Despite some seriously heavyweight contenders in the likes of The Dark Night Rises, Prometheus and The Avengers, my favourite movie of 2012 was (by a staggering margin I might add) a borderline reprehensible little $10,000 exploitation flick called Father’s Day, a gloriously offensive AND inventive cocktail of extreme gore, gay rape, incestuous sex and big, big belly laughs, courtesy of a Canadian filmmaking collective known as Astron 6. Rather than a follow up, this latest release is the team’s previous zero budget oddity, an utterly unhinged sci fi/action/horror parody created on a fraction of the already miniscule budget put together by schlock horror studio Troma for Father’s Day.
The story is one as old as time itself. In a future where the forces of hell have invaded and waged war against the earth, an unnamed soldier witnesses his brother’s death at the hands of the demonic cyborg vampire known as Count Draculon. When he too is slain by Draculon, the soldier awakens in a distant future, rebuilt as a cybernetic killing machine known simply as Manborg. Allying himself with three young rebels, Manborg must battle his way through the vast armies of hell to finally confront his evil nemesis Draculon.
If that all sounds too demented for words, wait until you see the thing. Basically an utterly insane and ungodly splicing of Robocop and the Mortal Kombat video games, Manborg is, like its successor, a movie with more ideas and invention than most films with a hundred thousand times the budget.
In fact, the incredibly low budget is a gift in a sense, with CGI almost entirely eschewed in favour of gloriously daft stop motion creations and slightly off kilter greenscreen backdrops (filmed in the director’s garage no less), giving it all the odd charm of a low rent 80’s sci fi turd, but with the massive bonus of genuine wit and invention. While the FX are certainly cheap, it’s clear that the route taken was not the easy one, the level of detail is obscene throughout and the world the team create is brilliantly conceived and peculiarly real, despite being ludicrous to the core. There’s a clear affection for the movies being parodied that is keenly felt from the first frame, a feeling that Astron 6 are laughing along with their influences, rather than at them in a cynical way.
The movie’s greatest strength though is in its brilliantly funny cast. Matthew Kennedy is hugely loveable and amusing as the surprisingly inept cybernetic death machine Manborg. Ludwig Lee is pure gold as Manborg’s permanently shirtless, kung fu sidekick #1 Man, a character whose dubbing is as atrocious and bizarre as his name. Meredith Sweeney is terrific as the knife hurling, badass rebel forced to constantly rebuff the advances of her demonic prison warden. Adam Brooks gets the weakest roles in the movie but is still great as both Dr Scorpius and chief big bad Count Draculon. Jeremy Gillespie gets many of the movie’s best lines as the pathetically loved up, bumbling demon obsessing over Sweeney’s hot rebel. Last but not least is Conor Sweeney, the movie is such a group effort that I’d never suggest that any one performer steals the show, but Sweeney comes bloody close. He’s consistently hilarious as Justice, the seemingly bi-polar and definitely illiterate brother of Meredith Sweeney’s rebel Mina, alternating between extreme anger and teary emotion on a dime, which is made all the funnier by his totally unexplained, broad Australian accent, seemingly added just to make his lines funnier.
This is where I would normally list the few bugbears I have with a movie, but in this case there really aren’t any worth mentioning, it’s a little short at only 60 minutes, but it could be three or four hours long and I’d still want more.
Manborg is a godsend, a gloriously funny, brilliantly inventive and riotously enjoyable parody of every cheap, tawdry B-movie that ever made you smile, and it’s one made with such affectionate and infectious joy that it’s impossible not to be swept up in the fun. If you liked Father’s Day then say hello to your new favourite movie.
Writers: Jeremy Gillespie, Steven Kostanski
Stars: Matthew Kennedy, Adam Brooks, Meredith Sweeney
Runtime: 60 mins
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