Featuring: Johnny “’Palisades Justice‘” Diaz , Christina “The Treehouse” Licciardi , Nick “Laid to Rest” Principe
Director & Writer: Jeremy “Avengers Grimm” Inman
Sequel to: Avengers Grimm
The summer trudge through the bodily secretion trail of tears has still not let up, but I’ll spare you the trial of enduring a third diatribe where I bitch about the heat. I will say this though – you could bottle my underarm perspiration and weaponize it as an environmentally friendly alternative to mustard gas. That, or sell it as a Designer Impostors for Burger King onion rings. Speaking of heat, I’m convinced that my microwave is haunted by popcorn hating ghosts. Whether it’s Colonel’s Kernels, The Buck-an-Ear Buccaneer, or Maze of Maize, every time I try to nuke a bag of black lung inducing goodness the damn things come out scorched worse than Freddy Krueger at a Pyromaniacs For Snuffing Out Child Abuse fundraiser! Speaking of things that hate other things, I clearly hate myself more than Michael Bay hates ’80s pop culture, because here I am once again (by choice!) back within the padded walls of The Asylum. Those dickardly dingleberries who frequently infect the world with the worst knockbusters (knock-offs of blockbusters) this side of E.T. Eddie Torres the Extra-Testicle.
I could just be like everybody and their second cousin reviewing the first season of “Stranger Things” right now (It’s great, but I’m still disappointed that my theory on the Demogorgon becoming Slenderman at the end was wrong), but here I am bitching about The Asylum again like it’s the fucking running joke of my amateur movie griping career. Fuck it. What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger… or just saddles us with PTSD until we drive all of our friends away and eventually David Carradine ourselves in the closet of a La Quinta Inn suite. I’ll never forgive you La Quinta motherfuckers for turning my old site address into a redirect for your homepage! May you all die of fatal rectal trauma via forced bowling ball insertion.
Not to be confused with Monster Squad, SuperHero Squad, Gangster Squad, “Mod Squad”, “Odd Squad”, “God Squad”, the other God Squad (there’s an obscure one for you Marvel readers!), Squadron Sinister, nor a group of willennials who get together every Saturday night to live-tweet viewings of the Sinister movies and do so under the hashtag “SinisterSquad”, what today’s movie is is The Asylum’s answer to the summer super-villain team-up blockbuster release, Suicide Squad. The Asy’ crew screws the Poochie on this one, and rather than combining a patchwork posse of the pantheon of half-assed knock-off villains they’ve populated their stupid little cinematic universe with, go for the easy way out and just toss together a group of public property fairytale fuckers instead. If Suicide Squad and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen pulled a bareback train on a Wiki of fairy tales and fables, this would be the bastard end product. Well, it works for “Grimm”, “Once Upon a Time” and “Sleepy Hollow” on TV, and it worked for 150 issues of DC’s “Fables” series (plus all of the spin-off stuff I’m sure as shit NOT counting out for the sake of completion in a review that nobody’s going to read anyway!), so why not?
‘Less Than Zero’ isn’t just a Bret Easton Ellis book I couldn’t bring myself to read more than the first 30 pages of, it’s also the amount of introductory exposition we’re given before being dropped face first into the fray that is our feature. Fortunately, this isn’t just a lazy round of Figure It Out for Yourself™ (by Parker Brothers!) and we’re filled in on the backstory as the frontstory progresses, but for the sake of simplicity I’ll give you a spoiler-free(ish) chimpan-A to chimpan-Z adaptation. RE-RE-RE-REMIIIIIIIX!
