Directed By: Albert Pyun
Starring: Victoria Maurette, Steven Bauer, Morgan Weisser
The story is set along the Mexico/California Border, principally in Imperial Beach, CA. It concerns a female DEA agent, Dara Maren, who, in protecting her petty criminal younger brother, gets herself arrested and imprisoned in a nightmarish penal colony outside Tijuana. You can guess how bad it gets in there -- prison officials even harvest organs from the inmates. While she's in prison, Dara's brother is murdered by a drug lord who's creating a new DNA-altering drug made from human spinal fluid tapped from the living. Hundreds of dead bodies are turning up along the Border, and the drug addicts become something not quite human. The drug is so addicting that even law enforcement and government officials are on the stuff. A rogue FBI agent bribes the prison officials to let Dara out to avenge her brother's murder as well as bring down the drug lord in ways the Feds can't. When Dara comes out of prison, she is not the same person who went in. The catch? She only gets a 60-hour get-out-of-jail card and must return to the prison to serve out her 20-year sentence, or the FBI agent must take her place.
Albert Pyun has directed three of my favourite low budget movies over the years: The Sword and the Sorcerer, Cyborg, and Nemesis.
I’ll admit to having disregarded any further output from the Director until now. It’s a shame because if you look Mr Pyun up on imdb, you’ll see how many interesting actors he has worked with. So why have I taken notice now? Well, for the same reason that I got back into my favourite band Marillion, I was asked for some money up front for a collectable package and I gambled on it being enjoyable (Marillion have now had 3 successful pre-order campaigns to raise money for their albums. Not quite the same thing but similar).
Bulletface was offered in a limited 5 disc release including Left For Dead. I won’t spend time discussing the new way in which Albert Pyun distributes his movies but visit his site and all will be explained in a proper manner. This piqued my interest and reminded me what a talent the Director is.
On to the movie...
Needless to say this isn’t some glossy Hollywood movie, but what it loses in refined presentational quality, it gains in atmosphere and creativity. I’m reminded of Don Coscarelli, who also knows how to make a movie with a nil budget but makes it look good. There are dodges employed to avoid the need for an increasing budget but they don't detract from the movie. I'll use one example; characters tend to push their firearms into their victims, negating the need for elaborate make up effects.
There are many characters in this film so it’s handy that we get a title card description when a character arrives on screen. At first this felt necessary but as it continues to almost the end of the movie’s 80 minutes, it became a little like a parody. This aspect didn’t spoil my enjoyment of the movie but should be considered in any future movies. It could get a bit much in a potential sequel.
Whilst some of the FX betrays the budget constraints, the inventiveness shines through in both the writing and the acting. Any fan of noir movies will get a kick out of this. The insertion of soft core scenes is largely a bizarre choice but manages to work in the genre of movie it is aiming for and must have helped in the overall marketing.
There’s a certain vibe to this movie that reminds me of Nemesis. It’s almost as if Pyun is showing us a parallel world or world slightly in the future where the effects of the drug taking are not out of place. The DNA altering drug effects are low tech but effective and again, did not detract from my overall enjoyment.
There's much scope for Dara Maren to have a movie series as
, not surprisingly, ends with scope for a sequel.
Whilst it might seem unkind of me to say so, this is for open minded movie watchers that don’t need high end glossy visuals and can put up with a low budget production that gets past its restraints by being inventive and interesting. I recommend it to all those that like quirky, low budget movies that crack on at a reasonable pace. Mr Pyun is still making worthwhile movies. Be sure to check out his website to see the latest news on his productions, not least of which is a sequel to The Sword and the Sorceror.
7 out of 10 (Wayfarer)