Shitty Movie Sundays: Road Wars

Road Wars movie posterThe Asylum is shameless. When they’re not churning out giant monster flicks starring washed-up TV stars for SyFy, they’re taking advantage of blockbuster movies, attaching themselves like remora and feeding off scraps. They have taken the idea of the mockbuster, cinema’s short con, and elevated it. Not to art, but it’s definitely something they’ve honed.

I like that The Asylum has no shame. It’s different than what a filmmaker like Roger Corman has done throughout his career. Corman was a filmmaker with talent, and he threw it all away to chase the cheap buck. The Asylum, by contrast, has always been a house of shit.

Road Wars was in the can and ready to release direct-to-video early in May of 2015, timed to match the upcoming release of Mad Max: Fury Road. That’s the film Road Wars is ripping off. From the mishmash black leather outfits and shoulder pads (my favorite accoutrement was a bicycle reflector attached to an epaulette), to old muscle cars with all sorts of metal shit welded on to them, to the desert setting (California City, take a bow), to the derivative title, this is almost enough of a ripoff for the rights holders of Mad Max to sue. That makes this shitty flick a proper mockbuster.

The magnum opus of one Mark Atkins, who wrote, directed, shot, and edited, Road Wars, like any Mad Max flick, is about a small group of hardy survivors in a post-apocalyptic wasteland, struggling to keep what remains of civilization afloat. These are the good guys, and they are challenged by marauding bandits who want to do nothing but pick over the corpse of the old world. But, that wasn’t enough for Atkins and company. The collapse of civilization in this dog was not the result of war, but a virus that turns infected people into zombie vampires. Yep. Zombie vampires. They even show up a few times during the flick to spice things up.

Most of the time, though, viewers will be spending their time with Thorne, the film’s Max Rockatansky analog. He’s played by Cole Parker, a discount Jared Harris. The good guy group he ends up with includes Nakada (Chloe Farnworth, a discount Jeri Ryan), Dallas (John Freeman, a discount William Sadler), and a whole pile of other anonymous talent. It’s the perfect cast for a film like this. The only disappointing thing about it is that there are no b-list celebs slumming it for a quick payday. This flick could have used a Skeet Ulrich, an Ali Larter, a lesser Baldwin or Hemsworth, or even just a decent That Guy.

So, there’s a plot, but it hardly matters. I’m pretty sure the zombie vampires were crammed in there to flesh out an otherwise very thin movie. Atkins could have gone with werewolves and it would have been only slightly more stupid. Zombie vampires as occasional filler means that this is the rare flick featuring zombies and/or vampires that is not a horror flick.

At its core this is an action flick. There’s some of that, too, between all the inane dialogue. Atkins even threw in some flamethrowers to spice things up. The whole package has the look and feel of something Enzo G. Castellari would have made in the 1980s, only not nearly as fun.

I get that this flick is as cheap as humanly possible. It’s the only way The Asylum would ever have made a profit from this piece of shit, but would it have really been too much of a burden to blow up more stuff? Yeah, between insurance, permits, and fire prevention, it probably would have been, but one can dream, right?

The other argument is, if an action flick can’t afford to blow stuff up, then perhaps it should not be made, but that’s a philosophical and moral discussion for another day.

This film is what it is. It was made to trick people browsing the DVDs at Best Buy into thinking it was related in some way to Mad Max. In the end, what was actually on the DVD didn’t matter to the people making it, so it shouldn’t matter to the viewer, either.

The ingredients were there for a more watchable shitty movie. We didn’t get it. Road Wars is bottom-feeding trash. I may appreciate The Asylum’s gall, but I’m still waiting to see something from them that’s worth the time. Road Wars lands way down in the Index at #277, displacing Alone in the Dark. Stay away.

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