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Cinema/TV, Film Notes

Film review – Sinister Squad

My notes on the Asylum ‘mockbuster’.

A minor stumbling-block in the Asylum’s ‘mockbuster’ policy comes when they try to ride the coattails of franchise superhero movies (Marvel and DC, for instance) – they had a stab at the impossible-to-copyright Thor but other big names are off-limits, so writer-director Jeremy M. Inman came up with the theoretically workable workaround of drawing on public domain literary, fairytale and legendary characters in Avengers Grimm (the Asylum’s Avengers copy) and this barrel-scrapery attempt to come up with something like (and, inconceivably, worse than) Suicide Squad.  The film it seemingly resembles most, to the extent of featuring a few of the same characters, is the British smut epic League of Frankenstein – without the sex scenes but with porn-level production values and ranting, wild-eyed, overinsistent-even-in-this-context performances.   From the trailer, the LoF fight/effects scenes (dammit, even the acting) look better than Asylum quality.

 

So, Alice (Christina Licciardi) – slightly influenced by the recent Disney reinventions of Lewis Carroll – is the Amanda Waller of this universe, where she had gun-toting Goldilocks (Lindsay Sawyer), a blowdart-tooting not-very-pied Piper (Isaac Reyes) and Tweedledee-dum (Aaron Moses) as a krewe to round up mythical bads who crept into the modern world (a bland warehouse district) in the earlier film when the Joker-like Rumpelstiltskin (Johnny Rey Diaz) broke the magic mirror, which he now wants to snort like cocaine to make something happen it’s hard to care about.  In Avengers Grimm, Casper Van Dien – a bigger name than anyone cast here – was Rumpelstiltskin; it says something when your leading man is several cuts down from Caspar Van Dien.  Death (Nick Principe) is the big villain, sending masked anonymous goons against Alice’s warehouse HQ to retrieve his scythe and pursue some plot agenda with Rumpy.

Alice has to team up with the villain and other captured creeps – the Queen of Hearts (Talia A Davis), Bluebeard (Trae Ireland) and the Big Bad Wolf (Joseph Michael Harris), plus a Depp-style glitterbearded acidhead Hatter (Randall Yarbrough) – to see off the hordes and troublemaking ’cannibal witch’ Carabosse (Fiona Rene), whose wide eyes and plastic fangs might be silly (she looks like she’s in a scratch costume to play the Zuni Fetish dolls from Trilogy of Terror) but who brings a commitment to crazy that’s the best thing on screen here.  Most of the ‘reinventions’ are just dumb urban fantasy non sequiturs (Bluebeard is big black serial killer dude who absorbs the souls of female victims into knives he calls his ‘wives’), an enormous amount of the film consists of immense closeups of actors pulling faces as they insist on meaningless speeches, the cramped drabness of the settings hinders any attempt at atmosphere (and frankly we’ve seen this bloody warehouse too many times before) and the CGI interludes are dreadful.

 

If you can bear it, here’s the trailer.

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