AUGUST 7, 2011
Much like the killer kid film, there’s never really been a glut of killer car/truck movies; I can honestly only think of five off the top of my head (Christine, The Car, Maximum Overdrive, Duel, and Blood Car) - not even enough to give it its own genre tagging. So maybe that’s why I enjoyed Super Hybrid even though it was met with much derision by a few of my fellow horror pals who got to it before I did (though my review is up before theirs, nyah) – it’s just something I don’t see often enough to nitpick.
Really, the only big problem I had with the film is that it kicked into high gear a bit too early, leaving it little room to grow or raise the stakes. The final scenes aren’t really much different than the earlier ones, with the car chasing our heroes around the 3-story garage where pretty much the entire movie takes place. So it gets a bit repetitive; the car shouldn’t have made its presence known to the others so quickly. I mean, it’s basically a slasher movie with a car, so if you compare it to a Friday the 13th sequel, it would be like having 5-6 of the campers know about Jason in the first half hour and spend the rest of the movie running around, instead of milking their ignorance for a few scares. If you don’t KNOW that a killer car is around, it’s not as silly to go off by yourself, right?
Another issue for me was that everyone knew each other. Maybe just me, but I like a single location movie where the characters sort of come together for one reason or another, rather than already have a history (in this case, they all work for the garage). For example, the reason they can’t escape is because the owner has welded the emergency exit shut to keep out “crackheads” – maybe one of them could have found his way inside anyway (before the main door – which they are keeping shut to keep the car from escaping (I think?) – was closed). Or maybe a guy could have come to pick up his car, or one of the cops (it primarily houses police cars) could come by to get something from his busted up unit. Anything but mechanics, particularly the three guys who I couldn’t even tell apart.
But otherwise, I had fun with it. I’m a sucker for single location movies anyway, and I was surprised that they didn’t go the obvious route and have some exterior car chase for the climax. The production design is pretty awesome; I’ve never heard of such a big mechanic’s garage but I totally bought it as a real place (it was a converted cattle stable or something along those lines, according to the making of), with each floor having a unique look as well as a variety of cars. In a pretty genius decision, the car can shape-shift, which not only gives the filmmakers license to bash up more cars (as they wouldn’t need to have a dozen of the same make and model) but also provides a few scares – is it the Nova? The truck? One of the police cars? It’s like the polar opposite of The Car, which not only never changed but also made its presence known with that creepy car horn; this car is a bit stealthy and playful.
It also racks up a slightly higher body count than I was expecting. There’s the obvious fodder, but one character in particular I thought for sure would be safe (even when the car got him I assumed he’d resurface, Michael Caine in Jaws 4 style), and I was on the fence about another who ended up getting the movie’s best death – they toss a Molotov at the car, but it bounces off the hood and flies back, immolating them. Heh. The heroine also endures a ton of abuse, getting hit by the car multiple times and dragged around by one of its tentacles during the climax.
Wait, tentacles? Yeah, they never really explain it (fine by me) but the car is actually some sort of alien or something I guess; its engine area is seen as a giant swirl of tentacles and snake like creatures (plus a lot of the ever present “shapeless, black mass of CGI”), and again it can shape-shift, unlike your common Christine or Green Goblin Truck. So every now and then it uses its tentacles to get a victim, though I was a bit disappointed that no one ever tried to drive it and got the safety belt turned into a tentacle. The CG ain’t too bad though, at least when compared to the film’s oft-used digital fire, which looks pretty terrible. It’s kind of weird that they managed to make a more realistic looking alien shape-shifting car than a few flames, but there you go.
I was also disappointed in the film’s PG-13-ness. The body count is sufficient, but you can feel them holding back during a couple of the kills, in particular the aforementioned immolation. On the making of you can see the corpse up close, and they put a lot of work into it with some great detail on the charred clothing and such, but in the movie itself you only see it in the widest of wide shots; it might as well have been a mannequin. Whether it was something that they decided on set (after the corpse was made, though I doubt a charred corpse would sent it into an R rating) or edited later, I don’t know, but either way this is a film that definitely has a few pulled punches.
And that’s about the most interesting thing about the making of, which just goes through the motions in the usual way (casting, pre-production, stunts, FX), though there are a few good tidbits to learn along the way, such as the fact that this was actually shot three years ago (!) and that it was shot in Regina, Canada, which is where Grace was lensed. It’s worth watching to see an in-depth look at the big crash stunt at the beginning of the movie, as well as the few bits of interview with the lovely Melanie Papalia, but it probably could have been broken up into segments and put on the website. And there is nothing about the film’s 3D conversion (in Germany it is named Hybrid 3D, in fact), which I find kind of interesting; it’s actually a better fit than some of the other converted films (My Soul To Take?) given the expansive sets and large number of scenes involving cars driving right toward the camera. I wouldn’t mind seeing a highlight reel in 3D, at any rate.
Anchor Bay is putting this one out, which means a quality Blu-ray transfer of which I have no complaints about; detail is crisp and grain levels accurate. It’s not a very colorful film – lot of browns and “dark”, but when there IS a burst of color (a bright red convertible, Ms. Papalia’s purple sweater) it pops appropriately. And you can see the grizzle on Oded Fehr’s face, as he plays a role seemingly meant for a Bruce Campbell type. Sound mix is also great, with a lot of surround activity to enjoy. The featurette is the only extra beyond a few AB trailers, mostly for their Syfy acquisitions like Sharktopus.
Imperfect as it may be, I found a lot to like here; in fact if it had indeed originally aired on the Syfy channel, I would be heralding it as their best movie in ages. And again, it’s not like killer car movies are clogging our shelves, so I appreciate that there’s a new one to enjoy in between all of the slashers and “ancient curse becomes unleashed” type movies I see on an almost literal daily basis.
What say you?