Monday, June 15, 2015

Video Cheese: DARK FUTURE (1994)

Note: this piece was originally written for's Video Cheese feature. It has been published here by the kind permission of Mr. Ken Begg.

DARK FUTURE (1994 - color)
   "Decades after a plague caused the sterility of the surviving human race, who have become slaves to robot enforcers, a child is born."

   With a modest increase in budget and better actors, Dark Future could have been a pretty good little movie. The concept is stronger than it sounds, and the pacing is rather good. I'll even give some credit to director Greydon Clark, who manages to make more of his limited resources than others in his position might have. With just a bit more polish, this could have been a decent science fiction flick. 

   Ultimately, I feel about this film as my family and I decided about The Doomsday Machine, it's ALMOST a good movie.* To that end, I won't go into too much detail for the sake of those who may wish to see the film. As result, this review indeed runs a little shallow...

  (*The Doomsday Machine was a big mess, there's no denying it, but the concept and cast were strong enough to carry it farther than it would have gone under other circumstances. The main fault we found was that patched together ending which ruined whatever momentum the picture had enjoyed up to that point. Like I said, ALMOST a good movie, but falling woefully short.)

   Dark Future tells of a society in which law enforcement robots (built from human beings, and thus having human desires) take recreation in a massive reverse-Westworld-type amusement park where human beings live and serve as concubines to their mechanical masters. The park is split into various themed eras. An electronic barrier prevents any humans from escaping to the fabled outside world where the robots live. 

   When a child is born and some humans have to take action to save it from the robots, a pair of robots fall to human hands. This is an earth-shaking first for this world. A rebellion is formed as the robots become more violent in searching for the child. The robots eventually take the child, by which time our hero has found a way to destroy the barrier.....

   As a good comparison, I'd say the concept here is on par with an episode of the Logan's Run teleseries. Like a cheap television production however, there are problems. The acting is largely on par with a daytime soap. Our lead is our old pal Darby Hinton ("Sticks" in Angels Brigade). Although game, the part seems a bit much for him. As a smart, ever-learning rebel, he seems well in over his head. He comes across much better with his introduction scene, as a bartender in a mock 1930s speakeasy, which gives no indication this will be anything other than a bit part. Hinton gives a nice try, but his soft and gravelly voice* doesn't command as much respect as it should for the natural leader of an uprising against a totalitarian regime.

   (*Possibly Hinton was sick at the time of filming? He didn't sound near this gruff a decade before.)

   Other problems include the effects work, which is provided by 60s schlock director and effects man for such fare as The Mighty Gorga, The Doomsday Machine, Gallery of Terror, Monsters Crash the Pajama Party, and dozens of other drive-in goodies, David L. Hewitt. 

   The barrier is a spotlight over one of those static globes filled with electric arcs that became so popular in the 80's. Giving this prop an unwanted goofy factor is that the same items were what the space witches danced around in the dismal space opera (and MST subject) Space Mutiny

   The robots spark and sizzle when shot, and you can tell who is about to be shot by the way they suddenly become weirdly thick (as if they're suddenly wearing tons of padding). The robots carry ray-guns that are obviously off-the-rack kids' toys. They even have red caps over the ends. It takes forever to pull the trigger on one of these things too, which sort of screws around with the pacing a bit during the action scenes.

   Nothing fantastic, mind you, but much better than I was expecting. With some work, it could make a pretty decent flick.