While hit-or-miss, this double-disc collection of comedy shorts from a Canadian collective offers some subversively welcome stuff.
Most all of the great bits are front-loaded, appearing on disc one, where viewers will find a healthy sampling of shorts — some veering into the half-hour mark — that parody ’80s genres with VHS-appropriate flair. For example, “Cool Guys” credibly re-creates the raunchy road trips of T&A comedies like “Hardbodies,” “Hot Moves” and “Spring Break,” while “H.I.Z.” takes on the camping horror film, only with a far blunter tagline: “When there’s no more room in hell, the dead will fuck at a camp.” More fun fright can be found in “Inferno of the Dead,” the troupe’s zombie entry.
“Punch Out” is a riff on the “horny guy wants to lose his virginity this summer” plot, but substitute “lose his virginity” with “get punched in face as often as possible.” Even old-timey, exploitation silents like “Reefer Madness” get their due with “Ena Lake Blues.” Not all of them work, as the rather dour “Xtreme Ghost Killers” illustrates; ostensibly a parody of those terrible ghost-hunting reality shows, it fails to merit a single laugh.
Several fake trailers dot the discs, almost all of which score, and score big. There’s the “Death Wish”-style revenger “You’re Dead”; the slasher “Fireman” (“Stop, drop and die! … When you see the fireman, you’re fired!”); and the spooky sequel “Lazer Ghosts 2″ (“There’s no such thing as ghosts!” “Not even lazer ghosts?”).
With talk of “Ghostbusters,” a love of stop-motion alien creatures, and an obsession with ladies’ periods, the works of Astron-6 are purposely lowbrow, because so are the films they’re spoofing, yet done so with a (mostly) smart touch. Because budgets are low, they have to rely on their own wit; while occasionally more scatological than necessary (“It’s like ‘Predator’ down there!” screams one character conflicted with vaginaphobia), it yields many great moments that are best shared in a group of like-minded movie lovers.
You’ll more than get your money’s worth, too, as the extras include even more goodies, from a hysterical infomercial to a hip-hop video (for Darkhouse’s “Haunted,” FYI). Strangely, the last bit I saw was a taste of “Manborg” … a movie I actually caught at this fall’s Fantastic Fest in Austin, Texas; I somehow managed not to make the connection. —Rod Lott