Meli and I have taken to watching bad movies on the Sci Fi Channel on Saturday Nights. (Is Matt still looking forward to moving away from Palo Alto? Oh yes, friends. Yes he is.) These films are generally enjoyable in all their horrible glory, not least because they often feature former television stars who haven't aged well. Here's a run-down of a few of the more memorable ones.
Path of Destruction
Premise: A swarm of nanobots called "disassemblers" are wreaking havoc across America by destroying cities.
Porblem: The only way to destroy them is by setting off an EMP, but no plane can get close enough to do it without being destroyed by the tiny robots.
Awkwardly cast former television star: Danica McKellar (TV's Winnie Cooper) as a sassy journalist trying to get to the bottom of things.
Implausible resolution: The U.S. military provides an experimental plane made out of a paper-based polymer with no metal components. Because the nanobots don't eat paper, the plane can get close enough to set off the EMP.
Really annoying thing: The premise is clearly ripped off from Michael Crichton's Prey, which was a great book that was, needless to say, orders of magnitude more interesting an intelligent than this movie.
Magma: Volcanic Disaster
Premise: A string of volcanic eruptions is about to destroy the whole world!
Porblem: The only people who know about the impending destruction are an eccentric paraplegic geologist and his world-weary protege. These two scientists have trouble convincing the Government of what's going on because the Government's main science guy is another former student of the eccentric scientist who believes him to be a crackpot.
Awkwardly cast former television star: Amy Jo Johnson (TV's Kimberly the Pink Power Ranger) as the sassy geology grad student and protege of the world-weary scientist. Honorable mention goes to the inexplicable casting of Xander Berkeley (as the world-weary scientist) and Reiko Aylesworth (as his estranged wife). These two aren't exactly washed up, but given their respective roles on "24" it was weird to see them as romantic opposites.
Implausible resolution: After convincing the Government of what's going on (with the help of the PPR and her wise cracks), Xander leads a squadron of submarines to launch nuclear missiles into underwater faults. Like alcohol, in bad science fiction movies nuclear weapons are the cause of and solution to all of life's problems.
Really annoying thing: Apparently lava causes human bodies to disintegrate instantly. I didn't realize that. Also, the aforementioned George-Michelle romantic storyline.
(Note: Meli and I didn't make it through the whole movie, but it was easy to see where it was going.)
Premise: A little hard to pin down, but basically a bull-worshipping culture impregnates its queen with bull squeezin's in order to make a minotaur, then imprisons the minotaur in a maze and feeds it youths from a nearby village every so often. Years later, one of the youths decides to try to kill the minotaur in order to save his girlfriend.
Porblem: It's a fucking maze! With a minotaur in it!
Awkwardly cast former television star: None. I didn't recognize anyone in this movie except Rutger Hauer, who plays the feeder village's mayor or something. I was actually okay with the casting of this movie because the princess (not the girlfriend, but the bull-worshipping royalty) was played by the shockingly hot Michelle Van Der Water. I mean, damn she hot.
Implausible resolution: I'm guessing the guy figures out how to kill the minotaur in some really unsatisfying way, and ends up with the girlfriend. The princess probably dies.
Really annoying thing: There's almost no connection to the actual minotaur myth save the labyrinth. And the minotaur doesn't seem to actually have a human torso. It's just a big scary bull with sharp teeth. But hey, Michelle Van Der Water!
Premise: During World War II, a Nazi mad scientist invents the incredible hulk. That's it. It's The Nazi Incredible Hulk, except that he can't change back into a human and he electrocutes people when he touches them.
Porblem: The Nazis have also developed a new kind of radar that can bullseye incoming planes, so the Allies can't get close enough to the mad scientist's lab to destroy it. So the Allies assemble a crack team of misfits to infiltrate the lab by land. Unfortunately the Doomtrooper is impervious to bullets and explosives.
Awkwardly cast former television star: Corin Nemec (TV's Parker Lewis). At first I didn't realize who this was. I knew he looked familiar, but the best I could do was a young, sallow-looking Robert Patrick (all that post-"Parker Lewis" cocaine really took its toll). But then one of the misfits was identified as "Private Parker Lewis," and I got the joke instantly. I had to explain it to Meli.
Implausible resolution: After teaming up with a group of French Resisters (led by a hot girl), the misfits somehow make their way to the lab, where Parker kills the Doomtrooper by electrocuting it. That's what Alanis Morrisette would call "irony."
Really annoying thing: The CGI work on the doomtrooper was so sloppy that it felt like we were watching "Who Framed Roger Rabbit?". Also, this had some of the worst acting I'd ever seen in a bad TV movie. The biggest offender was the soldier with the forced blue-collar accent, always talking about "the joymans" and calling the snooty French Resister a "joik." The Nazi characters also spoke English with German accents, but still said some things in German for no apparent reason. When the mad scientist shoots one of the Nazi officers, the officer says "Du bist verrueckt" ("You're crazy"), to which the scientist replies "Vielleicht" ("Perhaps"), despite the fact that the rest of the scene is in English. I didn't get that. There were also a lot of things lifted directly from Saving Private Ryan.
Premise: Really, really hard to pin down. This movie had no idea what it was doing. A family moves to a small California town so the mother can run the mortuary. The mortuary/graveyard is built on top of "evil soil," and used to be run by a family who had a deformed, crazy son that they kept locked in a crypt and who may still be alive. Also, weird black slime comes out of the ground in the mortuary. When the slime touches dead bodies, it turns them into zombies. When the slime is ingested by living people, it turns them into slaves to the slime who go around throwing up on other people to turn them into slaves as well. Apparently the zombies and slaves (led by the deformed and crazy son) are supposed to bring living people down into the crypt and throw them into a big well as a "blood feast," where they're eaten by some sinister force that's the source of the slime. It isn't clear why some people get thrown into the well and some people get turned into slaves. A sleazy city councilman is also involved somehow. I have no idea how this movie ever got made.
Porblem: The good guys have to do good things without a clear picture of what the bad things are.
Awkwardly cast former television star: Denise Crosby (TV's Lt. Tasha Yar of the Star Ship Enterprise) as the mother who abruptly goes from being a comically incompetent mortician to a sinister slave to the slime.
Implausible resolution: Salt kills the slime for some reason. So the good guys go into the crypt armed with giant cans of salt (because everyone keeps several giant cans of salt in their kitchens) and dump salt on all the zombies and slaves and throw salt into the well. The surviving good guys return to the surface (one having been killed by a zombie punching through his chest for no reason), where more slime suddenly engulfs one of the good guys and the evil mother (who we just saw get killed by salt) saunters out of the house to continue the attack. That's how the movie ends.
Really annoying thing: The male lead, a teenage boy, was played by a guy in his early 20s. The female love interest, a teenage girl, was played by a woman twelve years older than him. The guy's younger sister was also inappropriately cast -- she was an eight-year-old girl playing a four-year-old girl, so she came off as retarded. But the female love interest was very attractive, even if she was old.
You know, I really don't know why we watch these things when we still have most of the first season of "Quantum Leap" to get through on DVD.