AUGUST 8, 2012
With a title like Nazis At The Center Of The Earth, and a (non-shocking) Asylum logo at the top, you'd be a fool to leave your brain on for even a minute of this thing. No, this is the studio more or less throwing their hands up in the air and saying "fuck it", allowing the crew to make a kitchen sink movie that can't even pick a genre, let alone a plotline or a main character - even writing this review is sort of a fool's errand.
I'll say this much - it's rarely dull. As it jumps from a war thriller to an adventure to mad science horror to sci-fi/action, there's precious little time for the usual Asylum elements, like having everyone wander around aimlessly, or show multiple angles of a guy getting into his car or something. Hell, they can't even recycle footage, because it wouldn't fit with the constantly changing tone/locales. There aren't even too many lengthy talking scenes, and the few that exist are usually given to the guy playing Josef Mengele, who is probably the best actor in the film (and looks like Ian McKellen, so you can just pretend he's his Apt Pupil character combined with Magneto - shouldn't be hard since that's pretty much an accurate description).
I was also amused by the laid-back antagonism on display. The Nazi zombies bring a bunch of folks to the center of the earth (which has a nice hiking trail and a warehouse), and the others come to rescue them, but for the most part everyone is pretty civil to each other. At one point one of the heroes even takes an active interest in some mad science shit that the bad guy is doing and gives him a hand without being asked. One guy sells them out, but no one seems particularly angry with him (maybe they agreed with his "align ourselves with the victor to survive" theory). It's the most casual fight to the death I've ever seen.
Another thing that struck me as - oh fuck it, ROBOT ZOMBIE HITLER IS IN THIS MOVIE. It takes almost an hour for him to show up, but when he does - accompanied by what can only be described as a Nazi UFO for good measure - the movie enters a whole new level of batshit silliness. Robot Zombie Hitler is created mostly with CGI (there's an actor for closeups), and as you can imagine it's not the best visual effects work you've ever seen, though it's an improvement from the CGI snowplow we see early in the film, which looks slightly less photoreal than Thomas The Tank Engine.
And keep in mind, all of this takes place in the "center of the earth", which as I mentioned is remarkably well developed. It also doesn't seem to suffer from any sort of temperature issues, as everyone wears regular clothes and seems to be free from the extreme heat or cold that you'd expect to experience if you fell down a giant hole (made of ice, natch) and landed somewhere near the earth's core. Oxygen is also plentiful; in fact the only way one could possibly understand they were "below" would be to think about the occasional VFX shots that show a hole in the "sky" (which would be the hole leading to the earth's surface). It's a wacky locale, and I kind of love that they don't really give a shit about trying to sell it. It's even better than the palm trees you see in movies that are supposed to be in upstate New York or whatever.
So what's it actually about? Well, the Nazis want to continue their plan to destroy all non-Aryan territories, but this time they're using bombs armed with flesh eating bacteria. Then Hitler - now a robot zombie - can finally rule the world, despite his handicap. The heroes are a bunch of scientists who are either helping him to save their own ass, or people who went to rescue the others who are now trying to stop him. Some of the Nazis need new skin, too - most of the horror stuff stems from these bits, as faces are ripped off and repurposed. To be fair, the makeup work is pretty good - I was legit impressed by the scene where a girl's brain is pulled out as she laid on an operating table.
There's more to the story, but I'll leave the rest for your discovery. What I couldn't decide is whether the Asylum was perfect for this particular concept, or if it deserved a real budget and more fitting locations. It's so idiotic it can't even count as insensitive (unless you were offended by Wolfenstein, which is pretty much what this is "mockbusting"), but I couldn't help but wonder if the lo-fi FX and school play level realism of the sets and such were helping that distinction be more clear. If this was produced for 30-40 million (instead of like 200k), would it actually come off as more crass? Don't ponder it while watching the movie, because you'll miss 2 genre switches in the meantime.
The disc comes with some bonus material, including three brief behind the scenes pieces and a group of outtakes that are pretty much par for the Asylum course - the BTS clips are too short to be of any real use, the outtakes are bizarrely unfunny. But the commentary by director Joseph Lawson is unique in that he takes this shit seriously. He doesn't seem to think he's made high art, but he still approached the film with far more care and thought than I'd assume of any Asylum production, including storyboarding the entire movie and working with actors to create better dynamics among the characters. He also has strong opinions on how to use dissolves, properly lighting a greenscreen, and the usefulness of ADR, so at times it comes across like he's reading from an intro to film book (he even drops the "a movie is made three times" lesson), but there's something charming and even kind of sweet about hearing it from a guy who directed a movie where a Robot Zombie Hitler chops off a guy's head in front of a Nazi banner that's facing the wrong way.
I sure am going to miss you, Asylum. Can't imagine I'll find the time for your movies all that often once I quit HMAD; I certainly won't be watching two in one week.
What say you?