It all began in the magical dimension from which all fairy tales and fables originated. Call it Neverland, call it Grimm World, call it Dimension F (for “Fables”), call it whatever puts plums in your Christmas pie, Horner. Known by his peers as one of those guys who can get anything for the right price, infamous imp Rumpelstiltskin was hired by Death (yes, that Death) to acquire “the magic mirror” (presumably the one belonging to Snow White’s murderously jealous stepmom, Queen Grimhilde), which would allow the Reaper the ability to instant transmission his bony backside from The Underworld (a third realm all its own) to Earth and fulfill his despotic ambition to overtake our dimension. Death is sold to us as a Faustian figure (with Kung-Fu GRIP!), offering up earthly delights to his marks in exchange for their immortal souls being added to the Underworld census, so we can make an “ass” out of “u” and “me” that his realm is basically Hell… though we’re never given a Heaven-like counter-dimension to provide context, so I guess Underworld is where everybody goes when they die, whatever their moral alignment… so why would Death need to barter for souls if everybody winds up there sooner or later anyway?! Come on, Inman. You couldn’t take 5 minutes to slip in a reference to some manner of Nirvana to make more sense of this? Blart.
For no real reason beyond being a major asshole (like, “prolapsed colon” major), Rumpledforeskin broke the arcane artifact so Death couldn’t have it, shattering the barrier between their world and ours in the process. Now an undetermined population of these imaginary heroes and villains and ancillary personas exist in the world that gave us atomic weapons, Johnny Mnemonic, and The Baconator Triple. Turns out Rumpels is the type of guy who will huff or drink anything if there’s the possibility of it getting him a buzz, because that’s the only reason I can come up with for why he would’ve discovered that consuming ground up pieces of the mirror gives him the ability to control others with his voice… I guess if you’re gonna build a bad guy around Jared Leto’s “trailer park meth head Joker”, he’s gotta snort/smoke/shoot up something weird, right? Sure. Rumpy’s doing the half-baked Joker thing, but even if he had the chops to be the tops, the cartoon sound effects that accompany him are obnoxious. To be honest, I’m biased, as there will only ever be one true Rumpy for this jackal god. And as much as I man crush for Robert Carlyle, he’s not it…
On the topic of people who have experience with transdimensional reflective surfaces, Wonderland's Alice (last name withheld unless you consider Tim Burton's version canon, in which case it's Kingsleigh) also ended up on Earth, and has cobbled together a small organization of fellow refugees under the intention of wrangling up trouble makers and shipping them back home before they fuck anything else up. On her payroll are Goldilocks (that home invading hussy), Piper (the vermin charming, mass abductor of children), Hatter (a harmless weirdo celebrating eternal tea time), and the Tweedle twins Dum and
Dummer Dee (goodhearted scaredy ‘tards). In this version, Goldie is a bad-ass bombshell with twin handguns (and pigtails so she’ll resemble cinematic Harley Quinn), Piper is “generic good looking, wise-cracking hero guy”, Hatter is a psychotropic dropping rave DJ, and the Tweedles are half-wits dressed in some type of off-brand steampunk Super Mario Bros outfits (battery operated mustaches not included). Not exactly the Avengers, it’s no wonder our knock-off Nick Fury turns knock-off Amanda Waller, deciding it would be a good idea to bolster her skeleton crew of do-gooders with a supplemental add-on of ne’er-do-wells.
Rumpy’s captured and enlisted under the threat of an exploding wristwatch Alice binds him with. That and he can only outsmart Death so long, so he’s better off making some allies. In turn, he’s tasked with convincing his ex-girlfriend Gelda (Wonderland’s Queen of Hearts, now a sexy black lady decked out like a speakeasy flapper girl) to also join the gang, and her job is to use her apparent power of man control to pacify the murderous Bluebeard (who likes feeding women to his magical knives) into helping out too. The Big Bad Wolf is also there, playing the “monster with a heart of gold” role, going along because he’s got a gnarly knot over Goldie. Yeah, he’s basically just Marv from Sin City with bad dental work, right down to the same-name romantic interest. If they weren’t just ripping off Bigbie from “Fable”, I’d say they should’ve made this character the Beast, as in “Beauty and the”. There isn’t enough money in the effects budget to go full beast mode when it comes time for his inevitable lupine fiasco, so just call him a man-beast and leave it, Butt Fuchs.
