Movie Battle started in 2005, a competition set by five Danish friends who were also movie buffs and who challenged each other to make short films linked by the theme of revenge.
Two years later, the competition was resurrected and the theme of grindhouse was chosen. The end results were shown at a specially selected cinema and apparently went down a treat.
Fast-forward to 2010, and the third leg of the contest was announced with a theme of "post apocalypse". Again, the final films - with more contestants than ever participating this time - were shown theatrically, and Another World Entertainment were there to check out this growing phenomenon.
The consequence of this was that Another World Entertainment were so impressed with what they saw, they decided to take the six best short films from the 2010 shindig and release them via this very nice DVD.
The first film on offer is Shaky Gonzalez's 21-minute LAST WARRIOR.
WARRIOR is an amazingly accomplished piece of low-budget exploitation. It opens to stirring music and glossy scenes of two nomadic women snogging.
Then, following a narration set to archive footage that tells us how the world ended and only one male is rumoured to have survived the apocalypse, we're off into the desert were me meet a gang of rough 'n' ready chicks led by the fearful Regina. One of them, a messenger, returns from her night of lust with the newly arrived stranger (refer to the opening credits sequence). Her message? The newcomer has heard that Regina is keeping the last man alive as her hostage - and wants to usurp her role.
Cue some highly stylised action, accompanied by crowd-pleasing one-liners and a visual polish that some Hollywood films can't achieve (DOOMSDAY, take note).
Brisk, hugely derivative (specifically of MAD MAX 2) and very sexy, Gonzalez's film is fun - but knows when it's running the risk of outstaying its welcome. With no fresh ideas of its own and an occasional feel of a Lynx advert to it, it wisely runs its course and then buggers off.
Next up is Philip T Pedersen's EASTERN ARMY.
This 24-minute effort is rawer in its look, with watered-down colour schemes and very low budget aesthetics.
The story concerns another nomad traveller (David Sakurai) who wanders the barren woodlands of a lifeless future world in search of food. After witnessing a comrade being slaughtered by cannibals, he flees until he comes across a family hiding in a disused shack.
Initially wary of the stranger, the family take him in when they learn he is a member of the Eastern Army - a band of brothers said to be coming to save people from savages and rebuild their crumbled society. The traveller wins the family's trust and hospitality - but who is he, really?
More sombre in tone and sporadically violent, EASTERN ARMY hits harder than WARRIOR but is less fun. As short films go though, it's another above-average, extremely accomplished offering.
CONNECTED, co-directed by Jonas D Mouritsen and Jens R Christensen follows.
It's a more bizarre entry, opening to a stunning shot of a mist-filled desert of emptiness. Two figures wander into it, both wearing specially modified masks to help them breathe in this forbidding territory.
It's another stunner, looking great thanks to its widescreen photography and sun-kissed location. Story-wise, this one is more conceptual (who needs dialogue?) and plays with Western motifs - as the music is keen to emphasise.
It's an engaging, visually sumptuous 7 minutes.
The next film proffered is I BARBARI DEL CPH, by David Sakurai (that's right, the star of Pedersen's film).
In marked contrast to CONNECTED, this is a fast-paced and cheesy affair, looking not unlike what you'd imagine a post-apocalypse film directed by Robert Rodriguez to resemble.
It begins with the alarming introduction: "After the holocaust, violence and chaos followed ... Men battled over the last women left. Women, the only key to recreate the world!". That's pretty much all you need to know - the rest is noisy, colourful, highly stylised and extremely daft (guitars shooting lasers; kung-fu fighting; outlandish violence, and so on).
As a way to spend 10 minutes, it's fun - albeit a little too desperate to hit that 'hip' chord.
MAX FURY comes up in fifth position, and opens with a video diary being recorded by a blood-soaked drunk called Eddie (Dennis Haladyn). "It's about fuckin' time y'all learned the truth", he says.
And so, he recounts the tale of how he helped his friend Max (director Jack Hansen) in his quest to find his sister. Cue more empty streets and deserted highways.
A nice score, snappy editing and a gorgeous music video-style look lend MAX FURY an extremely polished veneer. Again, it tries too hard to fall into that faux grindhouse 'cool' - but, ride with it and it's actually pretty good. Well, there's lots of fighting anyway ...
Last but certainly not least, we get The Sun King's wonderfully titled TUTORIAL - HOW TO KILL A RACIST.
Playing out as a propaganda film by "The Resistance", we're greeted by the bulky masked Tutor (Philip D Petersen - director of WARRIOR). He tells us he's going to show us an instructional video on how to kill the enemy ...
The rest of this 8-minute film does just that, albeit in a very stylish and proficient manner. Humour, nice framing and strong colours help TUTORIAL achieve a similar level of cinematic authenticity to the other films offered in this set.
This is certainly the most violent, most gory of the six films offered. And it's pretty good.
All in all then, this is a strong set that comes highly recommended. Sure, between them these films are heavily indebted to MAD MAX 2 and the Tarantino/Rodriguez school of post-grindhouse chic, but there is enough finesse, energy and humour hereto pull it all off.
Although the cast in each film - save for one Cockney bloke in the last segment - are Danish, they speak English throughout and do it well.
The films are presented here in various aspect ratios (their original ratios judging from the framing) and all are 16x9 enhanced. They look terrific. Stunning, in fact - as close to High Definition at times that I can recall any DVD being.
English audio is presented in 2.0 and impresses with its clarity throughout.
Optional Danish subtitles are also provided.
The animated main menu page allows you to either watch each short film individually or as a whole by selecting the "Play All" option.
From there, extras begin with 10 pages of text biographies for the seven directors.
"What Is Movie Battle" is two more pages of text that offers a little more background into the original contest.
Each film also comes with its own gallery of stills and artwork, which can be accessed via a sub-menu page.
Finally we get trailers for some vintage post-apocalypse gems: THE NEW BARBARIANS, RATS (the onscreen title here is BLOOD KILL), STALKER, TURKEY SHOOT and SCREAMERS.
Another World Entertainment continue to impress as the go-to DVD company for quality European releases of weird and wonderful genre stuff. WASTELAND TALES is no exception: the films are very good and their presentations on this disc are absolutely stunning.
Review by Stu Willis
|Released by Another World Entertainment|
|Region 2 - PAL|
|see main review|