Deadly Weapon

DEADLY WEAPON is another randomly-stumbled-across VHS rental. This one got my attention with a faded lenticular cover and warranted further investigation when I saw that it was written and directed by Michael Miner, the less-discussed co-writer of ROBOCOP, and stars a bonafide Dream Warrior, Rodney Eastman, aka Joey from A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 3 and 4.

Caveat: It’s produced by Charles Band.

The opening text of this 1989 low budget teen angst sci-fi tale explains that it takes place “in the mind of a fifteen year old boy.” I guess that explains its cartoonishly broad idea of how people and relationships work. Eastman plays Zeke, a lonely teen who narrates in the third person, referring to himself as “The Visitor” because he’s “a visitor from another galaxy.” (Not really. That’s his fantasy.) He lives in dusty King Bee, Arizona (Population 4,852) with an abusive alcoholic stepfather and is anxious to grow up and move out, so he says he “watched the skies waiting for a sign, some signal that everything was gonna be alright.”

Like all ’80s movie kids he has a toy spaceship hanging from his ceiling to represent his wonderment with space and sci-fi. He also has fantasy paintings on the wall, a bit of a mullet, wears a Robert Plant t-shirt and experiences guitar noodling on the soundtrack. His dog (or “star dog” as he narrates) is named Van Halen. He hangs out at a diner where he plays the video game “Laser Challenge” and briefly talks to one of his only friends, “Indian Joe” (Michael Horse, PASSENGER 57, SPIRIT: STALLION OF THE CIMARRON, Twin Peaks), who actually uses the term “firewater.”

Zeke has a sister who’s unhappy too, but not much of a help. She wants to fit in, and makes out with some dude in the kitchen while Zeke is trying to make a peanut butter sandwich. She blames him for their mother leaving, or as he puts it, “the mothership had to take off early and left me behind.”

The authorities at school don’t like him either. He reads a short story about “The Visitor” in class, a fantasy about this alien getting revenge on all the humans for mistreating him, including a part where “he chewed off their balls so they couldn’t have anymore children.”

“Zeke, you’ve made a mockery of my creative writing assignment,” says the teacher. “This is obscenity, not imagination.” The bow-tie-wearing, temple-rubbing, one-eyed vice principal is even less understanding. He twists Zeke’s arm, asks him if he skips P.E. class because he’s a “faggot,” and spanks him with a wooden paddle.

His stepdad also beats him up sometimes, which is why he wears a wrist cast. That asshole tosses a bunch of coins in his face and says “Get me my friggin booze. NOW!” (Doesn’t specify type or brand so at least he’s not picky, I guess.) But to get into the teepee-decorated Barney’s Liquor Zeke would have to get past “George and his wrecking crew,” the bullies drinking and punching each other in the parking lot. They go to his school but look about ten years old than him. They’re bodybuilders with ratted out hair-band hair and muscle shirts. One guy has a jean jacket with “lone wolf” painted on the back and a folded American flag in his front pocket like a pocket square.

They hold Zeke upside down by his ankles and bash his head in the dirt until all his money falls out, then step on his already broken wrist and take a treasured letter from his mom out of his pocket and read it in sarcastic voices while he cries in the dirt.

This sort of stuff is occasionally punctuated with narration like, “But it’s tough being a visitor from another planet, because nobody ever understands.”

But one night a train derailment outside town leaves a wooden crate marked “office supplies” floating down a river like Baby Moses or Elora from WILLOW, and Zeke is the one who finds it. Inside is an experimental military weapon, some kind of death ray.

Bad time for stepdad to flip out like Jack Nicholson in THE SHINING. He says “Monsters have got me boy. And now they’re comin for you,” running parallel with a monster movie Zeke’s sister is watching. Shockingly, he hits Van Halen (the star dog, not the band) on the head with a baseball bat, sending him across the room dead, splattering blood on Zeke’s face. Big mistake.

So yeah, this about a troubled teen on a revenge rampage with a laser gun. He finds the bullies still in the liquor store parking lot and they make fun of his “Lazer Tag” gun so he shoots the store, setting it on fire. I guess he has some kind of religious guilt about that so he goes to the reverend (William Sanderson, BLADE RUNNER) for advice and is sold out in literally about 2 seconds because “those Earth people were always trying to trick The Visitor.” So he starts collecting authority figures in his trunk.

Along for the ride is Traci (Kim Walker, HEATHERS), a popular rich girl who one of the bullies calls “my girl” but she decides “No I’m not. I’m Zeke’s girl now,” and they drive around in the pink Cadillac convertible that her “daddy” gave her thinking it would keep her out of trouble.

