Metal Shifters
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Metal Shifters (Iron Invader)

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One of the most enduring questions that have faced humanity is the difference between the inanimate and he living. In the he Hebrew Scriptures word referring to that ineffable quality frequently translated as ‘soul’ is ‘Nephesh’ or later on in the Greek/Christian scriptures as either psuche or pneuma. In both cases the word transliterates to the act of respiration, a generally accepted criteria for the designation of living. Throughout the age’s folklore, mythology and fiction have employed crossing the line of what is living typically with horrific results. Long before Mary Shelley frightened the world with her ghastly tale, Frankenstein, Jewish mythology described a creature called the Golem. Molded from clay and animated by ancient incantations the creature would become and unstoppable agent of death, destruction and retribution. This venerable plot device has persistent long into our era of scientific enlightenment and technological wonders. What exactly differentiates the living from the inanimate remains a mystery and current science fiction still has to fall back of some mysterious force to bring the lifeless to life. This is clearly demonstrated in the rather successful ‘Transformer’ franchise that surrounds the mystical with an advanced technology. One of the most recent additions to this timeless trend is a flick called ‘Metal Shifters’. The original title of the movie was ‘Iron Invader’ but the new title infers a tenuous connection with the lucrative ‘Transformers’ series. There is a Russian connection here that helped to justified the original title providing a touch of classic fifties Communist paranoia feel to the proceedings. This film has all the required tropes and archetypes that define this particular sub genre and disputed the frequently hackney plot points there is a nicely played glimmer of novel twist to the flick. This is one of the series of flicks often referred to as SyFy Channel’s Saturday Night Specials. Typically they are inexpensively made movies as original movies for the cable network or imports from lesser venues to fill in the void in programming that Saturday prime time has become. Some of these films are notoriously dreadful but a few are reminiscent of the ‘B’ creature features we watched in matinee performances at the local movie house. This particular movie is thankfully on the right slope of the bell curve bringing it in an s a fairly good popcorn flick.

Greg Aupolous is like many living in rural America, just trying to scratch out a meager living. On night it seemed as if the answers to his prayers were about to happen. A streak of light from the blackness of space heralds something crashing to earth. Greg seeks out the object coming across a bit of metal, a piece of an abandoned Russian satellite. He decides to recover it not noticing some green goop that is on the fragment. It quickly moves to cover his hand resulting in a painful, disfiguring death. I guess that Greg never had a chance to see the cult classic monster movie, ‘The Blob’. The one thing that this early Steve McQueen movie teachers us is never disturb extraterrestrial goo; it never turns out good for any involved. Remember kids; do not poke space slime with a stick or attempt to take it home. It is not worth it. Never taunt happy fun ball. Also witnessing the unplanned reentry were a pair of brothers Jake (Kavan Smith) and Ethan (Colby Johannson). They also go off after the fallen dish. The pair are working on fulfilling their dream; opening their own inn. They hope the money they get from selling the formerly orbiting scrap with generate much needed revenue bringing that dream closer. Te intended purchaser of the strange metal is Earl (Donnelly Rhodes) a local artist that takes bits and pieces of discarded metal fashioning it into sculptures. His current artistic vision is an anthropomorphic piece he titled ‘Iron Golem’. The piece of metal the brothers brought over would top of the work exceptionally well. Unfortunately the highest he can go for it is much less than Ethan expected $800. On their way back the Brother rub across Jakes’ Jake's old High School girlfriend Amanda (Nicole de Boer) and her daughter Claire (Merrit Patterson).Amanda just became divorced and is staying with her Aunt while she sorts things out. Meanwhile, back at Earl’s studio his work is taking form and is almost complete, a segment of the dish covered with the goo leaps on the statue animating it. Earl is rendered unconscious as the metallic monster sets off on the road murdering a trucker. The next stop is the Aunt’s house where Amanda and Clair manage to escape although the aunt was not quite so fortunate. In another nod to the classic Blob story some kids know the truth and attempt to warn others but Deputy Jenny (Chelah Horsdal), refuse to believe them. I know that this similarity to a movie I have always loved should have annoyed me but strangely enough I took it as homage. I have the distinct impression that the filmmaker Paul Ziller was a fan of that flick. Much of his career as a director has been involved with creating these movies for SyFy including ‘Ice Quake’, ‘Ba’al’ and ‘Yeti: Curse of the Snow Demon’. He has also worked on a few respectable science fiction television series such as ‘Pain Killer Jane’ and Stargate: Atlantis. Some directors like Ziller have built their career on these quick and cheap flicks and their efforts should be considered as a specific niche in the broad spectrum of science fiction. In typical fashion at least one convention worthy star of Sci-Fi must be present in the cast. In this case it is Nicole de Boer. She co-starred in ‘Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and "The Dead Zone’ with featured appearances in the Showtime revival of ‘The Outer Limits’. The plot is well presented and paced very well for this brand of movie. It may not have the best special effects but like the old movies of our youth the purpose is not to create a special effects wonder but something enjoyable to watch.

Posted 02/06/12

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