Last on Alice's enlistment checklist is Carabosse, a savage, cannibalistic witch. Now, this one I had to do a little research on. Who I first thought was meant to be the child-eating witch with the gingerbread house who was burned alive by a little German kid, instead turns out to be the pissed off fairy-godmother from a 1600s “Sleeping Beauty” knock-off called “The Princess Mayblossom”! Very cheeky of you, Mr. Inman, putting a knock-off character into your knock-off movie! I appreciate the wink wink AND you forced me to learn something new today. Bravo, sir.
However, Carrie turns out to be a really bad draft pick on Alice's part when it's revealed that the razor-toothed wicked witch has a waterslide between her thighs when it comes to the only guarantee in life that doesn't include filling out forms and paying protection money to the government. Yep, more than a mere admirer, the sorceress is a straight up acolyte for The Pale Rider and probably bones herself with a femur while watching Faces of Death before bed. The best part about Witchy-Poo’s infatuation? Every time she wants a word with her would-be squeeze, she kills one of his messengers so he’ll inhabit their body. This diminishing of the Dead One’s numbers doesn’t piss him off so much as it just really irritates him.
It comes as no surprise that Carabosse’s loyalty to the antagonist escalates the plot past the “gather the group” stage, as Grim’s goons (dressed in generic “urban ninja militants” motif) infiltrate Alice’s base, where we spend the rest of the flick watching the good guys and good-bad guys try to figure out the Reaper’s endgame and put a stop to it before he kills them all and takes over Earth. As with any quorum of villains and monsters though, the real enemy is themselves, so it’s not a question of WILL everything go to shit, but how long will it take. Betrayal is inevitable. Such is life.
Being saddled with the typical bargain basement budget of an Asylum showing, it’s no “Shocker” (a movie I love, by the way) that the entirety of Squad takes place in and around an abandoned factory/warehouse/hobo hotel. At least it’s better than crap like Rise of the Zombies, where we’re shown a shot of a famous landmark (like the Golden Gate Bridge) and are hoodwinked with sound stage green screen sewage that makes The Room‘s rooftop scenes look like Hollywood magic. Also lacking any surprise factor for our flick is the previously expounded upon uniformity of Death’s goons’ attire. The fact that their faces are covered with hoods and face scarves makes it really easy for the same 5 or 6 extras to be killed without having to cut any additional checks. Hell, I’d bet dollars to dental appliances (of which this movie has several) that some members of the main cast earned an extra $20 and/or free sandwich coupon for Subway by pulling double duty. Speaking of, let’s discuss who earned their five dollar footlong, and who should go back to Tinsel Town Terry’s Back Alley Acting Academy.
Christina Licciardi was probably my favorite on this one. She plays Alice with just enough strength mixed with panic mixed with insecurity mixed with determination to make the whole thing work. Alice does what she has to to get the job done, and shows she’s not averse to getting some red on her . Her time on the other side of the looking glass has brought her a long way from where she was when she first fell down that rabbit hole, but hasn’t lost herself completely, and Licciardi pulls that off. A surprisingly good get for an Asylum picture, and I commend whomever cast her. Here’s to hoping she doesn’t get swallowed up by the obscurity beast and spend the rest of her career in Monstro’s guts, roasting kelp with an old man and his creepy wooden sex homunculus.
Don’t gimme that “He was just a little wooden boy you disgusting pervert!” crap either. His fucking dick-shaped nose grew like a telescoping sex toy, so blame the Blue Fairy if you’re gonna get so offended about your beloved childhood figures being reduced to innuendos. Or just get out your Ouija and blame Corey Allen’s ghost.
