Troma // 2007 // 300 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Paul Pritchard (Retired) // January 4th, 2012
No Budget Thrills, Chills, and Kills!
Astron-6 is a troupe of Canadian filmmakers with an affection for lampooning genre movies of the 1980s. Bringing together a smorgasbord of their work, Astron-6 is one of the most unexpected delights of 2011. Amongst the trailers, music videos, and animations included in this set is a series of short films that manage to fit in a fully functional plot, and prove to be just as (if not more) entertaining than the "classics" they are satirizing.
Clearly the Astron-6 team is a smart bunch, as there is more going on here than a few cheap laughs at the expense of some oft-forgotten B-movies. Instead, what we have here is an affectionate, though still biting, and amazingly accurate reflection of what it is that made many of us fall in love with the sex comedies, Italian splatter, and violent crime movies of the eighties. This collection includes eighteen examples of Astron-6's work spread across two discs.
* "Cool Guys" -- Three dorks try their hand at reinventing themselves as "cool guys," in an attempt to woo the girls down at the beach.
* "H.I.Z. (Erection Der Zombie)" -- A virus developed by scientists working for the U.S. military has a deadly effect on the genitalia of horny teenagers at Camp Ena.
* "Punch Out" -- A coming-of-age story revolving around several characters over a three-day period.
* "You're Dead" -- A violent revenge thriller set on the streets of Winnipeg.
* "Insanophenia" -- A pair of dimwitted exterminators are thrust headfirst into an unimaginable nightmare.
* "Sebastian and Alan" -- The disturbing tale of two road-weary travelers and their interaction with a female hitchhiker.
* "Krissmiss" -- Worried about your single dad this Christmas? Well, this commercial may have just the thing for you.
* "Heart of Karl" -- The hideously disfigured Karl must face up to life on his own, when his brother reveals he can no longer take care of him.
* "Haunted" -- A 3-minute music video for Canadian Horror-Rap artist Darkhouse's single, "Haunted."
* "Fireman" -- When a gang of pyromaniacs kills a heroic fireman and his family, he returns from the dead with a thirst for revenge.
* "Laser Ghosts 2" -- Einstein's ghost threatens mankind in this nod to high concept eighties sci-fi.
* "Siam I Am" -- A story of conjoined twins, jealousy, Facebook, and murder.
* "Inferno of the Dead" -- When the dead rise from their graves, a young couple find themselves trapped in a living dead hell.
* "Ena Lake Blues" -- The original slasher movie.
* "Nobodies" -- Two aspiring filmmakers set out to make their latest no-budget movie.
* "Ghost Killers" -- Cutting together hours of recovered footage, Xtreme Ghost Killers is a terrifying television series investigating the supernatural.
* "Fat Adam" -- Fat Adam recounts the day he possibly killed a child whilst eating a baloney sandwich.
* "Goreblade" -- Action series based on the exploits of the sword-wielding hero, Goreblade.
What is immediately striking is just how authentic the aesthetic is for each of these shorts. "Laser Ghosts 2" could easily be a mid-eighties action movie, with an obvious influence from The Terminator being evident in the choice of shot being used. This level of authenticity is also evident in the brilliant soundtrack each film has, as well as the title sequences; perhaps best of all is the dialogue, which really sells these films. "Fireman" could easily be mistaken for a genuine eighties horror, just as "Cool Guys" feels like a truncated version of a teen sex comedy from the same decade.
The works of Fulci and Romero are lovingly spoofed in "Inferno of the Dead," and "H.I.Z.: Erection Der Zombie." Meanwhile, "Goreblade" riffs on shows like Xena Warrior Princess as well as Japanese action serials. However, Astron-6 is at its best when it subverts the viewers expectations, and goes to places you wouldn't expect in a million years. In this respect, "Punch Out" is notable for its blending of John Hughes movies (The Breakfast Club) with Fight Club. Where "H.I.Z." sees the group have fun with the familiar conventions of the zombie movie, "Inferno of the Dead" takes the genre into new territory, offering a whole new interpretation of a zombie nightmare.
The gang reaches a whole new level of brilliance with "Ena Lake Blues," a silent-era slasher movie.
Though humor runs through much of the work here, a couple of the shorts (most notably "Heart of Karl" and "Sebastian and Alan") are extremely dark, bordering on disturbing. "Heart of Karl" impresses in particular due to the adventurous blend of techniques used, and the undeniably thick atmosphere that makes up for any narrative failings the film may suffer from. In sharp contrast, "Nobodies" is not only a fun comedy, but also surprisingly charming.
There's a good selection of special features packed into this two-disc set.
* "Cool Guys" -- Audio commentary; trailer; photo gallery.
* "H.I.Z." -- Audio commentary and photo gallery.
* "Punch Out" -- Photo booth and photo gallery.
* "You're Dead" -- Audio commentary and photo gallery.
* "Sebastian and Alan" -- Photo gallery.
* "Krissmiss" -- Audio commentary.
* "Heart of Karl" -- Audio commentary and photo gallery.
In addition to the above, Disc One also contains a trailer for Father's Day, a full-length feature from Astron-6.
* "Fireman" -- Spanish audio track and behind-the-scenes featurette.
* "Laser Ghosts 2" -- Audio commentary and behind-the-scenes videos.
* "Siam I Am" -- Photo gallery.
* "Inferno of the Dead" -- Audio commentary.
* "Nobodies" -- Audio commentary and photo gallery.
* "Ghost Killers" -- Audio commentary.
* "Fat Adam" -- Audio commentary.
* "GoreBlade" -- Hidden footage.
Also included, under a separate menu, are a promo video and photo gallery for Father's Day, and a trailer and behind-the-scenes look at Manborg, the group's first full-length feature. Infamous movie director Uwe Boll turns up to "praise" Astron-6. "Karl" is a short film, shot using the stop-motion technique, and combines animation with live action. "Addiction to Murder" is also included, and is a short film made prior to the formation of Astron-6.
Picture quality varies considerably from film to film, due to the varying styles being used. A title like "You're Dead" has been given the damaged look of a grindhouse picture, as seen in Robert Rodriguez's Planet Terror. As such, the picture quality of the DVD offers a fine representation of the intended look for each film. The Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack is manipulated in a similar way.
Prior to the DVD arriving in the mail, I had no idea who or what Astron-6 was, but having seen this DVD collection of their work, I implore those with a love for genre cinema to check this out immediately.
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Scales of Justice
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 300 Minutes
Release Year: 2007
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Photo Galleries
* Official Site