Four android mercenaries with a variety of very human personality problems over-reach themselves in the combat arena and get smashed to bits by a killdozer. Reduced to a pile of unloved space junk and destined for the compactor, they are suddenly resurrected by a bearded floaty-head with designs on bringing peace and love to the war-torn universe. Now reconstructed and with guitars at the ready, our heroes set off down an altogether more worthwhile path than robot-bashing for cash: to free an enslaved artificial planet with the thrall and power of their guitar-based future-rock. Well you would, wouldn’t you?
With their 2009 film debut Killer Robots and the Battle for the Cosmic Potato, multimedia collective The Killer Robots went to war against the big-budget earnestness of the Transformers series and its dead-eyed, multiplex-gobbling ilk with a defiantly low-tech explosion of bubblegum CGI, cartoon aliens, wink-wink acting and unhinged music. While still very much a low-budget affair, it’s clear that director/star Sam Gaffin and his highly committed team had a bit more money to spend this time around. And rise to the occasion they do: think Evil Dead 2 compared to the original Evil Dead; everything is pumped up and more energised.
The human participants are still green-screened into the action Tron-style, but this time, crucially, you believe they are actually there. The wonderful hand-crafted miniatures and pleasingly 2D effects are a feast for the eyes, playing like an extended take on the alien kidnapping sequence from Monty Python’s Life of Brian - demented, thrilling and visually ingenious. Design and action meld together to frequently eye-popping effect, propelled by the maker’s gleeful absorption of all manner of influences; the aforesaid Terry Gilliam, manga comics, Toho monster-thons, Darren Aronofsky and the Banana Splits are all fair game here and you’ll no doubt spot many more affectionate nods. Performances are knowingly from the Adam West school of acting (not as easy as you might think to pull off) which suits the material well; this troupe have been together since 2004 and have found a pleasing groove.
On the minor downside, while the climactic concert sequence of our heroes attempting to unite the universe in musical harmony with the help of DJ-ing aliens (and a bunch of sunlit chickens) is worth waiting for, you may have expected it to arrive about 15 minutes earlier. And given the feature-length running time, the use of episodic chapter titles at intervals throughout the movie does rather kill the pacing and suggest the makers were hedging their bets on this being split up into an internet series.
Currently destined for VoD release, The Killer Robots! Crash and Burn may sound like one of those click-bait titles you hover over before moving on to catch up with the latest episode of Bates Motel. But put your cynicism aside and dive in, this stylish and anarchic cosmic mash up is well worth your attention.
THE KILLER ROBOTS! CRASH AND BURN / DIRECTOR & SCREENPLAY: SAM GAFFIN / STARRING: SAM GAFFIN, CHARLIES HARRIS, MIKE MCGOWAN, SAMUEL WILLIAMS, AMBER BELKO, CHAR CALAQUIAN / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
Expected Rating: 7 out of 10