Most weeks, I review more DVDs than the Indy can fit into print. You can look for extra write-ups here, on the IndyBlog.
Oh, God. Dennis Woodruff. Where do I even begin? An eccentric fixture on the outré Hollywood scene, Woodruff is either a consummate performance artist or an absolute madman. His homemade films have sold more than 100,000 copies, most right out of the trunk of his car, but now Troma has taken him somewhat more mainstream by releasing three of his most popular films. And by films, I mean improvisational, meandering rants about becoming a celebrity, captured on home video. In Spaceman, Woodruff is an alien-cyborg on vacation, but spends most of his time complaining about materialism and eating burritos. In Obsession: Letters to David Lynch, Woodruff mercilessly stalks David Lynch to be his next big star, with fictional results. Finally, in Superstar (mislabeled L.A.), Woodruff drives around Hollywood in his gaudy car covered in thrift-store artifacts, looking for acting gigs and harassing Cloris Leachman. A little Dennis goes a long way, but kudos to Troma for spreading his outsider art even further out.
Damn, now that is a good-looking, square-jawed son of a bitch. In a more just world, Casper Van Dien would have been Captain America in the recent theatrical feature film, not slumming in a straight-to-DVD Fred Olen Ray thriller. Don’t get me wrong: It’s a perfectly good Fred Olen Ray thriller, but mostly due to the heroic presence of Van Dien. He’s inventor Tom Woodard, creator of the CD70, an automated navigation system that will not only render commercial air flights pilotless, but will use pure, cold logic to weed out any human error in the event of an emergency. Before you can say “What are you doing, Dave?” a virus infects the system, causing the jet to go off-course … in a lightning storm! With no communications systems! And an angry Pentagon that wants to shoot the damn thing out of the sky! It’s bargain-basement action as Van Dien rewires the mainframe and — spoiler alert — saves the day!
Some movies are just a struggle to get through. You try to keep your eyes open, you try to pay attention, you try to give the film the honest respect it deserves. But, sometimes, it’s impossible. So you pause it, coming back to it later when you’re more alert. Rinse, repeat. Bio-Dead is a film like that, one that I had to finish over the course of a few days. It’s not a horrible film, it’s just … a trying film. The definition of a fantastic idea — a hazmat team searching a future contaminated California for survivors in the remnants of a biological disaster — that would have made a killer short film, this one's stretched to an interminable, badly lit 83 minutes. You get some zombie-type things, but it’s too little too late, as the scenes of the team, in full contamination gear, walk and walk and walk through an abandoned building, hearing things and infighting constantly. As much as I hate to say it, Bio-Dead is a bio-dud.