Friday, August 16, 2013

Gore Galore: TAETER CITY (2012)

After the sleeper success of Emanuele De Santi's ambitious amateur outing ADAM CHAPLIN (2010), the same production company, Necrostorm run by his brother Giulio De Santi, returns with a new SOV sci-fi / gore outing. Sporting a title that will leave a lot of viewers who are not fluent in 5000 year old dead languages confused ("taeter" is a latin word meaning "foul" or "offensive"), Giulio De Santi aims for sensory overload with an episodic, disjointed mess that plunders a whole slew of genre classics without doing justice to any of them. Of course as some wise Aussies once said, "if you want blood, you got it."

Set in the presumably distant future, Taeter City is run by The Authority, a faceless corporation that employs cops and freelance "biker" units to judge (Dredd) the cities criminals on the spot. The criminals are few and far between however because of the Zeed units (which look suspiciously like power transformers). Zeed units are planted around the city and send out a signal that causes people with particular brain abnormalities that indicate a potential for criminal activity to suddenly kill themselves in the most gruesome way. The cops then come to pack up the mess and deliver the remains to a processing facility that turns what was once a time-bomb of criminal behavior into... lunch. Yes, in this future, animal farming and all of its ugly by-products (slaughtering and eating) is a crime punishable by death. The perp-meat is packed up and sent to Authority run fast food chains called Taeter Burger, who live up to their name by running obnoxious ads all over the city. Literally.

When not gore-ging themselves on "boiled brain with bone sausage" the residents of Taeter City watch the Authority TV channel which is a guy holding half a mask on his face, giggling maniacally and pimping The Authority and Taeter Burger ala "Max Headroom". Apparently in this urban mecca, people can invent a signal generator that affects a percentage of the population with a specific brain anomaly, but nobody has ever thought of spirit gum. Giulio De Santi apparently loves this guy as we get clips of his campy giggle played everywhere. On the DVD menu (which also runs the Taeter Burger ads), as interstitials between scenes, on the sides of buildings, in the background, everywhere. This, above all else, wears out its welcome in really short order and probably made me less forgiving of this movie than I would have been otherwise.

Insert Uncle Bob Martin
"Splitting Headache" joke here.
After a series of clips introducing the viewer to the city, we sort of stumble across a plot. One of Mega City's - err, I mean, Taeter City's inhabitants, named "Trevor" (Giulio De Santi ), is not only resistant to the Zeed signal, but has actually been mutated by it allowing him to shout out a Zeed signal of his own that mutates other people, causing them to become what the Authority fears most: deranged, blood-thirsty, zombie criminals! The cops are hip to this and in order to escape and make use of his new talents, Trevor decides to take over The Oriental Hotel, forcing a biker unit named Razor (Monica Muñoz) who has slicing laser finger things ala "Neuromancer" and her faceless partners (ie zombie fodder) to kill wave after wave of relentless attackers floor by floor as they pursue Trevor. Sound familiar? Unlike ADAM CHAPLIN, the inspirations here are writ so large that if you've seen any genre movies, TV shows and books over the years, you will have no problem assembling a list off the top of your head while the film plays out.

Probably the worst thing for me to do is try to compare ADAM CHAPLIN with TAETER CITY. I admit that if you watched it after something less outstanding, like a Timo Rose flick, my perception of it would be vastly improved, but since these are cut from the same cloth, it's impossible not to notice the striking differences along with the similarities. Where ADAM CHAPLIN was subtitled, TAETER CITY dubbed and I would guess that they were attempting to give it a campy dub job. It sounds as if the dubbers are drop-outs from the Columbia School of Broadcasting, with booming radio announcer or high-pitched camp voices. This doesn't make the clumsy dialogue any better, but some of them that expand past the mono syllabic are pretty damn funny. When Razor discovers that Trevor has sought refuge at The Oriental Hotel, she says "My god, that place is full of people!" A hotel? Really? Not to be derailed by the obvious, she charges on "We can't waste time, let's go, take everything necessary to kick that motherfucker's ass badly!" I guess it isn't too much of a spoiler to say that she does speak the truth there. They kick his ass and do it quite badly. Speaking of Razer, there's a huge amount of footage of her taking off and putting on her helmet. Much is made of Monica Muñoz's cleavage in the advertising and random close-ups, but god forbid they actually have some nudity to cash those checks that their ads wrote. Still, that isn't the biggest issue here, just an annoyance.

Sadly this is referencing "Mortal Kombat",
This flick has clearly been made by someone with severe attention deficit disorder so basically you have a bunch of hastily shot scenes in which Giulio had some random idea and sort of worked it into a DREDD (2012) knock off that didn't run long enough to be a feature. So sloppy is the production that one of the settings, The Oriental Hotel, is identified in a screen caption as "Horiental Hotel". How do you have typos in the screen captions in a SOV flick? While that is pretty embarrassing, the real problem is that even the plotted elements are so bizarrely laid out, without really paying attention to structure, it takes a while to figure out that a) there is a plot and b) that everything is happening in present tense. Much of Trevor's back-story is told via many police "simulation" videos. A "simulation video" to me that means that it's a projection of a possible happening. The Oxford dictionary agrees, saying it is "a situation in which a particular set of conditions is created artificially in order to study or experience something that could exist in reality." Here it means "surveillance video". It took a while to figure that out, causing more than a bit of confusion when they would cut away from the "simulation" to the (equally) real world where people are reacting to the events in the simulation! Add to that the hypno flashing, blaring advertisements and you have something that is really more of a party disc than a coherent movie.

Where CHAPLIN amazed me with its inventive, possibly revolutionary blend of CG and practical effects, TAETER CITY is definitely a step backwards. In CHAPLIN a few characters wore prostheic face masks through out their scenes, so that when their head-crushing demise arrived, it wouldn't look so different from what we had been looking at previously. It's effective on an amateur level, but here in CITY we have every character wearing a mask. The cop showing the simulation wears a half-skull mask, the guy responsible for Trevor's mutation wears a baby-face mask ripped out of BRAZIL (1984), hell there's a random "simulator" scene where Trevor walks into what is presumably a hamburger joint (hard to tell as the establishing shot looks like a gas station) and the cook is wearing a cut-out, paper pig mask. Why? So Trevor can stab him in the eye with a fork and they won't have to do any difficult effects work. Why does Trevor stab him with a fork? He be crazy an' shit.

There are a few well done effects (mainly another head crushing which is used in the promotional material), but they don't make up for the major short comings.With so much stuff lifted from other movies, intentionally campy dubbing, sloppy effects, mock ads that repeat ad nauseum, and the scant near 65 minute running time (which doesn't include the slowest credit scrawl ever, which clocks in at almost 8 minutes and warns of an impending TAETER CITY 2), this turns out to be a major letdown following ADAM CHAPLIN, but still it beats the hell out of VIOLENT SHIT 4 any day of the week and twice on Sundays.

I think that first line explains so much about this movie

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