to them once I can type like a grown-up again.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

SyFy vs. The Mynd: Stonehenge Apocalypse (2010)

Poking around in a hidden ancient site somewhere in Maine by archaeologist Joseph Leshem (Hill Harper) activates some curious mechanisms in Stonehenge that begin sucking large amounts of electromagnetic energy out of the planet's "energy grid" and fry a few tourists. The British government at once quarantines the area and sends in a team of scientists led by Dr. Trousdale (Peter Wingfield) and Dr. Kaycee Leeds (Torri Higginson) to investigate the phenomenon.

When former genius astrophysicist and now crackpot radio show host Jacob Glaser (Misha Collins) hears about the situation - which is of course kept hidden from the public - he at once jets over to England to do a bit of investigating of his own.

The Stonehenge situation further deteriorates when the rather chipper stones activate other ancient sites all around the globe that start a series of volcanic eruptions killing millions. Jacob soon becomes convinced Stonehenge is the core of a global terraforming mechanism (which makes no sense given the age of the sites compared to that of the planet, but hey, if nobody mentions it, we don't have to think about it…), and even theorizes an artefact kept in an archaeological collection in the US might just be the only way to stop the annihilation of the whole of humanity. It's just too bad that nobody except Kaycee takes the word of a guy who once rambled about the robot head NASA found on the moon seriously, so Jacob's attempt to save the world becomes rather more difficult.

Then there's the little fact that Joseph - who just happens to be an old friend of Jacob's, as proven by him calling Jacob "my friend" at least once per sentence - might just be the leader of a doomsday cult who started the Apocalypse on purpose to cleanse the Earth etc and so on. Heroism sure isn't simple.

Stonehenge Apocalypse, Paul Ziller's epic of apocalyptic bullshit doesn't start very well. There's way too much not very interesting woo-woo talk about energy lines and how horrible mean it is of people to doubt the words of a man who is convinced NASA found a robot head on the moon and the US government covered it up (the film's running gag is that everyone remembers him talking of aliens on the moon, not of a robot head - humour!). At the same time, the early film spends too little time with silly wonders like its rotating Stonehenge.

Fortunately, once the film's first half or so has passed, Ziller goes to the serious business of squeezing every bit of fun nonsense out of the plot's improbable basic set-up, and suddenly it's all ancient terraforming device, exploding pyramids and a cult out to destroy mankind to purify the Earth whose main site just happens to be situated in the good old US of A, while the plotting becomes increasingly pulpy on top of its stupidity. This of course means that what starts out as a pretty lame showing becomes an increasingly fun piece of pulp entertainment (unless you can't overlook Stonehenge Apocalypse's nonsense science, but then, you'll hopefully avoid movies with titles like "Stonehenge Apocalypse" as a matter of course).

Once the film gets going, Ziller demonstrates how much pulp doomsday thriller nonsense you can put up on screen on a SyFy budget. It's more than I'd have expected, I gotta say. Not to spoil the film's ending, but this is a movie that climaxes with its hero racing against a countdown back to Stonehenge before it can activate the final cataclysm that'll destroy the world, while also racing against an h-bomb being dropped on the place, while also having to fight off an insane double agent cultist. There isn't anything I could or would want to say against that.