• Shocking Dark

    Shocking Dark
    Released by: Severin Films
    Released on: May 29th, 2018.
    Director: Bruno Mattei
    Cast: Christopher Ahrens, Haven Tyler, Geretta Geretta, Fausto Lombardi, Dominica Coulson
    Year: 1989
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    The Movie:

    There are knock offs, and then there are knock offs, and Bruno Mattei’s 1989 film Shocking Dark (also released as Alienators and, yes, as Terminator 2), is a knock off. It’s also a film that takes place in the terrifying future of the year 2000. Here, Venice, Italy has been transformed into a wasteland thanks to pollution issues plaguing the city’s famous canals and waterways. It’s here that the (totally) Tubular Corporation pays armed thugs to keep people away while the conduct experiments that may or may not be of the nefarious variety in hopes of bringing the city back to what it once was.

    After a suspicious distress call is received from Venice at Tubular headquarters, Colonel Parson (Bruce McFarland) gathers up a team that are definitely not Colonial Marines but in fact members of Mega Force to head into the city’s underbelly and check out what’s what. Before you know it, Captain Dalton Bond (Mark Steinborn) and his team - Koster (Geretta Geretta) who is definitely not Vasquez, Franzini (Fausto Lombardi) who is definitely not Hudson, Caine (Cortland Reilly), Kowalsky (Paul Norman Allen) and Price (Richard Ross) are locked and loaded and prowling the bowels of the city fighting off poorly made rubber aliens with some help from a scientist who is totally not Ripley but in fact Dr. Sara Drumball (Haven Tyler) and a tough guy with some sort of military background named Samuel Fuller (Christopher Ahrens). Oh, and a crazy guy named Drake (Clive Riche) shows up and shoots at them. Soon enough, the crew find a young girl hiding amongst the industrial caverns who is not Newt at all but in fact Samantha (Dominica Coulson). She and Sara become friends. It’s nice.

    BUT then there’s a really fucking bonkers twist – Fuller starts to become rather single minded in his actions, wanting to get his hands on the diary of a scientist named Raphelson (Al McFarland). As those around him start to question his motives, the true nature of his being is revealed when they find out he’s got circuit boards and mechanical stuff under his skin! He’s definitely not a Terminator though.

    Wow. God bless you, Bruno Mattei, for having the king-sized balls required to make a movie that so blatantly steals from Hollywood blockbuster royalty the way that Shocking Dark does. It’s absolutely shameless in how it pilfers plot elements from both films left and right – and it makes for a pretty fun watch. Yeah fine, there’s not an original bone in its cinematic body but this being a Mattei film, it’s paced well. Lots of stuff happens – granted, not always for the right reason – but stuff definitely does happen. The acting is goofy and it’s clear that certain characters are aping other, better known characters from the aforementioned films, some likely cast solely for their physical resemblance, but the story from partners in crime Claudio Fragasso and Rossella Drudi is loony enough to work.

    The effects? Not good, but kinda charming. The outfits? Atrocious, but amazing – hats off to the person responsible for the little flourishes on the Mega Force uniforms. Also the fact that the soldiers call themselves Mega Force is also great, because it makes you think of Barry Bostwick on a flying motorcycle. The fact that the movie doesn’t rip off the actual Mega Force movie is a strike against it, but otherwise, turn off your brain and enjoy the wonderful stupidity that Shocking Dark serves up in huge, heaping chunks.


    Severin Films brings Shocking Dark to Blu-ray for the first time anywhere in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer framed at 1.78.1 widescreen taken from a new 2k scan of the film’s original 35mm negative. Aside from the fact that minor print damage can be spotted throughout, the picture quality here is pretty good. Some scenes look sharper and more detailed than other scenes but this look to have been a result of lighting and the use of smoke machines as well as some iffy camera work rather than a transfer flaw. When the image is properly lit and focused, detail is strong. There aren’t any compression artifacts to note and the image is free of noise reduction and edge enhancement issues. Colors are reproduced quite nicely and we get pretty strong black levels too.

    The best of the audio options on the disc is the English language DTS-HD Mono option, but Dolby Digital Mono tracks are also provided in Italian, German, Spanish and Chinese. The optional English subtitles translate the English track. Why is the English track the best? Because the dubbing suits the tone of the movie in its own screwy way and, by the looks of things, more often than not the actors were speaking English. Overall the track sounds fine, it’s balanced well enough and it’s pretty clean despite occasional sibilance now and then. The score sounds solid and the effects work does too.

    Extras start off with a thirteen-minute featurette called Terminator In Venice which is an interview with co-director/co-screenwriter Claudio Fragasso and co-screenwriter Rossella Drudi, neither of whom are particularly proud of this specific collaboration. They talk about being asked to literally come up with a film that combined Aliens and Terminator, their thoughts on how their results turned out, what it was like working with Bruno Mattei on the picture, producer Franco producer Gaudenzi’s idea to change the name of the film and how surprising it is to them that the movie actually has a fan base.

    In the thirteen-minute Once Upon A Time In Italy we spend some time with actress Geretta Geretta who gives us a quick career overview. She talks about landing a part in The Smithereens and how that led to bigger things for her, and then how she wound up in Italy first as a model than as an actress. She talks about working with Lamberto Bava on Demons, working with Lucio Fulci and then discusses her work on this picture as well as her relationship with Bruno Mattei. She looks back on this time quite fondly.

    Aside from that, the disc also includes the Terminator 2 alternate Italian titles, a Japanese trailer (which has an absolutely insane ending to it), menus and chapter selection.

    The Final Word:

    Shocking Dark is bonkers, pilfering so liberally from established classics that it doesn’t seem like it should be allowed to exist. The fact that it does is a testament to the brilliance of Mattei, and to the guts that the Italian film industry once had when it came to turning a quick buck. Severin Films has done the Lord’s working bringing this one to Blu-ray in a fine presentation and, amazingly enough, interviews with people involved in the film that actually don’t mind talking about it. Absolutely essential.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!

    Comments 5 Comments
    1. Jason C's Avatar
      Jason C -
      Wow. I need this.

      Amazing review. Thanks

      "the good guys always win, even in the eighties."
    1. moviegeek86's Avatar
      moviegeek86 -
      Huge Mattei fan and this is an entertaining one for sure. Never thought it would get a disc release in the US but I'm glad I was proven wrong. Once I get some funds I'm getting this, zombi 3 and zombi 4.
    1. Paul L's Avatar
      Paul L -
      Really looking forward to getting my hands on this disc. I've only seen the film via pretty dire boots until now. Thanks for the review, Ian. It's whetted my appetite.
    1. agent999's Avatar
      agent999 -
      For those in the UK, Strange Vice have the T2 slipcase version in stock now.

    1. Mark C.'s Avatar
      Mark C. -
      I want to order this but have blown through my monthly dvd budget, went a little crazy at dddhouse recently, plus the VS sale and all the pre-orders I had for the last two months have shipped.