Monday, 20 June 2016



Though it looks like another entry in the school of Ancient Times fantasy that's been floating around in recent years with such CGI-laden twaddle as Clash Of The Titans (and its sequel), Immortals, Prince Of Persia and The Scorpion King, Gods Of Egypt is also an entry in the Ludicrously Expensive Blockbuster Nonsense genre alongside John Carter and Jupiter Ascending: films that are wild and wayward and full of spectacular visual whizzbang but which don't make a ton of sense. I'm actually a fan of this kind of overbudgeted folly so for all its faults (major league hamming, astonishingly clunky dialogue, some new computer-generated monster or cityscape every twelve seconds), Gods Of Egypt actually passed fairly painlessly. It's not any good but if you can get past the film's problems there is massive dumbo fun to be had.

Much has already been written about how it's another exercise in Hollywood "whiting up", in which all the main parts are played by actors from everywhere in the world except Egypt: there's no-one who is, or even looks, Middle Eastern or North African. Given that most of the characters are not actually native Egyptians but ancient Gods who can transform at will into flying metal animals and who have liquid gold for blood, they don't have to look Egyptian (whatever that even means), and could frankly be played by the Teletubbies for all the ethnic accuracy that's required. Even if the Gods are actually played by humans, an unexplained Australian or Scottish accent isn't going to be the point at which the film suddenly lurches into far-fetched idiocy, since that was its starting point.

At some point "before history", Egypt is ruled by Osiris (Bryan Brown, briefly), set to pass the crown on to his son Horus, Lord Of The Air (Nikolai Coster-Waldau). But Horus' brother Set, Lord Of The Desert (Gerard Butler) interrupts the ceremony, kills Osiris and takes power himself, leaving a blinded Horus exiled in a tomb. There is, however, a young and impetuous (and more than a little annoying) thief named Bek (Brenton Thwaites) who plans to steal the Eye Of Horus from Set's impenetrable vault so Horus will be free to end the evil reign of Set. But his love Zaya (Courtney Eaton) is struck down in the escape, so Bek and Horus have nine days to bring her back from the land of the dead before she reaches judgement and the Afterlife....

In order to defeat Set they need the waters from the Sun God Ra's boat in the sky (on which Geoffrey Rush is doing daily battle with a giant space worm) to quench the desert fire from which Set draws his power, by dropping into the fire pit inside his pyramid that's guarded by a Sphinx. And so on....Somehow it all ends with deities Set and Horus turning into flying metal animals and beating each other up like the climax to Man Of Steel or something in an incomprehensible blur of CGI thud kerpow kaboom atop an impossibly tall tower.

Yes, it's nonsense. Yes, it's big and noisy (though Marco Beltrami's score has some lovely melodies which are showcased separately over the end credits). Some of the dialogue reaches George Lucas levels of unspeakableness, Gerard Shouty McButler is doing enough acting for the whole cast, the human leads are (as usual) wet as tripe, and there are maybe twelve shots in the whole film that aren't green-screened or CGId into next week. But it's got enough humour about it and it's just about aware enough of its own silliness to get by. and I'd be lying if I said I didn't have fun with it. It's not taking itself that seriously, so why should I?


Tuesday, 14 June 2016



In news that will surprise absolutely no-one who's ever sat through a Troma film before, or even merely read about one, Splatter University is absolutely, absolutely terrible. I know, it's my own fault: over the years I've seen enough of Troma's so-called product to be reasonably confident that they're never going to be any better, and that complaining that Splatter University is - gosh, crikey - an abomination unto the Earth when you've sat through Tromeo And Juliet and Terror Firmer and The Toxic Avenger and Class Of Nuke 'Em High is rather like buying a Walnut Whip and then whining that it's got walnuts in it. There's no logic or sense in watching anything by Troma and then putting your critic's hat on to sneer at the technical incompetence on show, but then there's no logic or sense in watching anything by Troma.

Still: you never know. It's theoretically possible that at some bizarre moment in Troma's history something went disastrously, inexplicably right and a halfway decent film emerged from the machine. Unlikely, but then somebody wins the EuroMillions every couple of weeks at roughly comparable odds. Splatter University isn't the same as using the same numbers week after week after month on the grounds that sooner or later they're bound to come up, it's trying to use last week's winning numbers on the grounds that they worked for someone else, but not being intelligent enough to mark those numbers off on the entry slip.

It's a bog-standard off-the-peg slasher plot: maniac escapes from asylum and hacks up a bunch of unlikeable teens, Final Girl (actually the sociology teacher) runs around chased by maniac, movie stops. Most sentient lifeforms who've plodded through a couple of second-rate teenkill epics could probably throw something like this together on a vaguely passable amateur movie level, but Richard W Haines isn't even on that level because clearly neither he nor anyone else involved could give a toss. It's technically shoddy (some shots aren't even close to being in focus), the performances are barely on the first readthrough level, every one of the victims is a hateful yob who frankly deserves it, and the maniac couldn't be more obvious if he wore a baseball cap with the word "Murderer!" printed on the front.

But it's a Troma film and such things as writing, directing, acting and basic professional competence have never bothered them. It's not that such trifles are beyond their skillset (and indeed their comprehension), although they are: they just don't believe it matters. Nowhere is this contempt more vividly demonstrated than in the opening mental hospital sequences, where the attitude towards mental health is frighteningly unenlightened, operating on a wacky comedy level of "tee-hee, let's have a giggle at the loonies". And even when the movie gets down to merely offing scumbag teens, it's no better. Utterly wretched, artistically worthless, boring (at a mere 79 minutes), insulting and miserable. Should have known.