BR: Shocking Dark / Terminator 2 / Terminator 2: Shocking Dark (1989)

June 13, 2018 | By

Film: Poor

Transfer:  Excellent

Extras: Good

LabelSeverin Films

Region: A

Released:  May 29, 2018

Genre:  Science-Fiction

Synopsis: A ‘super’ paramilitary team infiltrates polluted Venice to investigate the disappearance of murdered colleagues… and encounter troublesome Alieniesque aliens!

Special Features: 2 Interviews: “Terminator in Venice” with co-director / co-screenwriters Claudio Fragasso and co-screenwriter Rossella Drudi (13:14) +  “Once Upon A Time in Italy” with actress Geretta Geretta (12:44) / Alternate Italian Titles (1:44) / Trailer / Ltd. “Terminator 2” O-sleeve.




As Shocking Dark’s screenwriters testify with amusing reticence in Severin’s newly recorded interview, the film was borne out of the producer’s request to make an Aliens knock-off, and be as close to James Cameron’s 1986 original plus integrate a bit of The Terminator (1984)… but just different enough that it wouldn’t run into any immediate or long-term legal fuddle-duddle. What materialized was rebranded Terminator 2, a move that helped boost its profile outside of the U.S., perhaps the one country where it wasn’t (and couldn’t) be released, in light of Cameron’s legit sequel that materialized in 1991.

Fragasso laughs over such details, but like uncredited co-writer Rossella Drudi, there are moments when the two can’t hide their bafflement at the film’s enduring cult status. Drudi clearly thinks of the restrictive writing assignment as crap, yet its infamy as one of the most blatant rip-offs in Bruno Mattei’s filmography has ensured Shocking will get fresh fans in this new 2K transfer from a negative billed as the Director’s Cut.

There’s a consensus among Drudi, Fragasso, and co-star Geretta Geretta (Demons) that Dark was hampered by a very low budget, which might explain a lack of kinetic action in spite of the main location being a partially decommissioned nuclear reactor in Italy. You can argue Mattei, a prolific hack more skilled than Uwe Boll but unwilling to stretch outside of his comfort zone, did the best he could… But did he?

The plot is very close to Aliens: Dr. Sara Drumbull (big screen one-timer Haven Tyler) and an executive from the Tubular Corporation join a military task force and penetrate the heart of Venice, Italy, now a massively polluted ghost city where some company men were recently lost to some possible alien force.

The team scope through assorted tunnels, encounter a survivor who emits a high frequency that stuns the soldiers (dubbed Super Team), and are soon picked off by a creature that’s really a giant model head covered in  slime which we see in fast whip-pans because the budget didn’t allow for a full-sized animatronic creature.

When the aliens are seen, it’s stuntmen in rubber suits who bite into unfortunate Super Teamers, eventually eliminating the obvious clones of Cameron’s Hicks, Hudson, Valdez & Drake, and fusing Alien’s robotic Ash with Aliens’ duplicitous Burke. And yes, there’s a Newt knock-off.

The mission’s initially being managed from outside Venice in a safe control room by a Lt. Gorman clone who later sends in remaining super teamers to rescue the group’s survivors and stop a countdown that’ll blow-up the entire city, much like the finale where LV-426 is ready to blow… but before the imminent kaboom, Drudi pulls a twist from Terminator and has the remaining  survivors flipped back in time before Venice’s reduction to a polluted wasteland, and amid tourists, has them hunted by the Ash-Burke hybrid who’s now a half-naked T-800.

It’s a preposterous mish-mash of not only grafted characters, but whole scenes from Alien plus dialogue, and the finale where Drumbull (Ripley) finds Samantha (Newt), then loses her, and treks down into the bowels of the station to find her sealed up in alien goo.

The acting is abysmal, the grafted dialogue perfunctory if not moronic, and Mattei has no interest in building characters, which would be fine if there was enough action to maintain momentum. Not unlike his prior film, the PredatorRobocop hybrid Robowar (1988), Mattei inserts numerous ponderous montages of the group navigating their way through tunnels and catacombs latticed with pipes, heavy metal doors, spewing steam, and metal gratings, but lacking a budget for masses of bullets, big guns, canons, and major stuntwork, with the exception of two shots in which the camera is physically moved, the montages are comprised of characters approaching the camera which occasionally pans a slow left or right.

Riccardo Grassetti’s bright lighting never lets one forget where the key light resides, and Mattei’s use of the power station is remarkably limited and banal, which leaves any newcomer to Mattei’s canon a bit baffled: Why the interest in such a knock-off which even its writers feel a bit embarrassed about?

Matteiophiles will no doubt relish his directorial peculiarities, and there is the perverse fascination in seeing how the grafted material was recombined into a weird generic hyrbrid that kind of works; even the time travel nonsense adds to the film’s fromage factor. Geretta mimicking Vasquez and bullying the men like Aliens’ cigar chomping Sergeant Apone is surreal, but also rewarding in seeing an aggressive, testosterone-packed woman ripping apart her male studs.

One wishes Geretta had taken the role of Drumbell instead of Tyler who emotes little beyond a bored visage, but then the former would’ve been restricted by far less dialogue.

Coulson’s too old and too tall to play Newt knock-off Samantha, which makes her attempt to transcend the character’s limited nature even funnier; the scenes in which she stands like a dope and shouts “Sah-rah!” over and over again are hysterical.

The last slice of fromage lies in the transformation of “Samuel Fuller,” the Ash-Burke hybrid whose robotic makeup is revealed by a gashed arm, and whose overacting chews up some choice scenery. Christopher Ahrens looks the part, but his limited performing ability ensures the last 3 people left alive for the finale are not only the weakest characters, but the worst acted.

Although the score is credited to Carolo Maria Cordio, the generic synth cues sound like stock material tracked over scenes, and they’ve little punch in the film’s rudimentary mono mix.

Severin’s ongoing series of Mattei titles will please fans – this is probably the sharpest the film’s ever looked – and the interviews help contextualize both the film within the careers of the writers and Geretta, who recalls the director with much fondness, having appeared in Rats (1984).



© 2018 Mark R. Hasan





External References:
Editor’s BlogIMDBComposer Filmography

Vendor Search Links:
Amazon Canada —  Amazon USA —  Amazon UK



Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Category: Blu-ray / DVD Film Review

Comments are closed.