It seems lately that the 80’s are back, and have become the “go to” decade for current filmmakers to capitalize on. If you look at the popularity and success of shows like Stranger Things, as well as nostalgia movies like Ready Player One or X-men: Apocalypse, it’s pretty obvious that Hollywood isn’t done cashing in.
But, if you’re as old as I am, you also remember that not everything that came out of the 80’s was gold! Which brings me to the terribly made horror and sci-fi films of the 80’s from a production company called, Troma. Maybe you’ve at least heard of one of their more popular films (and I say that loosely), “The Toxic Avenger.”
In making Soft Matter, Director Jim Hickcox was clearly inspired by the films of Troma. And unfortunately decided that this form of filmmaking needed to make a return. The “story” (on paper) is about two graffiti artist (played by Devyn Placide and Ruby Lee Dove II) who stumble into what they thought was an abandoned research facility, to find a team of scientists performing horrifying experiments on people in hopes of discovering immortality. But, everything goes wrong (if you get that far) when they accidentally awaken an ancient creature that they found in a mop bucket. (You read that correctly.)
“…they accidentally awaken an ancient creature that they found in a mop bucket…”
The reason I mention Troma at the beginning of this review is that it’s hard to critique a film on quality when the director is not actually going for quality! At risk of coming off like a film snob, I’m going to preface what I’m about to say with this: I love a variety of films that most people would consider “stupid” or “bad.” I mean, Xanadu is one of my favorite movies. So trust me when I say, I am far and away from an uptight and pretentious cinephile who thinks every movie needs to be the quality of the Godfather. So with that out of the way, let’s get on with it.
There are moments visually where you can see that they are trying to go for a very “80 look.” In fact, the director goes out of his way to make it look like the whole thing was shot on VHS. So much so that it just looks incredibly forced and dishonest. Staying on the topic of production, the producer of the film probably should have just spent some money for a real editor as well. The transitions from the scene to scene were physically painful to watch! ( I actually did get a headache!) The acting consisted of everyone either speaking in a monotone voice or screaming at the top of their lungs. There are even moments when several of the characters looked like they forgot their lines.
“…moments visually where you can see that they are trying to go for a very ’80’s look’…”
And finally, the god-awful special effects. Look, I get that good FX can cost a good amount of coin. But the make-up and “CGI” in this movie were probably the worst I’ve seen in about 20 years. Especially considering that there are consumer programs you can install on your Macbook right now that will give you reasonably decent film effects. I do realize that they were going for a “cheesy” monster movie, but even on that level, they failed!
Soft Matter clocks in an at only 70 minutes. But, it actually took me over 2 hours to get through it because of hard it was to sit through! In its attempt to be “clever” or “ironic,” It forgot to be ENTERTAINING! I would only watch this if you were doing research on how NOT to make a movie.
Soft Matter (2018) Directed and Written by Jim Hickcox. Starring Mary Anzalone, Hal Schneider, Ruby Dee Love II, and Devyn Placide
1 OUT 10