Copycats from Ardennes Fury to Z Nation

Oh Asylum, you’re drunk. Go home! Z Nation, Ardennes Fury, and the Ouija Experiment are available on instant Netflix

Z Nation

Z Nation (2014) – Rated TV-14

A team embarks on a perilous cross-country mission to transport the one man who survived a deadly zombie virus, hoping he holds the key to a vaccine.”

With zombies having been hot for at least a few decades and The Walking Dead setting audience records for four successful seasons, I am actually surprised that it took this long for another zombie competitor to come out of the television.

Honestly, The Talking Dead is a ratings phenomenon. New episodes of The Walking Dead often place first in their ratings with The Talking Dead usually appearing just a few places below. The reason why Talking Dead is so astonishing is that it is simply a quick interview and commentary show talking about the show you JUST WATCHED.

Naturally if someone is going to quickly and cheaply cash in on this craze, it is Asylum pictures. Shifting their footing to weekly television. Asylum loses none of their bargain basement approach to things. Special effects in Z Nation are cheap and dirty and it shows. Sadly the effects are great compared to the acting. I lasted twenty minutes before my eye-rolling caused spasms.

Ardennes Fury

 

Ardennes Fury (2014) – Not rated

During World War II’s Battle of the Bulge attack, an Allied tank unit gets caught behind Nazi lines and risks their lives to save an orphanage.”

Quickly hustled out to mooch off of the Brad Pitt vehicle, Fury, Ardennes Fury does have a few minor things going for it. First, I give a large amount of credit to Asylum for ripping off Fury as Ardennes Fury rather than say, Tank Fury. The other thing I credit Asylum for is starting the movie with some World War II footage.

That’s about it. Immediately after the footage, we get the usual dodgy CGI. This is followed in quick succession by bargain basement production values and atrocious acting. For military hardware aficionados, there is a bewildering array of equipment on display here, from World War II era equipment all the way through barely disguised modern equipment. The ‘German’ tanks are Russian T-34s.

Anyway, it all amounts to the usual Asylum garbage.

Ouija Experiment

The Ouija Experiment (2011) – Not rated

Film student Brandon and four friends play with a ouija board, unwittingly opening a portal to the spirit world and a drowned girl’s deadly mystery.”

First off, I owe a deep apology to Asylum and an even deeper one to the makers of this feature. When this popped up on instant Netflix, I immediately assumed that this was an Asylum ripoff of last year’s horror movie, Ouija. I then noticed that this was made in 2011, three years prior to Ouija (which I have yet to see). So my apologies to both parties are now out of the way.

The Ouija Experiment is yet still another found footage film. The acting and camerawork are just awful. Camerawork can be blamed on the premise I guess but not the acting. Skip it.

 

Prisoners of the Asteroid vs. Earth Sun

Asteroid vs. Earth is currently available on instant Netflix

Asteroid vs. Earth

 

Asteroid vs. Earth (2014) – Not Rated

An elite team of scientists races against time when a torrential storm of giant meteors threatens to annihilate all life on Earth.”

How do you know the tonnage of our weapons?” – “Google, sir

Is there a more dire warning of what’s to come in a movie than “The Asylum Presents”? I think not. The movie opens with a young man watching a series of monitors that clearly aren’t conveying anything useful. The monitors are arranged around a circle and he stares at them even though most are showing generic space pictures.

Another scene shows a General at home where a supercell instantly forms over his house. Huh? This is interspersed with scenes of actual flooding in some other, undisclosed location. I’m not sure if we’re supposed to assume these are the same or different locations as neither is labeled though clearly terrain isn’t even remotely similar. It appears as though they just spliced in scenes from another movie as the flooding and supercell don’t appear to have anything to do with the plot.

Our young man tells the military that their warheads won’t do anything to the asteroid but, and I am not making this up, if they detonate them selectively on Earth, at a faultline, they can move the Earth out of the way of the asteroid. The plot does not get more intelligent as we go along.

