Mutant Chronicles

(SFX Magazine, Future Publishing)

In a future of mud, blood and grot, a degenerate, war-addicted humanity is attacked by zom… Sorry, mutants. Only a ragtag band of soldiers can save Earth, led by sonorous, begorrah-sounding monk Ron Perlman and a hard-bitten Thomas Jane in Punisher mode. It’s a hotchpotch of Magnificent Seven, 28 Days Later, Krull and the carcasses of every great steampunk film never made.

There are two ways to watch the lurching, flailing, retro-future folly of Mutant Chronicles. You can go the Mystery Science Theatre route and laugh up the film’s stone-faced, witless naffness, the portentous piffle of its sermonizing, and its psychotically unlikable efforts to go well ‘ard. (The grungy dialogue has enough melon farmers to stock a grocers; the film’s palette is a drab grim-gray, the promiscuous CGI distancing you from the skull-splitting violence.) There’s another please-go-away-now performance from the barely sentient pod-person John Malkovich, every bit as awful as he was in Eragon. Sean Pertwee repeats his “hardass dying horribly” schtick from Dog Soldiers.

But this is a film you can watch and dream of shooting the writers, sacking the cast (yes, even Perlman is bad) and saving the stillborn fantasy classic that’s visible in so many of the time-scrambling details and images. There’s a Somme-style trench war with giant flamethrower cannons; a surreal automated conveyer belt that turns humans into monsters; and a coal-powered spaceship rising over a medieval monastery, and later slamming slantways through a Chrysler-like tower. Mutant Chronicles isn’t just an interesting bad film; it’s an almost awesome waste of great ideas. Had it real characters and a cohesive story, it would have left mundane Hollywood SF products shivering in their birthday suits.