Only a good guy with a death ray can stop a brooding teen with a death ray, but there is only one death ray, so they have to send the entire military after him. It fits into that ’80s tradition like RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD and NIGHT OF THE COMET where the military are kind of a scary secretive organization who don’t have the average citizen’s best interests in mind. He takes hostages in the diner and says “I ain’t yer son” to anyone who calls him son. His actual father is in a Utah state prison, his mother is in California, and when they track her down she’s not the idealized person in his mind. She’s an asshole too.

Zeke and Traci do dumb things like slow dance to the jukebox, leaving the laser gun on the floor.

John (pronounced glow-ver) Glover (Gary Kroeger, RADIOLAND MURDERS) busts through a roadblock to come in and interview Zeke live on “Video People Magazine,” so I guess this is one of those “satirizing the out of control media” movies we had so many of in the ’80s, but without nearly the accuracy of ROBOCOP. To me the most successful sort-of-satirical moment is when one of the military commanders tells his people “and I can’t stress this enough. By no means – by no means – are you to hit…” (is he going to say to make sure they don’t kill the kid?) “…a backpack that this individual may be wearing.”

Zeke says he’s “sick and tired of a world that ain’t got a future” and (ENDING SPOILER) he’s right! They kill him! Made all the bleaker by sort of treating it like a happy ending.

As you can probly tell by the description, this is certainly strange enough to be interesting. But I wish it was better. Miner was the cinematographer for two Night Ranger videos from the Dawn Patrol album, so I shouldn’t question his rock ‘n roll credentials, but if the dog being named Van Halen and stuff were supposed to give it a hip youthful feel, it’s done in by the stiff and cheesy feel of the filmatism. And all the stereotypes and simplistic “I’m gonna prove myself and I’m gonna get the girl and then I’m gonna die and that’ll show ’em” teenage boy world view could do with a better person to root for. Yeah, he’s mistreated but that doesn’t make him sensitive to “his girl” and then the movie portrays a way, way, way nerdier person (sweater-vest wearing, squeaky-voiced class president Lest [Richard S. Horvitz, original voice of Alpha-5 on Power Rangers]) as a bad guy that it’s okay to bully. I only really side with Zeke by default.

But I like when Kim decides to paint his face Bowie style to make him look on the way she sees him on the inside. She doesn’t believe his dumb alien shit but it’s kind of her to do that for him.

Apparently Band originally hired Miner to do a sequel to LASERBLAST, but then they decided for it just to be an unrelated movie in the teenage-loner-finds-high-tech-laser-gun genre. I haven’t seen LASERBLAST, but if it’s a high class affair this is not as good. It’s important to disclose that the score by Guy Moon (CREEPOZOIDS) uses the “Digital Native Dance” synth sound at least once. Scroll down to the bottom of my HOLLYWOOD’S NEW BLOOD review for more information on that.

Most of Miner’s IMDb credits are for creating characters on various derivations of ROBOCOP. Also he directed the TJ Lazer sequence from the original movie, and I guess it could be argued he brought that style to DEADLY WEAPON. He also got a story credit on LAWNMOWER MAN 2 and he’s one of the writers of ANACONDAS: THE HUNT FOR THE BLOOD ORCHID. His only other narrative feature film as director is THE BOOK OF STARS, a drama starring Mary Stuart Masterson, Jena Malone, and no death ray.

This entry was posted on Wednesday, March 7th, 2018 at 9:42 am and is filed under Reviews, Science Fiction and Space Shit. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

36 Responses to “Deadly Weapon”

  1. Small Town Lawyer

    March 7th, 2018 at 10:13 am

    *possible spoilers*

    Was there a sequence at the end of your version where aliens came down in a UFO? I watched a cut of this on YouTube several years ago and swear the ending had something to do with a spaceship arriving during the standoff at the end and either taking Zeke with them or healing him.

  2. I watched this a few weeks ago and I can’t remember exactly how it went down but I believe it had a UFO that I interpreted as being possibly his fantasy happy ending.

  3. Laserblast is best known as the last ever MST3K to air on Comedy Central.

  4. The whole time I’m reading this review, i was vividly recalling this movie. But now i think I’m just confusing it with Laserblast.

    I’m gonna have to take the day off to process this.

    (P.S. you see Annihilation yet, Vern? Curious about your take. I dug it but that and a bus token etc)

  5. Score by Guy Moon. Guy Moon…Guy Moon…GUY MOON!?!?!? That guy is mostly doing kids cartoons these days, like FAIRLY ODD PARENTS. According to IMDb, he also scored the infamous CARTOON ALL-STARS TO THE RESCUE special.

