J.B. Spins

Jazz, film, and improvised culture.

Monday, September 05, 2016

AOF ’16: Killer Robots! Crash and Burn

The post-human future is here, but these androids are so dim-witted, foul-mouthed, and unruly, you have to wonder why they even bothered with the singularity. The four quarrelsome robots are on a mission to save the universe, but fortunately they do not have to understand the details. Nor do we when watching Sam Gaffin’s Killer Robots! Crash and Burn (trailer here), which screens during this year’s Action on Film Festival.

The Killer Robots are actually a band with their own extensive science fiction backstory, in the tradition of GWAR, Sun Ra, and Peelander-Z. Band member Gaffin has been hand-crafting their latest cinematic adventure since the release of The Killer Robots and the Battle for the Cosmic Potato in 2009. It is an almost indescribable viewing experience that might be likened to a Gerry Anderson sci-fi show, in which all the marionettes are on a nasty PCP bender. Bandmates Gaffin, Charles Harris, Samuel Williams, and Mike McGowan duly reprise their roles as Auto, Trog, Strobo, and Max, respectively, but they are basically only distinguishable by their varying levels of snarkiness and anti-social hostility.

Essentially, the Fab Robotic Four will mug their way through a darkly dystopian world of CG animation. Having been rebuilt after an ill-advised appearance in the robo-gladiators’ arena, the ‘bots reluctantly accept a mission to save the universe from its death’s head overlord by launching an anti-virus program in the infected mother mainframe (via punch-card no less). Or something like that.

Crash and Burn is either the work of a mad genius auteur or an outsider artist crying out for help (or possibly both). It has a truly distinctive look and some admittedly hilarious dialogue—yet, it is not always clear whether Gaffin’s best lines are intentionally funny or accidentally so. The same is true of its awkward pauses.

Most cult film connoisseurs will appreciate sampling the visual style and lethal attitude of Crash and Burn, but the one-hundred-minute running time is really pushing it. Nevertheless, it would not be surprising if the French inducted Gaffin into the Legion of Honor once they get a good gander at his Killer Robot oeuvre. Strange and potentially seizure-inducing, Killer Robots! Crash and Burn is recommended for fans of the band and genre cinema fans looking for a micro-indie from the wild side when it screens tomorrow (9/6) at the 2016 Action on Film Festival in Monrovia, CA (and is also available on VOD platforms, including iTunes).

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