As a note to myself, or anybody paying close attention this is my second review of a Jason Trost film. I recently reviewed his How to Save Us (2014) and intend next to watch and review the sequel to this one, All Superheroes Must Die 2: The Last Superhero, and I admit to being pretty curious about his other films too. When I reviewed How to I read the summaries of his other films and was surprised how all of them appeared to be formulaic as far as making a low budget genre first film goes. This is not an insult. Some of the greatest films in history are included in that category. As a matter of fact, All Superheroes Must Die is not just formulaic but specifically follows a common pattern joked about in Hollywood movie pitch sessions. For example, Speed (1994) arguably is really just Die Hard on a Bus, but just as Speed still has merit regardless of this, so does All Superheroes Must Die, but I’m refraining from revealing the specific pattern until it becomes overwhelmingly obvious in this review. All Superheroes opens In Medias Res, already in the middle, as an apparent superhero, a masked man named Charge (Jason Trost), awakes on a city street with an implant in his wrist. He wanders the streets and finds two dead men, one a superhero and one a man in a white almost hazmat style jumpsuit. Another masked man, Cutthroat (Lucas Till), awakes also with an implant. Elsewhere, The Wall (Lee Valmassy) awakes in an abandoned house, and Shadow (Sophie Merkley) awakes in what looks like a bakery. A TV near each superhero turns on. The villain Rickshaw appears on it as he makes a bomb. Frustrated that he never wins, Rickshaw has created a game for the superheroes to play. He has not only rigged innocent hostages with bombs—the hostages are the ones in white as we’ve already seen—but he’s rigged the whole town to blow. If they don’t play he’ll kill them and the hostages and blow up the town. Also, the implants in their wrists handicap their superpowers. THAT is a damn fine opening for any film and comparable to the greats. In Medias Res, the Gathering of Heroes, the bad guy, the crux, the world of the story, everything we need is in that first ten minutes and sets us up for the rest of the ride. Rickshaw is played by one of the Warriors (1979), Dexter’s dad, that guy in Tales from the Dark Side: The Movie (1990) who can’t tell anybody about the gargoyle, the incredible James Remar, and he continues his incredible-ness here as well, accessing his own Dark Passenger as a criminally insane supervillain. The four superheroes, all friends, meet and then separate into pairs as per Rickshaw’s instructions. And what follows is a series of fight scenes involving, I assume, other supervillains. Both pairs fight their game counterparts in order to save their respective hostages. After each round, they face tougher and tougher challenges and higher and higher stakes. And no literal or figurative punches are pulled by our superheroes or our villain. Shit happens, and it’s ruthless. Shit goes down, and it hurts. This isn’t the G.I. Joe cartoon where even Cobra soldiers bail out and parachute free from exploding jets. Usually, I’d sum the rest of the movie up more thoroughly, but this genre is so full of tropes anything I write could be a spoiler. I’m amazed that human creativity can still come up with new superheroes at all. We are after all just a few decades away from the hundred-year anniversary of the first superheroes. The problem is that some of the frontrunner superheroes have cliché backgrounds: rich vigilante, alien with powers, alter ego changeling. It’s impossible at this point in the history of superheroes to be completely original, but Trost makes a valiant attempt. I’m surprised as hell we even have superhero films. Granted, they’re a part of a current problem in the film industry as I write this: remakes and franchises are made during poor economic times because they have established audiences. So do superhero movies, but the established audiences come from the comic books, especially now that people who grew up reading comic books could be in their 50s, 60s or older, thereby extending that audience age range. I keep expecting the superhero genre to die. I thought it was dead until The Avengers (2012) showed us a story about a band of superheroes who couldn’t get along. I, for one, am done with origin stories. They bore me. And I’m going to puke if I have to sit through Bruce Wayne’s parents being killed one more time or one more reboot of the not-so-Fantastic Four. The development of the superhero genre, in fact, backward. Westerns dominated cinema until the 70s when Mel Brooks created the spectacular parody Blazing Saddles (1974) which, they say, ended the Western. Yet, we had superhero parodies in the 90s like The Tick cartoon and Mystery Men (1999). It’s like the superhero genre evolved backward when compared to the Western, but some are waiting for it to die, regardless. All Superheroes uses some pretty intense explosions for any film, even a low-budget film, realistic and believable. That and the aforementioned pulling of no punches really help to balance out the sometimes low-budget feel of the film and adds a nice feel of realism throughout the film. The material I have left out of this review