The Killer Robots are back!
For those of you coming in late, they have been playing and recording music for a long time, wearing these impressive home-crafted robot suits in a style best described as “Retro-junk.”
If you really aren’t sure what that means, look at the big wire shoulder ornaments on Strobo (Samuel Williams)’s shoulders: they were originally the whip from one of those giant floor mixers you see in a big cafeteria. Virtually every part of these complex robot suits used to be something else.
Somewhere along the line they started playing around with creating movies, and after making a computer animated film, created their magnum opus, The Killer Robots! Crash and Burn (2016), an insane epic about a world where man had vanished, his place taken by the humanoid robots he created. It took them five years of hard work on the weekends to create the weird and wonderful robotic world where their goofy story took place, using mostly practical effects (with digital editing) to create a world from yet more repurposed junk. It is as strange and extravagant as any movie anyone has made recently. In fact, the only films I can think of even remotely similar are both just as defiantly homemade, Von Bilka’s Eighties Spaghetti Science Fiction inspired Galaxy Lords (2018), and Antonio Llapur and Matt Sjafiroeddin’s Space Detective (2017), neither of which are ever likely to described as an ordinary, everyday sort of films.
Sam Gaffin, who wrote and directed Crash and Burn (as well as playing the naive robot, Auto) mentioned at the time that he was working on a new film. But that was the last I’d heard about it for years, only to click on an interesting looking new video on Tubi (where you can also see Crash and Burn) and discover to my shock that he’d directed a new film.
However, the emphasis this time around is on a new group of female robots, Robotica Destructiva, even though the Killer Robots also appear and play a major part (actually more major than we realize, but that’s another story. Watch the movie).
The Killer Robots steal the ultimate weapon, leaving an entire city helpless. So the elders revive three psychopathic robots from their more violent past and send them out to recover the secret weapon so they can be returned to their prison and their centuries long dreaming sleep.
Only the make the mistake of answering a phony distress call and end up enslaved in the space pirates mine.
And that’s when things really start getting complicated.
Once again, we are back in the post-human robot world of their first film, and a number of the characters from the first film return, including some major villains. In many ways it repeats the same basic premise as the first film, as we once again have a group of characters recruited to go on a mission they definitely do not want to carry out, lots of warring groups, plenty of misadventures, mistakes and complications, dozens of characters, plenty of jokes, and a huge showdown at the very end with most of the cast putting in an appearance.
Just to complicate things even more, this time around Sam Gaffin threw in a complex time travel plot, which gets more and more convoluted and absurd as it goes, before arriving at the most ridiculous reveal of all.
The look is unchanged, although this time around far more of it is digital. However, Sam Gaffin still finds plenty of room for his lovingly detailed models and even a bit of stop motion. Often his models are enhanced with digital additions, like the ramps which extend out of some of the vehicles. It is all as absurd and cartoony as it was in Crash and Burn, and it’s impressive just how creative his world of robots is, as they’ve created dozens of very different robots which all fit wonderfully into his imaginary world and share in its basic retro-junk aesthetic. The suits themselves are all practical, even when he dabbles in inserting a digital element or two (as in the extended cameo from Troma’s Lloyd Kaufman at the end). I’ll admit that I miss the grungy, all-practical effects of Crash and Burn, but it still looks great, even when it is all taking place in the computer (although I will admit that my favorite scene is our first glimpse of the junkyard, with its armies of stop motion robots, all of which was probably shot on Sam Gaffin’s kitchen table).
Okay, okay, I’ll admit it, Crash and Burn is better. But Robotica Destructiva is fast, always funny, absurd and a pleasure to look at. It is unique and flavorful in ways that our insipid mainstream films rarely dare to risk, and the Killer Robots back it all up with a killer score which never overwhelms the visuals but matches it near perfectly. The ending lingers a bit long to get that scene with Lloyd Kaufman in (although I’ll admit the music video tacked on the end has one of the best gags in the film when they push Trog around in the swing), and it isn’t as strong as I’d like, but that is pretty minor in any sui generis film, made by four crazy guys from Florida with all their family and friends helping out and slapping on lots of silver makeup.
Look, if you like your films bland and pallid, this one isn’t for you. It isn’t something safe you can run in the background while you do the crossword. Instead it is wild and silly, and yes, a little rough around the edges.
But, if you like your films strange, unique, and stuffed full of robots, then Robotica Destructiva is worth a look.
And it won’t hurt to go back and watch The Killer Robots! Crash and Burn, either, if you haven’t seen it yet.
Great work guys!
Now what are you going to do next?…
(Watch for free on Tubi)
And a quick look behind the scenes:
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