" I didn't love it but I really, really liked it. "
Title: Evil Cult by IndieDVD
Reviewing Monkey: EEGAH!
The Hype: Evil Cult follows the standard set by its DIY antecedents Shatter Dead, Jesus Christ, Vampire Hunter and Clandestine (which, not coincidentally, stars our very own Dungapult). That is to say, films whose concepts made it necessary for them to be completely funded by those who would inevitably also be the ones that wrote, directed and acted in them. But as is to be expected with most any kind of film there's a pretty wide spectrum of success: will it be as witty as Jesus Christ, Vampire Hunter? Could it be as unintentionally funny as the marvelously clueless Clandestine? Or will it be as preposterously self-important, gratuitously crass and unremittingly balls-out shitty as Shatter Dead? Well Jesus, man, I'm not going to tell you now! Read the review you lazy punk!
What This Monkey Thought...
Story and Acting: After
a hilarious yet unexplained time traveling confrontation with a mad scientist,
Neil Stryker is picked up on a lonely desert highway by the shady and immediately
off-putting Walter. As it turns out this Walter fella happens to be the leader
of a commune for lost, troubled and wayward youth looking to find purpose and
meaning in their lives. He manages to persuade our coarse and hotheaded protagonist
into stopping in for some rest along the way to his destination.
Once there, it doesn't take Stryker very long before he smells something rotten in Denmark. He has no tolerance for the administrators right off the bat and the rest of the population is a bunch of creepy automatons. That is all except for one, Nigel, who is also a new addition and has yet to fall completely under the influence of the titular evil cult. Stryker's patented brand of disrespect quickly draws the alarm of Walter and the other counselors, who in a bid to distract him from their aims while at the same time enticing him to remain in the fold, foist one of the female members of the flock on him.
During the night, Stryker has a strange forewarning and decides to do a little investigating. What he uncovers is not a turnaround camp for directionless youth but rather a sinister cult with apocalyptic aspirations. In his snooping he comes across not only the cult's texts but something far more horrific: a basement housing all of the cult's "problem cases" who have been reduced to filthy, gibbering, brain-dead mutants. One of these mutants, Winston (who for reasons unexplained is able to articulate himself remarkably better than the others and sports a bitchin Anthony Kiedis circa Uplift Mofo Party Plan hairdo), explains the designs of the cult as well as the origins of these mutant "meltoids".
Stryker returns to find Nigel up and about and convinces him to explore the cult's diabolical dungeon. Here's where things start to get a little sketchy and the narrative begins to meander. It seems that they've been watched this entire time by the cult and they are immediately seized upon their return. But instead of melting their brains and tossing them in a cage like all the other "People Under the Stairs", Walter simply sends them to their rooms. Stryker devises a plan to escape, which again results in his and Nigel's capture. This time, however, their punishment is more severe: Garden duty!
It continues on like this (back and forth, fast then slow) for a further forty to fifty minutes, until the end of Act II rolls around and you scarcely even realized the transition from Act I. And just when you think it's all over…they release the zombies. At this point you know that you're in for at least another ten minutes of film. So in this way E.C. manages to take a pretty conventional plot and make it a true original by throwing in a couple of trick endings and putting undue strain on the momentum of the narrative. The pacing was all across the board on this one folks, which at times made it tough to keep up with. I noticed at certain points that my mind would begin to wander and that I'd miss crucial plot points. The story, while pretty trite even when utilized in better films has its fair share of outrageously funny moments and uncompromising gore but is stretched to the absolute limit with its ninety minute running time.
The acting was self-consciously hammy. Director Rob Taylor as anti-hero Neil Stryker (and about four or five other principal characters as well as countless other extras) set the tone for the entire film with his affected badass vocal stylings and insouciant swagger. Greg Gosser as Walter puts in an over-the-top performance without deviating into irritating camp like I've seen in so many times in productions of this ilk. As Winston, Kyle Day showed chops as a fairly decent improviser, coming up with hysterical off-the-cuff bits of nonsense like nobody's business. This is most evident if you watch the behind-the-scenes material.
Also worthy of note was actress Bryna Smith as the cult's sexpot, Sister Bethany, who in spite of her limited screen time still managed to capture your attention with the dopey charm that she brought her character. The rest of the cast handed in perfectly capable performances but the above-mentioned four were the real standouts. Ultimately it was the performances that elevated the weak story. 3 out of 5
Visuals and Directing: Visually speaking,
this film is a pretty ambitious piece of work. There are a lot of camera techniques
and killer lighting schemes that, while not Silver Screen material, are still
pretty impressive for such a modestly budgeted feature.
