ReviewSci-fi flick "Manborg" a low budget labour of love
Posted by Alison Gillmor, reviewer | Friday October 26, 2012
Matthew Kennedy as Manborg. (courtesy Steve Kostanski)
It’s almost no-budget—an obsessive labour of love that relies on the unpaid help of friends and Kostanski’s inventive genius with miniatures, computer-animated F/X and duct tape.
—Alison Gillmor, reviewer
This Halloween, writer-director Steve Kostanski and his compatriots in crazed Winnipeg movie collective Astron-6 (Adam Brooks, Conor Sweeney, Jeremy Gillespie and Matt Kennedy) are premiering another postmodern mash-up of a movie.
Like last year's culty splatter flick Father's Day, Manborg is a cinematic grab-bag, referencing everything from Robocop, The Terminator, Tron, Mad Max and Star Wars to scraps of New Wave music vids, badly dubbed martial arts flicks, and a few classics like Frankenstein and Dr. Strangelove. Mostly, though, this retro adventure is crushing on Z-grade straight-to-video sci-fi cheapies of the 1980s.
In a post-apocalyptic war between bloodsucking hell-demons and humankind, a heroic soldier (Kennedy) falls, only to find himself reanimated as a half-human, half-cyborg hybrid. Forced to battle in gladiator-like arena fights, he joins with a ragtag band of rebels to challenge their oppressors.
Meet Manborg - part human, part cyborg. (courtesy Steve Kostanski)
Calling Manborg low-budget would be understating things. It's almost no-budget--an obsessive labour of love that relies on the unpaid help of friends and Kostanski's inventive genius with miniatures, computer-animated F/X and duct tape.
Manborg can be murky in image and sound--sometimes it feels like it was recorded on an old VHS tape in somebody's basement rumpus room in 1986--and the writing is super-cheesy. (I think I detect a sardonic nod to Batman & Robin, the worst comic-book movie ever, in the corny, incongruous references to "family.") There could be a few moments when a viewer might wonder how many bad movies a film can cite without becoming a bad movie itself.
But mostly Manborg is buoyed up by its sincere but self-aware love of cinematic schlock. It also helps that the clichés are always cut with comedy. Take the subplot in which the hideously evil and ugly supervillain (Gillespie) has a schoolboy crush on the obligatory hot-girl renegade (Meredith Sweeny). ("Such an idiot," he berates himself after a crushingly awkward pickup attempt.)
And ultimately, there's something about the whole Astron-6 process that's cuckoo-crazy but kind of irresistible. Kostanski and crew are having such a ball that it's hard not to join in. "The power of the human spirit will never be obsolete," as the triumphantly clunky dialogue tells us, and that goes for movie-making as well as demon-fighting.
Manborg plays at Cinematheque October 26-28 & November 1. Director Steve Kostanski will be at the screenings on October 26-27.