There are some movies you know you are never ever, ever going to watch.
Nope, wouldn’t even consider it, not for a moment.
And yet, I don’t know how it happens, but you end up just giving in and watching them anyway.
Take City of Rott 2, for example.
I first learned about this one from IMDB, not long after I watched Frank Sudol’s very weird and cool one-man band animated film, Shock Invasion (2010): when my research for my review led me to the original City of Rott (2006), I recognized at once that it was in the same style as Shock Invasion, as was his second film, Dead Fury. So, naturally, I figured that the second City of Rott film would be yet another example of the style Sudol used in his grungy cut-and-paste animated breakthrough film.
Boy was I wrong.
Instead, it was in one of the most mind-numbingly awful computer-generated animation styles I have ever seen anywhere, a style which could best be summed up with the words “puke city.” Just the first glimpse of the poster art on IMDB was enough to convince anyone to avoid the darn thing.
Now I need to point out that Frank’s films are mindlessly violent, gory, absurd, repetitive (at least when it comes to all the zombie slaughter), and have a constant, driving, hardcore rock score shoving the viewer along helplessly. They’re like getting stuck in a first person shooter videogame.
And I love them, no matter how bad they are.
But a large part of their charm is his childlike and somewhat naive art, which looks like the sort of thing a bad Junior High boy scribbled in the margins of his math textbook.
Only a bit more scribbly.
Instead, in this film, he discarded that approach and replaced it with…well, the most primitive computer animation I’ve seen since, oh, the Nineties.
Although that’s probably being far too generous.
Now the idea here is simple enough: he used a standard 3-D model for every single character in the film, with the only difference between them being the poorly realized skin stretched over them. This means that the faces are extremely minimal, and not very distinctive. In fact, the faces are so undistinguished, it’s very hard to see more than a few minor details like hair color. It sort of reminds me of a Lego movie, as the characters have a somewhat similar profile, but instead the effect is far more primitive, with only minimal surface detail, except perhaps on some of the more important characters. They are also extremely limited in their movements — they can use their arms, and bend their bodies, but their legs are a single piece which can bend in the right places but not work separately.
Which makes it really silly when someone leaps up and delivers a double footed kick to another character. It looks like something you’d see in a martial arts movie. Sort of. In a poorly animated sort of way.
The City of Rott — or perhaps even the whole world — has been overrun by hordes of zombies, with only a few human survivors still left.
Max Bludharte just started working as a security guard for a big businessman named D’Vower, whose armies of security guards comb the city for supplies.
Only the team he is with is murdered by the mysterious Zivouhr, and when he returns alone, he finds himself an outcast.
Although he knows they would kill him if they knew he was infected with the skin worms, which will eventually turn him into a zombie, if he doesn’t eat enough to feed them.
But on his next patrol, he is saved by Harry Figiero, the brother of the (now deceased) hero of the original City of Rott, Fred Figiero, who is a master of the lost art of Walker Fu.
So, yes, yet another elderly guy who mows down countless zombies with his walker.
And, what’s more, there’s hope for Max, as the aliens in the crashed flying saucer downtown will cure him from the skin worms.
If he can find the missing part of their flying saucer…
Now, from what little I’ve been able to find, Frank Sudol had the idea of possibly turning City of Rott 2 into a TV series, or a feature, and was experimenting with how he could do a computer animated series.
There’s a production company promo at the beginning of the film for “Chess Piece Format,” which features the man-shaped computer model as pawns on a chessboard. I’d assumed this was an available piece of software when I first saw this, but I’m beginning to suspect that Frank came up with this animation method himself.
Certainly, he wasn’t happy with the results, from what I’ve read.
Now I will say that the backgrounds look better than the figures: they are simple, 3-D shapes with minimal complexity, but they do the job and we frequently get “helicopter shots” of the city streets, revealing all the zombies as individual figures standing in large groups.
The Alien flying saucer is equally simple, a classic, silver, fifties-style disk, with only minimal detail.
As I noted in my review of City of Rott, the awful animation style here does grow on you, and doesn’t really get in the way of the story. The story is far more complex this time — and more satisfying — and doesn’t have anything like that rather strange twist City of Rott had at the three-quarters mark.
Which is good.
For once, we do not have the familiar cast of actors onscreen we’ve had in Frank’s three earlier features, although, as he is doing all the voices once again, we do have the familiar, Clint Eastwood-esque voice of Max, and the querulous tones of Fred…I mean “Harry”…Figiero. I miss the familiar faces, though. While Max stands out and has more detail than most of the characters, Harry is basically recognizable by his deadly walker. It isn’t your traditional, four-legged variety, but then, they would be rather hard to twirl at arm’s length, anyway.
As in all his other films, Frank Sudol did everything, including the music and voices. The music has the same propulsive, driving quality as his score for his previous films, and it fits the non-stop insanity of the proceedings. And I have to give him credit for the silly gushes of gore everytime someone — or something — gets killed. It’s in big, computer generated blobs and there’s way too much of it, which, you have to admit, is just perfcet for this film.
I wish he’d used the same style as his first films, or at least an upgraded version of it, to make this film. I miss the wonderful grungy textures, I miss the familiar characters, and I’m left wondering if that fat guy actually made an appearance here or not. He’s been in all the other films, but you wouldn’t recognize him when he’s projected onto a standard skinny guy.
If you love Frank’s other films, you are going to need to see this one.
If you haven’t encountered him yet, then you would do better watching one of his other films. I would recommend Shock Invasion, which is one of the most accomplished films he’s made, but any of his cut and paste films is worth a look.
Mind you, we are talking mindless videogame-style violence and gore, with zombies, monsters, guns, and driving rock scores. So they aren’t for everyone, anyway.
But they are a lot of crazy fun…