After Manborg and Father’s Day, Astron-6 is emerging as a notable purveyor of classic grindhouse.
Little under a year ago, a couple of very good chums and myself sat in one of our usual highbrow gatherings where we glug sugary tea by the gallon, consume Rocky bars and converse about a range of sophisticated topics such as the works of Pauly Shore. For the evening’s entertainment, I had brought along a recently purchased copy of Father’s Day, a 2011 movie by Astron-6 Videos. I’d never seen or heard of the filmmakers going under the name Astron-6, but the DVD cover bore a resemblance to a poster of one of my favourite original grindhouse films, 1981’s The Beyond.
Father’s Day offers a gruelling exploitation of cinema, heavily seasoned with cannibalism and genital mutilation
The first 15 minutes of Father’s Day are a gruelling exploitation of cinema, heavily seasoned with cannibalism, genital mutilation and a sprinkling of dad rape. I was beginning to sense the bemusement emanating from my comrades as though I’d kicked the cat up the arse and expected them to be amused. However, a further 15 minutes into the film and we were clapping and giggling like a trio of seal/hyena cross specie abominations.
Father’s Day follows the journey of three central characters – archetypal badass mofo Ahab (Adam Brooks), a rent boy called Twink (Conor Sweeney) and an eager young priest (Matthew Kennedy) – as they hunt down a demonic entity called Chris Fuchman, AKA The Father’s Day Killer. What begins as a revenge flick ascends into a supernatural horror where the trio have to battle the forces of hell. You will be whiplashed back and forth between extreme violence and humorous cutesy dialogue about maple trees, poisonous berries and group suicide.
The goal of Astron-6 appears to be to make the audience laugh and retch at the same time. The best way to describe the experience is if you imagine an episode of Total Wipeout where the water is replaced by pools full of the growths scraped off the bodies of people on Channel Four’s Embarrassing Bodies. The visual effects, animation and make-up by Jeremy Gillespie and Steven Kostanski, the two off-screen members of Astron-6, must be praised – they add their own unique strings to the already vastly stringy Astron-6 bow. Best of all, despite being released in 2011, at which point grindhouse parodies were sooo 2007, Father’s Day feels fresh and exciting.
It’s testament to how a big imagination can compensate for minuscule investment
As Aristotle and 18-30s Club Reps would say, one swallow does not a summer make. For your consideration, there’s also Astron-6’s full feature length debut, Manborg, and a collection of fake film trailers made by the Winnipeg-based quintet. Manborg may look like the live action version of Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon, but it is in fact a convivial tribute to obscure 80s VHS films. Manborg (Mathew Kennedy) unwittingly becomes humanity’s last bastion of hope in the Hell Wars, as he battles the evil Count Draculon and his armies of vampire Nazis to avenge his brother’s death.
Manborg was pretty much entirely shot in a basement, set with a green screen and made on the budget of a penny chew (approx. $1000). It is testament to how a big imagination can compensate for minuscule investment and should serve as inspiration for all aspiring filmmakers that haven’t got two food stamps to rub together. If you allow yourself to be swept away in the spirit of which the film was made, then the humour, visual art, sound effects, costumes, fight scenes and music will take your breath away.
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If you’ve got an hour to waste, check out Astron-6’s fake trailers, adverts and unashamed tributes to retro b-movies, like Lazer Ghosts 2: Return to Laser Cove. Astron-6’s attention to detail in parodying the lo-fi budget VHS films from the 80s and early 90s hits the nail so firmly on the head that it’s like a tidal wave of warming nostalgia stronger than a thousand cuddles from Dave Benson Phillips. Anyone that ever enjoyed the BBC’s Look Around You will get what they’re about.
So what’s next from Astron 6? Well, after a successful Indiegogo campaign last year, the outfit secured the necessary investment to push on and continue making The Editor, a Giallo comedy that’s set to be released later this year. According to Astron-6’s website, the anticipated documentary No Sleep, No Surrender: The Making of Father’s Day will be released once The Editor is wrapped up. It’s worth keeping an eye on this retro-loving ragtag crew; here’s hoping that their future endeavours continue to successfully bring what we loved about the past in to the present.
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All images: Astron-6