Johnny Rey Diaz isn't horrible as Rumpy, but his dollar store rendition of Jared Leto’s juggalo Joker is less over-the-top fun and more off-of-a-cliff irritating, in that that’s where you want to push him when he spends too much time over-revving his annoyance engine directly in your face. This could be less Diaz’s fault and more Inman’s, a la Chris Nolan being to blame for Christian Bale’s “choked on a rock salt dildo” Batman voice, so I won’t point fingers. I will point a thumb though, straight up, as JRD’s act grew on me when he turned down the kooky capering and it came time to take the trickster into more serious territory. Rump Roast was downright enjoyable by the end! And I’m a bitter old man who openly wishes death upon children at the mall!
In the interest of time, let’s make the rest of these quick. Lindsay Sawyer plays tough girl Goldilocks well enough without degenerating into a one-dimensional “bad-ass grrrl power!” caricature, and she looks great while doing it. Talia Davis (Gelda) is good as the selfish, spoiled Queen of Hearts, and doesn’t go Hawn & Russell (little Overboard joke for ya) with it. The flapper girl look works wonder(land)s for her too and turns me into a fapper boy. In the words of Inspector Gadget, “Yowzers”! Trae Ireland (Bluebeard) makes good enough “sinister sex criminal, literal ladykiller” faces to get his rapey-stabby persona across, but really doesn’t have much to do beyond that. I actually wouldn’t mind seeing him play Bluebeard in a full-length feature, but unless Warner Bros gives Suicide Squad member Slipknot (the role Bluey’s filling in for here) his own movie, I don’t see The Asylum bothering. Onto Isaac Reyes, he’s nothing special. Maybe’s it’s a case of being shafted with a barely interesting role (loser never even breaks out his magic flute), but pretty boy Piper was the plain oatmeal packet in this Quaker Oats variety box.
Fiona Rene was great as Carabosse, getting crazy and evil enough without vomiting ham everywhere. Visually she’s obviously a bite off of Suicide Squad villainess Enchantress, while her romantic obsession with Death takes directly from Harley’s abusive relationship with Mr. J, and I’m not mad about either. I mean in the angry way, not the “Mad About You” way, a show which makes me angry in a whole other way. I appreciate Rene’s physical and verbal evocation of the gutter witch for the most part, more so given the mondo oral obstruction she had to deal with while doing it! Speaking of dental nightmares that could put an Orthodontist’s kids through college, Joseph Harris is built well enough for his rip-off of Bigbie Wolf, but I’ll be damned if I gleamed even an ounce of the dude’s acting prowess. He spends the whole flick mumbling and growling from behind a bulldog level of artificial under bite. Sure, Karloff could convey a butt ton of emotion from behind full Frankenstein regalia, but it’s hardly fair to compare. As such, I’ll give The Big Bad Wolf a pass.
Nick Principe has a couple of decent comedy line deliveries as Death, but playing up the Reaper as a poor man’s Andrew Dice Clay doesn’t do anyone any favors, whether that’s Principe’s fault or Inman’s. Two talons down and a “Blart” for good measure. Finally, Aaron Moses gets in a decent moment or two of sympathy for the “big on heart but short on brains” twins (of which he plays both), while Randall Yarbrough (Hatter) just has to stand around being oblivious for half his screen time and sit around being ‘shroomed off his ass for the other half. So, Beavis bless his little glitter beard, but without the accompanying “madness” that we all associate with the tea swilling weirdo, his involvement is a lost cause at best and a waste of time at worst. Please collect your $300 headphones and see yourself out. Auf Wiedersehen.
With that done, let’s talk about sex, baby. By which I mean, let’s talk about writer-director Jeremy Inman. Saying that anything associated with The Asylum “shines” feels wrong, unless you’re dropping the always endearing proverb about the difficulties of putting a sheen on shit. As such, rather than saying Inman shines with Sinister Squad, allow me instead to praise him for vaulting well above the lowered bar I set for him and earning himself a gold medal! Unfortunately, in the ToA Olympics a gold medal is only the equivalent of a 3-out-of-5 (in order, both platinum and molybdenum rank higher), but for a movie that I was scooping up a pile of Ammut’s excrement for in preparation of condemnation, it’s still high praise! As of this episode, I’ve reviewed six other Asylum mistakes, and this model of mediocrity stands well above the majority of them! Most casual movie viewers will downright dislike it, for which I don’t blame them, but I may just end up liking Sinister Squad better than Suicide Squad if the bad news reviews I’ve heard are any indication!