includes some of the best parts, including some great character arcs and plot twists. Every single actor in this film brings it home, from our four superheroes to our big name actor to the writhing hostages with their heads covered. It’d be unfair to discuss one of them without discussing all of them, except Remar maybe. As the supervillain with an R-rated potty-mouth, he shines brighter than he does in his usual supporting cast work. Trost and company do a great job of bringing this film in, but they’ve used some basic tools or tricks of the trade for low budget filmmaking that might be apparent to some, but not to the point of them being a problem. I mean, there’s no two-minute talking head scene that looks like it was shot in a dorm room. An aspiring filmmaker reading this now wouldn’t fail by utilizing these same tricks as well as Trost has. However, it’s not perfect. It comes in at under eighty minutes. I would still have popcorn left if I had seen this in a theater. All the scenes are shot at night and at locations with a minimum chance of disturbance, like the lumberyard, the junkyard, and some shots are from fake surveillance cameras, the necessary tricks to make a low budget film. Remar plays his supervillain from one location, another low-budget filmmaking tool: get a name actor and make it as easy as possible to shoot using no costume or location changes. Still not an eyesore. Remar and Trost made it work. We learn their superhero origin in brief dialogue only. Claiming it should be a scene instead of just dialogue is ignoring the budgetary constraints, but still, that’s the problem with low budget filmmaking, and I’d like to see that scene. Because of Rickshaw’s handicap implants, the superheroes are literally powerless. There is one scene where Charge and Shadow are talking out of costume, and Shadow uses her powers. Granted, it’s just basic editing and sound effects, no big special effect. If you’re thinking of shooting a low budget superhero film, the first thing you have to deal with is how to do the superpowers. Trost did well by writing around this. It becomes really apparent if you have to write a review and really analyze the film, or if you read said review, but it’s no eyesore otherwise. There is actually a great thread involving this that makes for a good twist in the story—probably the best part of the story, but I leave that unspoiled for you to experience. The only real problem is the one I discussed in the beginning. All Superheroes is really just Saw with Superheroes, but don’t let anybody turn you away because of that. That’s like saying the Corman-produced Battle Beyond the Stars (1990) is really just John Sturges’ The Magnificent Seven (1960) in space, which is really just Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai (1954) in the old west, which is probably something-something-something all the way down to Gilgamesh or some French cave painting. All Superheroes has merit beyond that just like those other films. Reducing films down to one sentence summaries with ten words or less does none of them justice, even the really bad ones. Despite these nitpicky observations, All Superheroes Must Die shines like a guiding star, and its only true failure is timing. If this had been the early 90s it would have easily distinguished itself as low budget genius alongside El Mariachi (1992), mid-90s Clerks (1994), late 90s Cube (1997) and Pi (1998), but it’s the twenty-teens now, and there are quite a few movies of this caliber just sitting around online without the backing of big studio arms for distribution (Corey McAbee’s The American Astronaut (2001) for example). As the small screen keeps growing with Netflix and Amazon Video making their own shows, all we can hope is that the industry plateaus to a more even playing field with the big guys as far as distribution and promotion go, or that a new and different cycle begins because one is long overdue in all media and I expect it to be cataclysmic in a good way for the low budgets, the underdogs, and the dark horses, and if Trost and company can keep pushing their finished work and keep making new ones maybe they’ll be there to ride that wave, and I hope to see them there. See larger image All Superheroes Must Die [Blu-ray] Four superheroes awaken in a seemingly abandoned town, stripped of their powers and at the mercy of their sinister arch-nemesis who forces them into a series of brutal challenges — where the stakes include the lives of the innocent, as well as their own. New From: $14.50 USD In Stock Share this:TweetShare on TumblrLike this:Like Loading... Related 2 Responses John E. Meredith August 17, 2016 You’re definitely right about some of the best movies being formulaic. I suppose there’s a reason that formulas develop, and that’s because they work. Frees everyone up to do something a little different within that formula and still allow us to follow along. That being said, it sounds like they are doing such a thing here. Well, you made me wanna check this out. Log in to Reply All Superheroes Must Die 2: The Last Superhero (2016) - Psycho Drive-In August 18, 2016 […] All Superheroes Must Die (2011) […] Log in to Reply Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYou must be logged in to post a comment.