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Canuxploitation!

Abraxas

1991, Starring Jesse Ventura, Sven-Ole Thorsen, Damian Lee, Jerry Levitan, Marjorie Bransfield, Moses Znaimer, James Belushi. Directed by Damian Lee.





If straight-to-video films represent a poor gamble for anyone looking for quality, you can imagine what the odds are against a straight-to-video science fiction film. Add a Canadian production pedigree into the mix, and you would probably have more success playing the lottery than picking a winner. That's what makes Damian Lee's Abraxas, Guardian of the Universe so notable. Is it good? Well, no, but it is compulsively watchable, something that can't be said for most Canadian sci-fi made in the last two decades. This one will at least hold your attention and offer some snickers? if you can get past the overwhelming aura of cheapness conveyed by the misspelling of "Abraxus" on the spine of the video, that is.

Labeling discrepancies aside, Abraxas, Guardian of the Universe is a laughably plotted science fiction film starring everyone's favourite wrestler turned politician, Jesse "The Body" Ventura. Here he grimaces his way through the role of Abraxas, an 11,000 year old alien space cop. Sporting a braided mini-ponytail several years before the Jedis made it cool, Abraxas uses vaguely described technology to thwart intergalactic villain Secundus (Sven-Ole Thorsen)

The film begins in the middle of an Earth-bound battle between the two arch-enemies. After a laser gun-fuelled chase through a forest, Secundus appears to be moments away from a trip to an "intergalactic penal colony." Before he gives up, though, he impregnates a girl in a nearby car by putting his glowing hand on her stomach. When he escapes five years later, Secundus has only one thing on his mind--to find his illegitimate offspring.

Secundus locates his son Tommy in a small town where he lives with his mother Sonya. Tommy, who has been mute since birth, is needed by Secundus because he is a "Culmator" who possess the "anti-life equation." This all seems quite important, although the film never bothers to go into much detail about these mysterious terms. Basically, it comes down to power? Secundus wants the unlimited power that only his son can supply, and packs for his return trip to our planet.

After realizing that the intergalactic villain has escaped, Abraxas prepares to once again guard the universe and uses a "travel warp" to follow Secundus to Earth. But when their "travel warp" paths cross, both characters land in a lake with most of their equipment destroyed. With the help of their last functioning pieces of space gadgetry, "answer boxes" they wear on their wrists, another forest chase ensues. This time, Secundus escapes to Sonya's house, and when Abraxas arrives to save the innocent boy, he is impaled him with a floor lamp!

As Sonya removes the lamp from Abraxas' chest, they predictably fall in love, prompting Sonya to ask, "You're busy saving the universe, but what about my problems?" When Tommy realizes his importance, he runs away, leaving his mother a hilarious note which starts "I love you and I think I love Abraxas too." But Secundus is still on the trail, and Abraxas knows that only a fight to death will stop Secundus' unnatural desires for ambiguous power.

Secundus should give up on the anti-life equation, because his answer box is obviously the greatest technological innovation in the universe. Not only do both characters use their boxes to receive orders from disembodied voices (Abraxas' is even supplied by Moses Znaimer), but they can also be used to "sense vibrations," measure energy, kill people by shooting out blue electrical bolts, and heal lamp wounds!

The visceral thrills for b-movie fans run high in Abraxas, including a dirt bike chase, Secundus accidently visiting a strip bar for no other reason than to show off some flesh, and Tommy using his powers to make a school bully with hockey hair pee his pants (so maybe that's what a Culmator can do!). An embarrassed Jim Belushi is also on hand for a 2-minute long guest appearance as Tommy's principal.

American director Damian Lee works almost exclusively in Canada, and has brought to this frozen tundra everything from the popular Porky's rip-off Ski School to Donor to Food of the Gods II. Even though Abraxas is an unabashed Terminator rip-off, it is Lee's funniest feature by faran unintentionally bad film that contains all the trademark Damian Lee flourishes, including an ear-splitting new age score.

Some American directors who work north of the border have embraced Canada, and have no qualms about setting their films in our borders. Traces of Canadiana never surface in Lee's films, though, and Abraxas is no exception. Still, it bears similarities to several other Canadian films that appeared later in the 1990s, including the "Rowdy" Roddy Piper vehicle Sci-Fighters. The film it most resembles is Starlight, a virtual remake of Abraxas that also features an alien baddie hunting down the secret power contained in the skull of their half-human offspring.

For all its problems and cheesinesss, Abraxas just clicks as entertainment. Whether it is successful in the way it was meant to be enjoyed is still up for debate, but as with Lee's Food of the Gods II, the outlandish trajectory of the film is just plain fun to watch. Lee's approach to the story seems to be that if you don't really explain too many of the plot elements, they will seem believable and realistic. More likely, you are supposed to concentrate and the more exploitable elements of this production, which is certainly what I did while watching.

One thing that did surprise me about this film is the lack of wrestling. There's answer boxes and very sharp lamp poles, but no body slams or sleeper holds. I can't believe Lee missed this angle--imagine a career-ending tag-team cage match with Secundus and the Iron Sheik for the entire Universe!


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