Bleak Future (1997)

The name’s Slangman.  One word.  As in Slang-Man, as in the Man of Slang!  As in THE Slangman!

It is hard to know where to start with this one.

It started out as a Super 8 film, which calls to mind those films the Eighties generation of filmmakers made at home with their cameras (see, for example, the documentary The Sci Fi Boys or for those of you who aren’t as obsessive about film as the rest of us, the movie the kids in Super 8 are making).

But this is something far more polished, even if just as homemade.

What this is, though, is a thoroughly absurd post-Apocalyptic Barbarians in the Wasteland sort of thing, with a touch of Monty Python — and more than a touch of something far stranger.  

And sillier.

The destruction of the modern world was caused by the fact that everyone was too damn happy and well off (I can’t remember another film where utopia had such terrible aftereffects!), leaving those who were left little better than savages, clinging to whatever was left of the old world.

The hero, known as “Slangman” has the last book left in the world, and roams about trading his wisdom (and dictionary definitions) and the treasures he unearths along the way, like Charmin, eggbeaters and Twinkies (with a guaranteed shelf life of over 2000 years) for what he needs to continue his quest for “The Source”, a mythical storehouse of all the lost knowledge of the ancients.  

Throw in a mute Scottish savage; the world’s most brainless female; the mystical hippy, Brother Alfonze; mutants; nomads; the murderous Malathion Man; and Slangman’s greatest rival (and the other, self-proclaimed smartest man in the world) Doctor Obvious.

As I said, it is a very silly film, but also a fairly gory one, with a lot of enthusiastic makeup effects.  Many of the mutant masks are quite impressive (particularly one which features a second, tiny, puss-oozing face on the side of his head) and the way in which some of the lost “artifacts” are used is often quite clever. 

Of course, the current version of the film dates to 2006, when the director, Brian S. O’Malley, restored and upgraded the film for the DVD release.  I suspect that some of the “archive” footage, which is clearly digital, was either added at that time, or replaced by the current version.  However, the film looks remarkably good, considering the limitations of Super 8.  I suspect, had he shot it on Video as many direct-to-VHS filmmakers of the day were doing, it wouldn’t have ended up looking anywhere near as good, not even with a digital overhaul.  

I confess that I love this one and would not hesitate to recommend it to anyone willing to try something decidedly strange despite its flaws:  after all, with an ultra-low budget project like this, there are going to be a lot of rough edges.  It also helps if you love the sort of movie Brian is parodying here.  But it is a beautiful example of how a clever filmmaker can transcend the limits of his production.

And that is always worth a look.

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