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Canuxploitation!

Sci-Fighters

1996, Starring Roddy Piper, Jayne Heitmeyer and Billy Drago. Directed by Peter Svatek.





Admittedly, expectations were pretty low for this film. Sci-Fighters is familiar Canadian science-fiction territory--ex-wrestlers saving the universe (like Abraxas) and fighting a strange disease (like The Plague and Quarantine). But despite a lame title and even lamer box art, this Quebec-made science fiction film boasts a good story, gory special effects and most surprisingly, a decent performance by former WWF wrestler "Rowdy" Roddy Piper. As soon as those convicts began splitting each other open in a fight to the death with buzzsaws, I knew I was in for something different.

Yes, Sci-Fighters actually begins with a circular saw fight. Two prisoners in a penal colony on the moon start arguing over a cigarette, and after a whole lot of flying sparks and blood, one stands victorious. He celebrates his victory as we all would, by cutting a big hole in his arm and sticking in some strange creature he pulled out of his opponent's face. The creature makes him go into strange convulsions, and he is pronounced dead at the infirmary.

Of course, he's not really dead. The convict, Dunn, used the creature/virus to suspended his life signs until he awoke back on earth inside a body bag. You can tell he has the virus because his eyes are red, he keeps puking up stuff and his hair is falling out. Despite these shortcomings he manages to rape a young woman upon his return, also infecting her with the deadly virus.

Meanwhile, in the crazy mixed-up world of 2009, Cameron (Piper) is a tough cop who also happens to be a member of "Black Shield," a law enforcement program which allows police officers to assign themselves to cases. At the station, he is busting a small-time hood named Casper when he sees the rape victim's composite of her attacker. Immediately recognizing Dunn, Cameron assigns himself to the case and goes to the Institute for Infectious Diseases where the woman is being monitored. There he meets his love interest, Dr Younger, who won't let him see the victim. It's a good thing she doesn't, because in short order the woman's chest explodes as several of the virus creatures escape. This scene could only be a "tribute" to Alien. The creatures look surprisingly like the brain creatures in the classic British film Fiend Without a Face tiny little brains with long tentacles.

When Dunn kills a hooker and kidnaps another girl, Cameron goes after him. Empty-handed, he decides that maybe it would be easier to blackmail Casper into finding the escaped convict for him. Casper locates Dunn, and sends Cameron into a building to be ambushed by a local sharpshooter. In the confusion that follows, Dunn manages to kill both Casper and the trigger happy hitman with Cameron's gun. When Dunn hands the gun back, Cameron takes about five close range shots at him, but Dunn only pretends to be dead again so he can run loose back at the Institute. Confused yet?

After he almost rapes Dr Younger, we find out that Dunn has been attacking girls because he is looking for someone named Katie. Cameron used to be friends with Dunn at the Academy, until he married Dunn's ex-girlfriend Katie. So, what else could Dunn do but rape and kill her, getting himself sent away to lunar prison. Now delusional with sickness, Dunn thinks every woman is Katie. After Dunn once again nabs Dr Younger, Cameron straps on some heavy artillery and heads to the dark basement of the Institute, ready to get revenge for his wife.

I was quite impressed with the production values of Sci-Fighters, which are only matched by the slightly inferior Canadian film Laserhawk. Besides a silly environmental angle that doesn't affect the story, Sci-Fighters makes excellent use of environments and good old fashioned special effects to convince us that we are in the near future. Roddy even has a " futuristic" car with wing doors, and a flashlight on the end of his gun. It makes me wonder why films like Quarantine can fail so miserably at creating atmosphere when it really is the little touches that can make up for a lack of budget.

Unlike his role as Ice in No Contest, Piper is good enough that you almost forget that he's a wrestler throughout most of the movie. The emotional scenes with Dr Younger are the exception, which come off as stilted and without chemistry. But then again, they're pretty much finished with each other by the end of the film, so it all seems to make sense.

Sure, Sci-Fighters doesn't have the greatest plot in the world, but it's better than most straight-to-video films I've seen. The Black Shield bit works well, and the idea of making the virus give Dunn superhuman strength seems to be a relatively new spin on things. The oddest part of Sci-Fighters is that the video release I watched actually had some of the swearing dubbed out, while some was left in. I won't venture to make a guess on why this is. Regardless, the film succeeds for the most part, and not only because the director seems to be having fun with the material. In one scene, we catch a glimpse of a strange futuristic machine called the Svatek 1200, obviously named after the director, Peter Svatek.


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