Tuesday, February 24, 2015

#52 Soultaker (1990) (MST3K version) (Colin)

Our next movie, despite being an award winner, (more on that later), was proving difficult to get.  The dreaded prospect of the subs bench in which we would have to swap this movie, for not 1 but 2 bad movies as punishment, was looming.  Fortunately, like an earlier movie we’ve reviewed, the Commodore 64 powered, Time Chasers, (Click here if you'd like to read my blog), there was a get out clause.

The version we are watching is the Mystery Science Theater 3000, (MST3K), version, which if you don’t know is a show in the US during the 90’s which basically showed a film, but which the characters of MST3K spoke over and ridiculed the movie.  They are the inspiration for this blog and their version is very funny and funnier than the blog will be and so once again, I have a disclaimer:

It is not my intention to steal or pass of any of the MST3K gags as my own and any which overlap or sound similar is accidental.

Lovely, that’s that cleared up.  Onto my blog…….

Our next movie, Soultaker, stars a member of the Estevez / Sheen family, but which one? 
Is it Emilio, Martin or even tiger blood drinking loon job Charlie?  Nope, it’s Joe Estevez, whose only other movie I have seen is Werewolf, (1996) and again the version I watched was the MST3K version and I have to say, it was an awful movie, (but a great MST3K episode)!

I had a feeling history was about to repeat itself…..

It’s the annual Summerfest and all the cool kids are invited.  There’s crap music, balloons, crap dancing, balloons and off course there are balloons.  Natalie’s a cool kid, (Vivian Schilling, who incidentally wrote this movie) as is Karen, (Meschelle Manley), and they love balloons, so Summerfest is a no brainer.  Whilst admiring a particularly nice balloon, they bump into Natalie’s ex, Zach, (Gregg Thomsen).  Zach is also a cool kid who really like balloons and has brought along Brad, (David Shark), his girlfriend Candice, (Cinda Lou Freeman) and Tommy, (Chuck Williams) to show them a rather nice red balloon with a pretty spiffing piece of string attached.

Watching over this hip gang is the Angel of Death, (Robert Z’Dar), who has decided he needs to put an end to all this balloon fun and orders Soultaker, (Joe Estevez), to take all of their souls.

Karen must have some sort of sixth sense as she manages to sneak away with her boyfriend, (never to be heard of in the movie again) and the others leave in Brad’s car.

Brad is fuelled on cocaine, (the problem of which is that it’s a little bit moreish), and is probably not the best person to drive.  When Soultaker walks into the middle of the road in front of the car, Brad is confused.  Is that Emilio Estevez?  Martin Sheen? Before he has worked out it’s the Daniel Baldwin of the Sheen family, he has driven his car straight into a tree.

Soultaker goes to the car and promptly takes Candice’s soul.  As he moves onto the others, he realises that their souls have already left their bodies and sure enough, up the road, the rest of the gang are walking around.  They do not realise they are souls and that their physical forms remain in the smashed up car.  The Angel of Death is aware, however, and is royally miffed.  He orders Soultaker to get the rest of the souls by midnight or else no tea!

Emergency services arrive on the scene, scoop up the bodies and leave again.  The hapless gang eventually make their way back to the car and they check that no balloons were injured, Soultaker bursts out of the car and takes Brad’s soul.

The gang poop their pants and scarper.  They find a convenience store and unsuccessfully try to get the shop keeper to notice them and to help them.  Realising it's no use, they bolt out of the store where Natalie is promptly caught by Soultaker.  She is about to have her chips when Soultaker has a flashback to a black and white photo of him and what appears to be Natalie.  Confused, he lets go of Natalie and she runs of with Zach.  Tommy is not so lucky and his soul is promptly taken.

Natalie and Zack make it back to her mother's, (Anna, (played by Jean Reiner)) house, where Anna is so concerned about the peril that they are in, that rather than calling the police or raising the alarm, she decides to run Natalie a nice hot bath!

Natalie reluctantly agrees and Zach switches on the TV.  A rather large penny smashes to the floor when Zach sees on the news Natalie’s parents talking to reporters about the fact that at midnight, they have no choice but to turn off Natalie and Zach’s life support.  He learns that they are both in a critical condition and in a coma at the local hospital after the car crash.

Meanwhile, Natalie thinks it’s a bit odd when she catches her mother watching her undress as she prepares for the bath.  She thinks it’s even odder when her mother turns into a Martin Sheen lookalike and incredibly odd when she shoots him with a shotgun and the bullets pass straight through him.

