[Screenshots and pictures coming soon]
Nowadays, with golden age of the b-movie so far behind us, with double screenings a rarity and everyone so enthralled to the big-budget CGI of Hollywood, the b-movie has become a self-conscious postmodern creation. No longer does it just happen to be bad, trashy, sleazy or cheesy; the b-movie style is actively sought, a nostalgic re-creation of the kind of films that were once so important and are now generally obsolete.
There seems to be three different directions that the modern b-movie goes, with all of them falling somewhere within this triangle of styles/intentions. At one extreme we have the indulgent nostalgia of films like Planet Terror, Death Proof etc; these are big-budget films made by big-name stars - their link the b-movies is through being a loving recreation of the tropes and cliches of this kind of cinema - we get girls on bikes, exploding heads, senseless killing and big guns.
Another extreme is the ironically crappy film; though they might not have started out intending to be such a thing, Troma Films have become the standard-bearers of this variety of b-movie. They're awful films. We know they're awful, they know they're awful, but they clearly have such fun making them and throw everything they can at making them silly fun to watch (the recurring continuity-smashing car crash has become an incredible in-joke) that we can forgive them an awful lot. They're certainly not to everyone's taste but you can't doubt their love for what they do for an instant; Lloyd Kaufman's passion and constant championing of independent craptastic cinema is astounding.
Now we come to the third point of the triangle and it's by far the least interesting; b-movies churned out for cash. Of course, that's what a b-movie always was, although by now it's so far removed from creativity and any pretensions of art that it tends to be very dull. As much as Troma represented the previous point, this one belongs primarily to The Asylum (although Video Brinqueado have a fair claim to make for this title too...). Asylum films tend to me send-ups or rip-offs (depending on your point of view) of major budget Hollywood productions. From Transmorphers through Alien Versus Hunter to Sunday School Musical. Whilst some of these might sound funny, that's exactly the point; Asylum's creativity rarely extends beyond a humourous title. These films are cheaply made, imagination-less cash-ins, trading on selling cheap films with funny titles that no-one will enjoy. Death Racers their rip-off of the Hollywood remake of Death Race 2000 that starred the Insane Clown Posse was impossibly awful; not bad in a so-bad-it's-good way but in a please-god-rip-out-my-eyeballs way.
Of late, however, Asylum seem to have upped their game somewhat. First came last year's Mega Shark vs Giant Octopus which - as well as not actually being a direct rip-off of anything - was actually, as far as Asylum films go, pretty damn good. So much so that it generated enough internet hype to earn it a limited cinema release and the director a handful of interviews in film magazines and broadsheet newspapers. I watched it, I enjoyed it but I noted it down as a one-off fluke for the Asylum and didn't get my hopes up for more.
I have just finished watching Sherlock Holmes (NOT the Guy Ritchie version, but the Asylum's) and... though I find it hard to admit, it was really quite good.
We have lesser-known but not unknown actors, a good fun story and... DINOSAURS.
The dark of Victorian London fortunately encouraged them to make a film with (slightly) less crappy CG effects than many of their previous efforts; smoky moonlit streets creating far more atmosphere than I can recall in an Asylum film before. The story is indeed completely bonkers - possibly blending elements of Conan-Doyle's other masterpiece The Lost World - but is certainly never dull. Strange deaths and reports of prehistoric monsters are haunting London and only Holmes will be able to put together the clues to discover the answer.
It's at it's best when it's being mysterious and - to tell the truth - does fall apart somewhat around the hour mark as they swap intrigue and mystery for a bombastic last half-hour but hopefully by then you'll already have been suckered in.
I should make it very clear; I am by no means claiming that this is some masterpiece; it's crap... but it's not nearly as crap as you might expect and, above all, it's entirely watchable crap. If the Asylum can
(They currently have Titanic 2 in the works! Keep an eye out for that...)