You guys, I’m not gonna lie to you: sometimes I run out of weird cult movies to talk about. I’m a busy person, same as most of you, and sometimes–especially after three years of writing this column every week–delving back into my archives of things I haven’t written about yet gets pretty dang difficult. And then sometimes, friends–OH MAN–I get sent a movie that makes me remember why I do Schlock & Awe in the first place: A 1983, shot-in-3D, budget-of-nothing The Road Warrior ripoff with added lasers and spaceships called Metalstorm: The Destruction of Jared-Syn.
I’m not going to pretend to know everything about every single crappy B-movie made between 1960 and 2000 or anything, but I’ve at least got some kind of awareness of a great many such dubious classics; not only hadI never seen Metalstorm prior to receiving it from the good folks at Scream Factory (coming out September 13 on two-disc Blu-ray with both 3D and 2D versions), but I’d never even heard of it. At all! I thought I knew all the Mad Max pastiches from that time, including Exterminators of the Year 3000, but oh how wrong I was.
The story goes that producer-director Charles Band, who is the producer behind Full Moon Features and such “beloved” titles as The Puppet Master, Dollman, and Demonic Toys, made a low-budget 3D horror feature Parasite and that was a big enough success that he got a bit more daring, wanting to make a sci-fi epic in 3D on a small budget, from a script by Alan J. Adler. He managed to sell the movie mid-filming at Cannes to get enough money to continue filming, and then by chance was able to piggyback on the release of Universal’s Jaws 3-D and was shown in 2,000 theaters at the end of the summer 1983. I mean, of all the movies to carry a Universal tag, this has to be one of the least Universal.
The story takes place on another planet–a desert one that looks suspiciously like those rocks from every movie and TV show ever–where a “finder” named Dogen (Jeffrey Byron) is driving around in a strange psychically-linked vehicle. He’s attacked by a nomad on a jetbike and after Dogen (which rhymes with Jojen) shoots it down, he finds a strange translucent crystal. Elsewhere, prospector and his daughter Dhyana (a 21-year-old Kelly Preston) find a crystal and think it’s their key to wealth and happiness, but they are likewise beset by the Cyclopian nomads and a strange alien-cyborg called Baal (R. David Smith) who sprays the father with a strange acid which sends his consciousness to a dream-realm where warlord Jared-Syn (Mike Preston) pulls out the man’s soul into one of those crystals, killing him. Yes, guys, this REALLY all happens in the first few minutes of the movie.
From there, Dogen finds Dhyana and the two decide they’re after the same person–the aforementioned Jared-Syn. After getting the crystal analyzed, they learn that it holds people’s souls (Sidebar: What machine tests for souls?) and then they’re attacked by our old pals the Nomads where Dogen is sprayed by Baal’s acid arm. However, with Dhyana cradling him, Syn is unable to absorb Dogen’s soul, citing that together they’re too strong. So, of course, he immediate uses some kind of thing to teleport Dhyana away and send a translucent monster to fight Dogen. Both Dogen and Dhyana fend off the baddies in their respective places, though Dhyana remains captured.
Then there’s a bunch of gobbledygook about a lost civilization or what-have-you, and Dogen goes to find a prospector named Rhodes (Tim Thomerson), a washed-up soldier, who might be able to help. From there, the pair run afoul of the Cyclopian nomads again, this time the group not beholden to Syn, and led by a giant named Hurok (Richard Moll) who also hates Syn, but needs to duel Dogen out of honor. Dogen wins (somehow) and spares Hurok’s life, creating an ally for life. At Syn’s compound, the warlord reveals to Dhyana–for plot purposes–the massive crystal that houses all the souls of the people he’s killed. He uses their souls for energy and fuel (because it burns so cleanly). Dogen finds a magic crystal mask and puts it on and it takes him to the dream world where he hacks down an ancient tree that bleeds….and then there’s the final battle and stuff…I don’t know, man.
Metalstorm: The Destruction of Jared-Syn is one of the strangest and most lopsided movies I think I’ve ever watched. On the one hand, for only a couple million dollars, the effects and cinematography are terrific. Everything is done in-camera, as was the standard of the time, and save a bit toward the end with a jetbike chase between Dogen and Syn, everything looks pretty damned great. The storyline is even pretty good, if hard to follow because nothing is really fleshed out. But then, at the same time, it feels like nothing really happens and then it’s over. It’s only 84 minutes long but only about 70 of it is movie (the rest being credits). The above theatrical trailer which got lots of people excited actually contains all of the most awesome moments of the movie, so you aren’t missing much. I looked at the run time at one point and it was 46 minutes in. Over half the movie was done and it didn’t seem like we were anywhere near a conclusion.
The other major weird thing is the title. Metalstorm means nothing; metal doesn’t feature at all in the plot and there isn’t a storm to be seen. But, that’s not necessarily bad; plenty of movies have dopey, cool-sounding titles that don’t factor in to much. Hell, even Blade Runner, which they tried to pretend was the name of the job he was doing, was just a title Warner Bros already had the rights to and decided to use it for that movie. (Blade Runner was a book about people smuggling surgical supplies in the third world, fun fact). But Metalstorm‘s subtitle–The Destruction of Jared-Syn–is a complete and total misnomer. Jared-Syn does not get destroyed at the end of the movie! He escapes. Further, he never destroys anything nor is his wrath in any way a plight on society. He’s a soul-stealer.
All that being said, there are things to enjoy about the movie, many because of the inherent silliness. Watching any old 3D movie is hilarious because of the strange and forced ways they had to poke at people with guns or tree branches and the like. Also, the character of Baal looks awesome. The makeup effects are very impressive and reminiscent of Buffy‘s Adam character. The actor, R. David Smith, was missing his left arm, so they fitted him with a mechanical thing that could extend for when he shot the green acid, and of course that was used for 3D effect. The music, by Charles Band’s brother Richard, is also very good. And, hell, I even like most of the actors, particularly Moll and Thomerson who are frankly way too good for this movie. Mike Preston, who plays Jared-Syn, was actually in The Road Warrior playing the good guy leader Pappagallo. Fun fact. He’s not super good in this movie.
So, friends, if you need a good schlocky movie to watch with friends and kill no more than 85 minutes of an evening watching cheese and scoping out hot early-’80s Kelly Preston, then Metalstorm: The Destruction of Jared-Syn is the flick for you.
Want more bad movies? Watch Kyle try to explain the snake mutant movie Sssssss!