We’ve stumbled across the works of Bruno Mattei – aka. Vincent Dawn – a couple of times on this site before (arguably too much) but those of you who are unfamiliar with his particular style of daylight robbery – I’m sorry, I meant filmmaking – here’s the cliff notes. Simply put, due to trademark laws being virtually nonexistent in Italy in the 80’s, Mattei was able to make a string of dodgy titles – schlockbusters, if you will – that shamelessly stole, lifted and outright copied stories, scenes and even dialogue from whatever was popular in Hollywood at the time. During his career, Mattei plundered from such universally adored flicks such as Rambo, Jaws, Predator, Raiders Of The Lost Ark, Robocop and often stuck them all in the same movie, but surely his most audacious example of “art theft” has to be when he targeted James Cameron to make Shocking Dark in 1989. How audacious was it I hear you ask? Well, when it was originally released in its homeland, it had the unmitigated balls to call itself Terminator 2. Beat that!
It’s the future… somewhat, and Venice is still afloat, but is now a toxic wasteland thanks to all the pollution the world is trying to choke down its collective throat. However, located in a facility somewhere in the city that looks suspiciously like a giant boiler room, scientists from the massive company known as the Tubular Corporation (?) are working around the clock to fix the place once known as the Queen of the Adriatic and then hopefully go on to the same for the rest of the wor- oh wait, no they’re not. No, they’re getting mauled by squishy, bug eyed monsters who have suddenly popped up from nowhere and wreaking havoc all around the facility.
The powers that be are understandably concerned, so deploys their crack team, Megaforce (no, really), whose special skills include firing wildly, dying extravagantly and being really, really into casual racism and they saddle up, blissfully unaware that certain death waits for them all at the hands of slimy, rubber talons. However, along for the ride are civilian scientist Sara and a stoney faced representative of the Tubular Corporation who flatly introduces himself as Samuel Fuller – also its blindingly obvious that this company man will no doubt be revealed as a Tubular Bell-end sooner, rather than later…
From there on in, the film is just essentially scenes from Aliens recreated with bad actors, worse cinematography and aliens that look like some saved half melted frog costumes from a factory fire. However, justvwhen you can’t bear anymore poorly xeroxed scenes from one Cameron classic – ha hah – it switches on youand rips offanother one instead! That’s right, instead of playing an amalgamation of Bishop and Burke from Aliens, Fuller is revealed to be a fucking Terminator instead and he will absolutely will not stop until he protects the nefarious secrets of the Tubular Corporation that threaten to bring the world to its knees.
I feel that if there’s a tenuous silver lining to be found when watching any of Mattei’s highly questionable body of work, it’s that it really makes you genuinely grateful for talent like James Cameron, Stan Winston, Sigourney Weaver, Linda Hamilton and Arnold Schwarzenegger that produced the original movies so mindlessly plundered here. There’s truly nothing that spells out how on point their gifts for storytelling are while watching a truly awful rerun of entire, iconic scenes that carries all the weight and drama of of a ten year old’s Tiktok rant. Now, while I accept that english wasn’t the majority of the cast and crew’s first language the whole movie still has the feel of a first draft that was turned in by an over stimulated eleven year old and was immediately filmed without a single proof read. Need proof? Do you seriously expect me to believe that a grown adult thought “Megaforce” was a genuinely cool name for a military platoon? However, if the names are bad, that’s nothing compared to the dialogue that immediately goes to bewildering weird places whenever it finally chooses to diverge from Cameron’s prose. Take the introduction of cult actress Geretta Geretta’s (Demons, Rats: Night Of Terror) who suddenly appears, dead center of the screen and utters the legend: “Alright you bunch of pussies, I’m black and I’m kicking ass!” – or the excitable scientist who blursts out the head spinning understatement: “Someone in this laboratory invented something new!”. Yeah, that’s what an invention is, genius…
The performances are universally atrocious with Christopher Ahrens’ weirdly chatty killer robot noticably confusing “acting without emotion” with “not acting at all” and Haven Tyler’s Ripley wannabe merging awkwardly into her trying to apparently be Sigourney Hamilton (or Linda Weaver, take your pick) and instead coming across as a hysterical cosplayer every time something something happend to her Newt/John Connor surrogate – an Italian child named Samantha Robertson who spends 89% of her time communicating by screeching unintelligibly.
The action scenes are painfully sluggish as the marines randomly fire their weapons all over the place in brightly lit rooms while big, floppy claws drag people off screen as they scream melodramatically, but that’s nothing compared to the impressively middle climax that counteracts its tension-free, ticking clock, plot to randomly chuck in a spot of unearned time travel at the last minute out of nowhere that has our heroine and her young charge transported to the non-fucked up Venice of the 1980’s and come at the persuing Terminator with a broken bottle (yep, that’ll work).
Utterly worthless to normal folk, the portion of the film loving public that enjoys pointing and laughing at the out-there weirdness of low budget, cinematic dumpster fires (a group I’m admittedly part of) will no doubt find lots to enjoy as Shocking Dark is a metaphorical own goal of disastrous performances and woefully unimaginative direction. But even those who will crack up at weapons grade shite like this will have to admit that Mattei is taking even his lack of originality to depressing new heights.
A funny but useless glimpse into multiverse where James Cameron has all the story telling acumen of Uwe Boll, Shocking Dark turns out to be shocking alright. Shocking that no fucking lawyers got involved.