On the other hand, there was a definite drawback in Rob Taylor not only starring in the film but also writing and directing it. It's understandable, though, when you have that much on the line that you don't want to compromise during the editing phase. But really, we're talking about an hour and ten minutes worth of story stretched into ninety minutes. Not to mention that there were fully twenty minutes of deleted scenes and as I understand it, additional footage involving the Sister Bethany character on top of that which didn't make it onto the disc at all. A little bit of distance on Taylor's part from the temptation to cram everything into his film would have benefited it in the long run. On the whole, it was a pretty decent effort all things considered. He steered well clear of the other common clichés associated with this echelon of filmmaking and I was kept entertained most of the way through. That last one earns a lot of points with me. Well to be exact, 3 out of 5
DVD Extras: For a movie that most would assume got its premier on Public Access, this disc has more extras than Courtney Love has track marks. There's the requisite theatrical trailer (which is an amusing misnomer) as well as trailers for other films in the IndieDVD catalog. Then we get into the real meat of the disc, like the outtakes, alternate ending and the aforementioned massive deleted scenes section. The making-of featurette was pretty amusing, if not particularly informative. What it does display is the camaraderie of the cast and crew who I gather have been friends for a good many years before filming, and for showing just how much their real personalities and individual senses of humor informed their respective characters. The one gripe I have with the supplemental material involves the director's commentary track, namely that it's nearly impossible to hear anything that's being said on your television's standard 2-channel sound system-as the standard movie audio dwarfs the volume of the commentary track. I haven't tried it on surround sound, but let's face facts, who the hell wants to listen to a commentary track on friggin' surround? 4 out of 5
Value vs. Price: I've seen it priced anywhere between fifteen and twenty dollars, and although it's moderately loaded for a disc of this sort I'd say that the higher value-to-price ratio rests more with the former than the latter. Any higher than that and things start to get a little dicey. 3 out of 5
|Evil Cult is funny. Damn funny even, though all the in-jokiness (obviously designed to appeal to the cast and crew who made it) got to be a bit aggravating. But for as entertaining as it is its biggest fault is in not knowing when to quit. But the performances were enjoyable, the script smart and witty and some of the camera and lighting work was pretty sweet. When all was said and done, I didn't love it but I really, really liked it.|
The Good: There was some classically hilarious dialog in here, some of which I would recall days later and would make me laugh at the most inappropriate moments. The acting, while admittedly cheesy was still more or less spot-on and never was there a moment when it took itself too seriously. At the same time, I could see the potential for serious performances in other projects, particularly from the likes of Rob Taylor, Kyle Day, Greg Gosser and Bryna Smith. The recycling of cast members by use of split screen technology and numerous cheap and often horrible looking wigs was pretty ingenious and added yet another element of absurdity entirely apart from the script's implicit humor. A sequel to Evil Cult is already in the works, which with any luck will go a long way in explaining some of Neil Stryker's history and that whole maddeningly cryptic episode with the nameless evil scientist.
The Bad: The continuity was a constant issue, my favorite example of this being one scene where Stryker dispatches four of the three cult members attacking him. Then there were no less than three false finishes. Not to mention that the plot is muddled and not all that original to begin with. But the thing that really hurt it the most was that it was overlong by at least twenty minutes.
The Overall Ugly: Evil Cult is cornier than the bottom of Dom DeLuise's toilet after Maize Days at the New Mexico State Fairgrounds. But for all its flaws it still manages to be a pretty entertaining viewing experience. Hell, even at its most tedious there was enough left in the chute to sustain a couple more funny moments, though by this point they were getting a little threadbare. It never got to the point where I where I didn't think I could see it through to the end. What's possibly more important is that for the fifteen or so dollars I paid for it I didn't feel cheated.
What it's Worth: First off, I'd be sure that you are really in the market for this kind of movie, so I've devised this simple test: If the last movie you were psyched to see was S.W.A.T. then read no further, which shouldn't be problem for you since I'm guessing reading isn't one of your strong suits anyway. If, on the other hand, you've ever seen a Troma film then you may find Evil Cult to be worth the price of a rental.