The usual assortment of AWCs (Actors without Careers) are present. Tia Carrere (Wayne’s World) plays an important scientist. Tim Russ (Tuvok from Star Trek Voyager) takes a break from convention-hopping to represent the military. Veteran heavy Robert Davi collects a paycheck as General Masterson.

One would think that Asylum’s CGI would naturally get better over the past decade but it really hasn’t. In short, no aspect of this movie is competently handled.

AVOID

Prisoners of the Sun

 

Prisoners of the Sun (2013) – Not Rated

A group of explorers embark on a perilous mission under the Egyptian pyramids to stop the resurrection of hostile ancient beings who threaten mankind.

The room is unfortunately now armed.” (referring to a room in the pyramid)

At least this doesn’t start with ‘The Asylum Presents’. Prisoners of the Sun takes the standard start for a mummy movie and adds aliens into the mix. There is an entire movie’s worth of exposition in the first three minutes.

Our slumming actors here are John Rhys-Davies (here clearly trading on his Raiders cred) and Joss Ackland (The Hunt for Red October, Lethal Weapon 2). They at least make an attempt with the material, unlike Asylum’s casts.

Unfortunately there is a worse harbinger than ‘The Asylum Presents’. That would be Uwe Boll’s name in the credits, here as a producer. The director is Roger Christian, the man who directed Battlefield Earth. He most recently directed the execrable Stranded.

Prisoners of the Sun is easily better than Stranded. Unfortunately that doesn’t make it good. Plotting and scripting are slapdash but still much better than Asteroid vs. Earth. Toss in an alignment of the stars, an ancient bloodline, tomb raiding, a woman who has visions, and the requisite mummy and mix well.

Unfortunately the individual elements aren’t handled very well. Prisoners of the Sun only looks good in comparison to Asteroid vs. Earth or Stranded. It is not terrible but there are far better uses of your time, unless you are particularly attached to John Rhys-Davies.

Fishy Fishy Fishy Shark Week

Shark Week is currently available on instant Netflix.

One Line Review: Shark Week – Seven times worse than Shark Night

Shark WeekShark Week (2012) – Not rated

Strangers find themselves isolated by a wealthy madman on his island compound, where they are forced into a horrifying gauntlet of ever-deadlier species of sharks in this horror shocker.”

Why do most shark attacks occur in three feet of water?…because that is where the food is!

Shark Week is a good name for a horror movie, capitalizing on the Discovery Channel staple. The film starts with The Asylum Presents. I always want to end the review right there. The film opens with a slumming and nearly unrecognizable Patrick Bergin killing someone by letting a shark into a tiny swimming pool. The victim has chains on his wrists that he appears to have trouble keeping on.

The next victim is attacked in a swimming pool by cute little tiny baby sharks. Strangely they film this as though the person was being attacked by piranha. Later when many people are thrown in, the baby sharks have lost their frenzy power. The aforementioned chains appear and disappear as people are swimming. Later they get a chain to unlock them but honestly a vigorous shake would have gotten rid of them.

Wow, I want some of the wild scientific equipment used in this movie. There are awesome retroactive bandages. Characters have bandages on their wounds and THEN find a first aid kit. There is also the not uncommon Hollywood insta-dry clothing. A character steps out of the water and *poof* they are dry.

I love Jaws. I love Deep Blue Sea. I enjoyed The Reef, The Deep (1977), and Open Water. I get a kick out of nature run amuck movies. Shark Week is horrible. The young victims are terrible actors but even the two actors who should know better, Patrick Bergin and Yancy Butler are pretty awful too.

Every couple of minutes something completely nonsensical happens in Shark Week. People cluster together on a trail that collapses underneath them. A Hammerhead shark leaps completely out of the water to rip someone’s throat out. Numerous special effects shots are included of CGI sharks attacking nothing.

Not as bad as the worst of Asylum but not actually watchable either.