Natalie and Zach do not ponder on this for too long and manage to escape yet again.  They run to the hospital in an attempt to get their souls back into their bodies by midnight.

When Natalie takes the lift in the hospital, a hospital porter morphs into Soultaker and he takes her to the top floor, which used to be theatres, but is now the afterlife.  He tells Natalie that he is, in fact, an angel and that he is collecting souls to take them to nice fluffy clouds.

Meanwhile, Zach bumps into Brad, who has also turned into a Soultaker.  He explains that it is the destiny of someone who takes a life to be forever condemned to take the souls for those dying and there’s no fluffy clouds, (or balloons).

Brad manages to convince Natalie that the Soultaker is telling fibs and they flee yet again.  The Soultaker is about to carry on the pursuit when the Angel of Death appears and gives Soultaker a right ticking off.  Soultaker promises to fix things but the Angel of Death is having none of it and promptly takes the Soultaker’s soul.

Natalie and Zach manage to get back into their bodies and all’s good.  The movie ends with them sharing a kiss and driving of into the distance, (and with a bit of luck straight into another tree).

It's fair to say that this film, is more confused than a German reading Chinese instructions for an iPod whilst trying to set the DVD to record toast.  It has more holes than 1 million clones of Courtney Love eating Swiss cheese in laddered tights.

For example, what's with the midnight deadline in which he must collect Natalie and Zach's souls?

A shot of a clock ticking perilously towards midnight is cut in and out of scenes to give a sense of threat and danger and that's all well and good.  It's a tried and tested method so no complaint here.  However, this is the first movie I have ever seen in which the clock goes past the deadline and nothing happens.

The Soultaker doesn't have the souls, the life supports are not switched off and yet everyone is acting like it's still a matter of life and death.  This is exasperated by the continuation of the shots of the clock which now proudly show a minute past midnight, 2 minutes past and so on.  Did Soultaker apply for an extension we don't know about?  Was the deadline moved back at an appeals panel hearing?  Midnight passed, everything else now is unimportant, (a bit like after the opening credits of the movie) and this clock is completely redundant, (much like the actors were after the movie).

Then there's Soultaker himself or rather Joe Estevez.  It bugs me that Soultaker can touch things when the storyline dictates, (it's really annoying how in the space of 2 scenes, he can run a bath but bullets whizz straight through him), but what really bugs me is how Estevez's portryal of this guy is just one of a very confused idiot.

Soultaker should have a menacing and dark presence throughout, (he does wear a long black coat after all), but Estevez gurns and looks as if he doesn't know what's going on, (in fairness we don't so why should he?).  He walks around very slowly, puzzled and each frame of him he appears to be asking himself a question, probably are they sure they've got the right Sheen? Wasn't Martin available?

But the blame for this lousy movie falls very firmly with Vivian Schilling, the writer and 'star' of Soultaker.

This is so obviously one big ego-massage for Vivian in which she is desperate to show the world that she can write great Sci-Fi, (she can't) and is a world class actor, (she's not).  Nearly every scene is all about Vivian and if it's not, then don't worry because it'll soon turn back round to her.  She was so busy ensuring soft focus long shots of herself pouting and 'smouldering', that she totally forgot to write a movie that made any sense, contained any excitement and which didn't suck the big one.

But she is an award winner and I can't take away from her.  As I mentioned at the top of this blog, Soultaker won the 1992 Saturn award for Best Genre Video Release.  I shit you not!

A quick look at the Saturn Awards website and I am greeted with former winners including Mark Hamill, Steven Spielberg and Stan Lee.  This would suggest that these guys appreciate Sci-Fi and recognise good talent.  So what the hell happened in 1992?

Seriously, in the same year Naked Lunch was released, this was considered the best movie of it's genre?  What on earth were these guys smoking?  Probably the same stuff Schilling used before thinking she was coming up with a killer Sci-Fi movie.  Either that or the judging panel really liked balloons.

And so I leave this movie very confused.  Both plotline and the award bamboozle the heck out of me and quite frankly my brain hurts just trying to make sense of it all.  A big thank you to the MST3K guys for keeping me entertained throughout the movie and making this dross watchable and as promised here is the link to their version, which is brilliant, (and for MST3K fans Mike and Joel finally appear on screen together!).  Keep an ear out for their description of Robert Z'Dar who plays the Angel of Death, it's priceless!  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z5KOeKoOP_Y

As for the original movie?  Well let's just say unlike one of the more accomplished members of the Sheen family, Joe Estevez was not bi-winning.