Directed by Daniel Armstrong
Distributed by Monster Pictures
Roller Derby is the sport of choice at the centre of Aussie comedy/horror Murder Drome, pitting a bunch of hard-hitting roller-skating chicks against a murderous ghost hell-bent on claiming souls. Or something like that.
Appearing to all the world like it stepped straight from the stables of Troma, director Daniel Armstrong’s micro-budget film is predominantly a barely coherent mess, but still retains a level of charm owing to its punk-rock sensibilities and general attitude.
As far as the story goes, Derby chick Cherry Skye (Sajben) finds herself falling for local guy Brad (Brown), much to the violent chagrin of his ex – Cherry’s rival ink the rink, Hell Grazer (Blackwood). When Brad gives Cherry a strange old medallion as a token of his affection, demonic wheels are set in motion, bringing to life the vengeful spirit of Momma Skate, the highest profile killer in a violent old sport named “Murder Drome”. Seems that Momma’s team were involved in black magic rituals, and with the medallion she may seek to free her soul from hell in return for Cherry’s. Meanwhile, she’s content to skate about with her trusty blades and hooks-on-a-chain and chop up anyone who gets in her way.
That’s about as much sense as I could make of it, though, so there’s a possibility that some points are incorrect. It’s rather galling that at even a brief runtime of under 70 minutes (discounting credits) – and even then many of those are padded out with lengthy extended sequences that do little but showcase the punk/rockabilly bands on the soundtrack – what seems to be a rather basic story setup still can’t manage to make more than a lightly moist lick of sense. These extended sequences also see the pacing of the flick flail randomly back and forth in such a manner that it winds up feeling much longer than it really is, especially considering that it’s populated by an over-burdening gaggle of characters that are all as flat as the rink they routinely skate round on.
As mentioned earlier, though, it isn’t all bad. Armstrong’s script has some spunk to it, with a good number of quotable lines that will no doubt raise a chuckle, and a few comedic sequences that do hit the mark. Unfortunately, while it’s decent on paper the obviously inexperienced cast mostly manage to flub the delivery of most of the gems leaving them rather difficult to fully appreciate. Visually, Armstrong’s use of lighting is fun, with plenty of coloured filters employed and some pretty capable low-budget CGI effects work. The fun is also matched in the kills, which feature a couple of real kickers in there of a quality not expected considering that of the rest of the haphazard narrative. It’s clear to see that plenty of fun was had on set, and no smaller amount of ambition that just wasn’t fully realised.
Aussie punk and Roller Derby fans should get a kick out of Murder Drome, and so will those who want little more than to get drunk and laugh at a bunch of alt chicks running around fighting each other and getting killed off, but anyone looking for something more developed or well constructed will be turned off pretty quickly. It may be slightly damning praise, but one genius point of the film is a fake television commercial for a product named “Fris-B Hat”, that works almost as well as South Park’s stupendous “Wild Wacky Action Bike” in the fake comedy product scale. Whether it’s worth sitting through the rest of the movie just to see that is directly dependent on your tolerance for reckless filmmaking.
Monster Pictures deliver a quality DVD release of Murder Drome, with a bunch of special features including a picture-in-picture cast and crew commentary. That one gets a bit noisy, and almost as haphazard as the film itself, really, owing to the fact that it’s filmed on a balcony while they’re all enjoying beer and barbecue! It’s fun, though. There’s an FX breakdown showing the various layers and compositing utilised in the CGI-enhanced sequences; a blooper reel that offers a few good laughs; a ‘short film’ that’s really a short trailer for a film that doesn’t exist yet… something about nazi zombie wrestlers that looks bat-shit nuts; and a selection of music videos ranging from punk to rockabilly and horrorcore.
2 1/2 out of 5
3 1/2 out of 5