Cyberzone (1995)

Want a practical example of why bad films get released under multiple names? This bit of viewing was picked purely on the grounds of there being the word “cyber” in its title; so had it been seen under its “Phoenix 2” or “Droid Gunner” monikers then you wouldn’t be about to read this cautionary tale. Then again, had just that bit more effort been put in by director Fred Olen Ray then the following would probably have been far more positive. It’s funny how life works out like that.

“To phoning it in”

The premise for the film is that it’s 1995, the cyberpunk genre is popular, and some producers have a modest budget and an urge to bash out a bit of generic hokum. William C Martell has been brought in to write the plot, so he dumbs down Blade Runner and fills in the gaps with a modest gumshoe story of high-powered corruption and a barrel of generic tropes. Marc Singer and Matthias Hues share the tough guy limelight whilst putting in minimal effort, and Rochelle Swanson is The Sexy Lamp.

“Our lab techs have been working on a new invention, we call it “A Chair” “

There are Brittany Rollins, Meaghan Prester, and Bianca Rocilili as “The Pleasure Droids”, who spend the film mostly inside of their over-engineered underwear and constantly writhing around like a 14-year-olds concept of sexy ladies. They are the McGuffin of the plot, being smuggled into the post-badly-defined-apocalypse earth, and here is where the film really shows that it could possibly have been a parody as their unstopping gyration, regardless of the dangers of the situation, are theoretically amusing. It’s also where the half-hearted sexploitation kicks in, as there are boobs galore presented in some of the least erotic manners going.

The 90s were a tough time for Grandpa Munster

So Marc and Matthias (they don’t bother acting at any point, so I’m not going to bother giving the character names) wander around various scenes of gritty urban decay, bumping into a variety of characters and concepts that a half-talented Table-Top Role-Playing storyteller could use for random encounters whilst trying to track down the Droids for differing reasons. Both deliver snappy one-liners with the same care and attention you would throw day-old chewing gum in the bin, and they look buff in their carefully roughed-up costumes.

“I never touch the merchandise” We know, you say it every scene you’re in!

A couple of moments get a rye laugh, but mostly it’s non-sequester flavour moments, often with clunky exposition, that hang around just a bit too long before a plot point nudges them towards the next non-sequester flavour moment. It’s a juvenile (in many senses) approach to storytelling, and you rapidly get the idea that the sci-fi is there to sneak the nude moments into the hands of its target, under-aged, male audience. Needless to say, its overall attitude towards women is as charming as you’d expect, which is made even more annoying by Rochelle Swanson and Brinke Stevens giving the best performances in the whole piece.

“Time to look buff and menacing”

There are a couple of good action sequences, as well as some rather rotten ones, and some nice world-building that gets told rather than shown. There are also moments of delightful satire, like the sexbots as mentioned earlier, an armed response unit dressed in Armani Suits, and one scene that skilfully plays with your expectations to great effect. However, most of it is the two leads playing half-note characters and being too afraid of not looking nonchalantly cool to risk being interesting or vulnerable. One particularly harrowing moment is Singer being given a workable comedy moment and then shooting it right between the eyes with first-read pacing.

“Did I leave the gas on?”

This is what moves the film from bad to loathsome, as there you can see the potential for a decent low-budget sci-fi being pissed away before your eyes. This is a film so maliciously stunted that it comes across as mean-spiritedly mocking the genre it so freely purports to be from. It’s Trash, not because it’s bad but because it wants to punish you for thinking it could have been good.

The Raggedyman

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