Written by guest contributor Brian Roe
Murderdrome, from director Daniel Armstrong, feels like going to a really kick-ass punk rock show with a bunch of close friends. It moves along quickly without getting reckless and keeps its fun and positive attitude even as the body count starts to get out of hand. It’s one of those really rare movies that blows the impacted cynicism straight out the back of your head and leaves you wanting more.
Derby jammer Cherry Skye (Amber Sajben) has a bit of a problem. Her new boyfriend Brad (Jake Brown) has given her a sweetheart pendant that he scored online. Unfortunately the pendant is also connected to a demonic roller-lich called Momma Skate (Be-On The-Rocks) who wants to drag sweet little Skye right on down to “H-E-double hockey sticks”. Making Skye’s dilemma even more of a hassle is Brad’s ex-girlfriend Hell Grazer (Rachael Blackwood) who dumped Brad but then gets all evil once he starts making loveably dorky small talk with Skye. So our perky, snack obsessed rollergirl Skye is truly stuck between two Hells.
Luckily she has her devoted group of derby-girls to help her out. Trans Em (Kat Anderson) is the parental type, Daisy Duke Nuke ‘Em (Laura Soall) is a sex obsessed rockabilly girl, Thrusty P Elvis (Gerry Mahony) is the good natured one, and personal favorite Psychlone (Cyndi Lawbreaker) is the feisty punk-chick who’s always up for a fight or ready to drop a meandering and vulgar figure of speech. Together they skate on the derby team The Alamos, a name that contains more than a bit of foreshadowing.
One of the first things you notice about The Alamos is that although they don’t always get along, there isn’t the normal amount of backstabbing and pettiness that all Hollywood groups of friends seem to have. For the most part this group seems to like and actually care about each other and never resort to throwing another member under a bus to get what they want. They feel like actual people, even if they spend most of their time hanging out around a skating rink and never seem to remove their skates.
Murderdrome plays out in a nighttime world that seems to belong to Skye and her friends. We never really see anyone who isn’t a part of the skating world and this gives the film the feeling that the characters exist outside of normal reality in a place where skating down the street is routine and having ecstatic sex in a vintage Cadillac is just how things are done. And although the film was shot in Australia that fact isn’t constantly trotted out. Really the only thing that gives it away are the accents of the characters.
There’s a short segment of the film that let’s Cherry Skye just skate through the streets, pirouetting and enjoying the freedom that having wheels on your feet can give you. It’s a nice touch and feels dreamy and peaceful, a literal calm before the storm. Although the rest of the film moves along briskly it never feels rushed and the tone, timing, and intent is consistent and solid.
Special effects are a combination of good old splattery corn-syrup blood and latex and digital effects that are inventive and clever. Most CGI effects feel strange in the “uncanny valley” sort of way and Murderdrome embraces this feeling to show Skye’s surroundings becoming surreal and threatening. There’s a good mix of actual skating, which is impressive, character dialogue, and effects heavy sequences. It’s great to see a low budget film that contains all of the necessary parts of a well made film while also having the freedom independent film allows creators to have.
One of the most interesting elements of Murderdrome is that although it has a primarily female cast it doesn’t devolve into the standard tropes and cliches. This is a Bechdel Test passing movie that doesn’t have to try to hard to impress how feminist it is. Although the women are dressed in the pseudo-fetishistic regalia of roller derby they are not presented as mere objects, They are sexual without being sexist, and they always seem to be agents of their own will. Basically like real world women.
Get some friends together, crack open some beers and enjoy this brilliant little gem. If we’re lucky maybe Armstrong will accept his birthright as an Aussie filmmaker to give us a post-apocalyptic view of the Murderdrome world, Dead End Drive-In style. And of course it would be called Cherry Skye: Beyond Murderdrome.
Murderdrome will be released in The US on Sept 9th, 2014 and can be pre-ordered from Amazon.
Director: Daniel Armstrong Studio: Camp Motion Pictures Run Time: 71 mins