Though the movie gives us a peek or two too many at its endgame, and the finale wraps things up a little too loosely, I actually found myself entertained. Maybe the heat’s finally scrambled my noggin like a dozen sidewalk eggs, but yes, I enjoyed the ending to an Asylum movie! A masterpiece by no stretch of a Tie Dang Gong student’s pecker, but it’s still a fun little movie that’s miles ahead of most Asylum brand caboose juice. By Charles Manson’s forehead swastika, will wonders never cease!? What I didn’t appreciate was the needless name drop at the end, as the group is literally referred to as Alice’s own little “Sinister Squad” (not to be confused with The Sinister Six, Mister Sinister, or The Sinister Minister), but that’s a jab at Will Smith’s equally bad selling of the title to his own team-up movie, so it’s understandable despite being aural barb wire dragged across my ear drums.
Before bringing this episode to its happy ending, for those wondering, the majority of the soundtrack is as bad as you’d fear it to be (but not bad enough to be good, like Ankle Biters‘ “3 Feet Tall”). It’s made up mostly of nothing special hip-hop and EDM generica, with some oddly appropriate old-timey ’50s teeny bopper soda jerk stuff thrown in for charm.
And with that, we tap out on another installment of The Tomb. It wasn’t until the majority of the work had already been done that I’d made the connection between this and Jeremy Inman’s prior work, Avengers Grimm. It seems to have a similar premise (only, as you’d presume, ripping-off Marvel’s The Avengers instead) and includes the tale of how Rumps (played then by Casper Van Dien) got his hands on the mirror and wrecked it in the first place, despite not being listed on IMDB as having a canonical connection between the pair. I intend on reviewing it for a future feature (I’ve got the next dozen or so reviews already laid out ahead of me), so with any luck Mr. Inman will continue to keep his spot on my good side and give me more praise to belt on about like Julie Andrews in the Austrian Alps after skiing with Scarface.
Peace be with you, my peoples. See ya next time!
In movie geekinese, that translates to “Enter at Your Own Rick”. Who’s Rick? You don’t wanna know.
That face you make when a crackhead offers to suck your dick for a fiver and you consider it… you know, because $5 is a really good price and you could probably just close your eyes and imagine Selena Gomez or something…
Keifer Sutherland takes a hard look at his life choices after another Christmas party ends with tequila on his breath and an innocent conifer’s sap on his hands
This scene is from the director’s “blue” period.
*mumble*mumble*mumble*mumble* (“Anybody wanna see me do a magic trick? I’ll make a pencil disappear! You know, like that scene… in that movie… with… that gay cowboy guy… Anyone?”)
Her father was the Flukeman and her mother was a piranha. Her conception was enough to give Dagon nightmares! The ironic part? She can chew through even the toughest of steaks, but she can’t digest meat, so she’s a vegetarian. True story.
“How bad ass are these, right?! I’m an insomniac, so I purchase all of my home décor from those late night knife sale shows. These puppies were calling my Diner’s Club card like a sailor to the sirens!”
She’s modeling the keystone outfit of the Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen spring collection.
“Please forgive me, tt was a one-night mistake! I was drunk and alone and confused! Those CHUDs meant nothing to me! I love YOU!”
“Is this really worth risking our necks over, Goldie?”
“Have you ever eaten bear porridge, Piper? Have you?! If you had, you wouldn’t be asking that question.”
“You think you’ve hit rock bottom? Come see me when you wake up from your latest blackout with your face covered in dried faerie jizz, then you can tell me about ‘rock bottom’, Jack.”
Special guest star Cesar Romero as The White Rabbit… bobblehead
Anubis will return next time in
“Return of the Return to the Blue Galoot”
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