Founded in 2007, Astron 6 is a Canadian production company specialising in 80’s aping, schlocky movies that routinely dip their toes in the horror/comedy pool. The genius of Astron-6 is that you really feel that their works are a labour of love. Unlike something like Poolboy: Drowning out the Fury, they don’t just don a funny wig and wag their fingers at the clichés of the 80s in a snarky fashion. They embrace those clichés and tropes to add colour to their dark, comedic landscapes. They have a number of features and short films out, but here’s just a few of my favourites.
Mankind has been taken over by the denizens of Hell led by the evil Draculon (Adam Brooks). A nameless soldier (Matthew Kennedy), brought back to life as a cyborg known only as Manborg, soon finds himself fighting tyranny alongside a gang of futuristic gladiators/freedom fighters. Can good overcome evil? Sure, why not.
Manborg has an incredibly tight budget, but that doesn’t mean it’s limited in scope. Director Steven Kostanski (The Void) uses a heady combination of green screen and models to create dystopian backdrops that utterly convince. Well, maybe not completely convince. This is, after all, a nod to straight to video flicks and a little complacency is more than allowed.
All of Astron 6’s films are laced with black humour of some kind, but Manborg somewhat bucks the dark trend with an almost innocent sense of self. There’s a lot here that reminds you of Mel Brook’s filmography, where prison guards lament unrequited love for their prisoners and our heroes stop the action to make noodles. In summary: it’s a definite must see.
Father’s Day (2011)
Chris Fuchman (Mackenzie Murdock) has become one of the most feared serial killers in Tromaville. Targeting only fathers, his crimes have become legendary. Hot on his tail is Ahab (Adam Brooks), a man hell-bent avenging the death of his own father. Joining him in his quest is Twink (Conor Sweeney), a young male prostitute and Father Sullivan (Matthew Kennedy), a naïve and eager to please priest (Matthew Kennedy).
Filmed on a budget of $10,000 and directed by Astron 6 as a collective, Father’s Day is a balls to the wall, schlock fest that tips its hat to the exploitation films of the 70s. As gory as it is funny, it delivers a ballistic 90 minutes that never lets up. It’s near knuckle jokes will not be for everyone, but if you’re willing to let Father’s Day wash over you then you’re guaranteed a good time. Plus, it has one of my favourite downbeat endings ever.
Cool Guys (2010)
Cool Guys is the tale of two nerds, Chad (Conor Sweeney) and Rick (Matthew Kennedy), looking forward to finally getting laid over the summer holidays. With Uncle Murphy (Adam Brooks) in tow to help guide the boys, they hit the beach, attempting to meet girls and avoid the steely glare of the Mayor’s son (Falcon van der Baek).
If you love your 80s nostalgia, then the above description will sound like any number of sex comedies, from Meatballs to Revenge of the Nerds. The twist, for want of a better word, of Cool Guys is the halfway gear change when directorial duties pass from John Hughes to David Lynch.
An act of debauchery (well, several in fact) is so sudden that it’ll take a while to process. Cool Guys’s short running time means there’s no time to process and as we enter the third act, Chad and Rick’s noble actions – to raise money to save a beloved building – is tainted by everything we’ve seen previously. The film having already played with, and destroyed, our expectation of 80s movies, now wants us to go back to what we though before. It’s like watching Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and expecting to still cheer Ferris on at the parade after you’ve just seen him beat a homeless man to death in the second act.
Cool Guys is a lot of bleak fun, but you will most certainly feel dirty in the morning.