  6. Never forget that Leonard Maltin thinks LASERBLAST is just as good a movie as TAXI DRIVER.

  7. Wasn’t GUY MOON that movie John Carpenter sued Luc Besson over?

  8. Holy shit, I just looked up what you were referring to. I…. kinda just lost a little respect for John Carpenter.

  9. Dan Prestwich – Why less respect for Carpenter?

  10. They sued the makers of LOCKOUT for plagiarism. And yeah, duh, it’s a ripoff of Escape from New York. But only in the ways art rips off other art all the time. It’s all just superficial details, it’s not like they copied exact scenes and dialogue from it.

    I find this shit outrageous and offensive, and a view of plagiarism that totally misunderstands how art and inspiration work. It’s like that disgusting Blurred Lines lawsuit.

    I mean Lockout is approximately as similar to EFNY as Carpenter’s Halloween is to Black Christmas. (Pretty similar, but unique enough to be its own thing). Should he get sued for making Halloween?

  11. If you know anything about John Carpenter is that he is a big fan of money. Once you get over that then the Lockout thing is not a big deal. I think it’s more a rip off of Escape from LA complete with effects that are just as shitty.

  12. Carpenter is one of my favorite artists of all time, but this is a dishonorable way of making money.

  13. Putting it in the context of Black Christmas/Halloween…yeah, I get that.

    I think they should re-release Space Jail at some point with ads proclaiming, ‘So awesome, John Carpenter sued us… and won!’

  14. It’s funny you mention Blurred Lines. The very first time I heard it, and every time since, I knocked it as a blatant Marvin Gaye ripoff. Meanwhile, my wife — and you? — consider it an homage. I guess it’s all in the ear, or eye, of the beholder.

  15. There’s a another LASERBLAST sort-of-remake produced by Charles Band, ALIEN ARSENAL (1999), directed by good old David DeCoteau. That one’s about a pair of teenage outcasts who stumble across a whole bunch of high tech laser guns, so it’s completely different.

  16. Maybe Howard Hawks’ grand children should sue Carpenter for his whole career?

  17. I don’t think he did anything wrong. Or dishonorable.

  18. That link emphasizes my point. The claim is bullshit, and it sets a precedent that is bad for art.

  19. Yet we don’t see very many of these cases do we?

  20. I’m with Dan on this. I love Carpenter more than I love most of my relatives but that was a shitty and hypocritical move that sets a bad precedent for all narrative art.

  21. I’m also really disappointed in the French, whom I assumed would know better than this.

  22. Seriously. I don’t want to live in a world where the Italians didn’t make 100,000 MAD MAX ripoffs.

  23. I wish Italians would still make cheap trendsploitation. Can you imagine all the glorious superhero movies we would’ve gotten by now?

  24. And in terms of trendsploitation: I would love to see the Dubstep movie that Cannon gave us in a different timeline. DUBBIN’: ELECTRIC BASSDROPALOO

  25. Plus, all the money he got from the lawsuit more than enabled Carpenter to sit around on the couch smoking weed and playing videogames instead of getting motivated to make one last great movie.

  26. IDK, as much as part of me wants Carpenter back for a swan song, THE WARD and his Masters of Horror episodes kinda argue that he should stay retired.

    He’s been active with his music, which is pretty cool.

  27. I have to agree with the majority here – the lawsuit is bullshit and sets a bad precedent that hopefully won’t be followed. LOCKOUT is an awesome movie and there are several much closer riffs on ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK, including Europacorp’s own DISTRICT B13 (which I also love). Also I wouldn’t have supported the producers of RIO BRAVO or NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD suing ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13, or Clint Eastwood being mad that Snake Plissken stole his voice.

    But I have no negative feelings toward Carpenter, and the amount of money he won was probly not enough to really change business practices, and I’m so happy that he’s been able to take a career victory lap during this rock star period. The albums and the live show have been much better than THE WARD and he seems to be loving it.

  28. “I haven’t seen LASERBLAST, but if it’s a high class affair this is not as good.”

    LASERBLAST is not a high class affair. I think all of us who’ve seen it – including those of us who are fond of it – can agree on that.

  29. I cannot condone the use of the word awesome to describe Lockout.

  30. Gnarly? Radical? Far out? Groovy? Sick? Dope?

  31. I think “awesome” is the perfect word to describe LOCKOUT. It’s not great. It’s not even very good. It’s just awesome.

  32. Having just seen THE HURRICANE HEIST I can say that’s how I feel about it. Also yes LOCKOUT is awesome.

  33. I like Lockout enough but I don’t think it’s that good. Though there are enough sacred cows around here I think are awful and I loved Hurricane Heist so we’re all even.

  34. Uhhh…. blurred lines and Lockout are two *excellent* examples of plagiarism.

    Also, check out BOOK OF STARS, it legit made me cry. A really beautiful character study.

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