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Shocking Dark (1989)

Back when I reviewed Cruel Jaws, I lamented that for a site that specializes in bonkers cinema, it took six articles to get to an Italian film. Now, eleven articles in, this is our second Bruno Mattei offering.

A hoorah for the progress of human intellectualism!

“Venice is threatened by the high tide. The seaweed is killing the oxygen in the waters, and the putrid waters are corroding the foundations of the city. This is Venice today. What will happen tomorrow?”

This is how we open in Mattei’s 1989 sci-fi actioner, Shocking Dark, a.k.a. Terminator 2. And do pray tell, just what happens in Venice tomorrow? Well, as putrid waters are wont to do, they create a “giant toxic cloud” that descends upon the city, killing most of its inhabitants. In the futuristic year of 2000, a group of scientists studying the disaster go missing, so an elite group of marines is sent in to investigate. That group’s name? The Mega Force.

Hell yes, now you know just what kind of movie you’re watching. And if you weren’t sure prior to that, this film is written by Troll 2 scribes, Claudio Fragasso and Rossella Drudi. In an interview on the brand new Severin Blu-ray, Fragasso and Drudi say they were commissioned to rip off Aliens and Terminator in the same vein as their previous Predator clone, Robowar. Suffice to say, they succeeded wildly in their endeavor.

I’ve seen a lot of Italian rip-offs in the short amount of time the universe gave me to appreciate life, but none have equaled the sheer scope of plagiarism that is Shocking Dark. The film is a play-by-play reenactment of Aliens—with a touch of Terminator at the end, just for good measure. Instead of taking place at a desolate colony, the setting is in the sewers of Venice. Instead of The Company, the villainous capitalists are the Tubular Corporation, which is a great example of the Italians always being almost an entire decade behind in their representation of American pop culture. Hell, there’s even a Newt character, who for some reason, is almost as tall as the Ripley character. (The Ripley cutout, played by Haven Tyler, is named Sara, in an obvious conflation of the two films this movie is aping.)

But my personal favorite is the Vasquez character (Geretta Geretta). She is introduced in classic Vasquez fashion, barking “Let’s get some sweat going!” at a fellow soldier who is practicing nunchucks in what appears to be a high school locker room. Every bit of this scene endeared itself to my heart, as she reminded me of that guy who runs the gym in Demons 2.

And I guess we shouldn’t leave out the aliens, or whatever. This is a Bruno Mattei joint after all, so the monsters are pretty cheap; they’re just guys in rubber suits, and the movie simply recycles the same shot of one’s head exploding each time a member the of mEgA fOrCe!~*!* shoots one. As to what they are supposed to be, I haven’t a clue. Drudi says they are aliens, but I don’t recall any reference to that in the film itself. I think they’re mutated humans infected with something the Tubular Corporation was working on. But it’s one of those things that’s impossible to spoil, because it doesn’t make any fucking sense.

For those who can appreciate this kind of thing, Shocking Dark is a friggin’ blast. I was describing it to a friend earlier as a “sand box movie.” It feels like a universe you would create while playing as a kid after seeing Terminator and Aliens (“Okay, okay! We killed the aliens, let’s play Terminator now! I’m the Terminator because it’s my house!”). As sleazy as a product as this is in terms of plagiarism, there’s kind of a wholesome, naïve quality to it all. If I’m ever showing my (hypothetical future) kids the Terminator and Alien movies, I will definitely toss this one into the rotation.

Finally, let us not forget the incredible work of Severin in bringing this forgotten gem to us in such pristine condition. If they didn’t already deserve sainthood for The Devil’s Honey and Cathy’s Curse, this release should at least earn them a second glance over by the good lord Himself. The new Blu-ray is worth every single penny, especially since it comes with a limited edition Terminator 2 slipcover. This is a quintessential beer n’ buds movie.

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