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This is the film that was infamously re-released a year later as its
own sequel, therefore doubling the revenue. This trick doesn't surprise
me, as EMPIRE OF ASH is one of the most wretched films I've seen in a
while. I'm a big fan of post-apocalypse movies, but this incredibly
awful movie is even worse than the schlocky Filipino 'epic', CLASH OF
THE WARLORDS. One reason for this may be that EMPIRE OF ASH was filmed
in Canada. Funny, you don't really think of Canada as a place to stage
a post-apocalypse epic. America, yes; Great Britain, yes; Italy, of
course; the Philippines, South Africa, both yes. Canada? As expected,
this is a zero budget 'adventure' that takes place out in the woods
somewhere, as a few good people fight against a few evil people in the
most routine, predictable and unexciting ways imaginable.
This film ticks all the boxes: awful acting, awful directing, nothing in the way of special effects other than a couple of blood squibs; rubbish looking vehicles and costumes, terrible pacing, no discernible plot, unfunny comedy, and a boring climax. It looks incredibly cheap, but even a high quality version would have been abominable. Usually when I watch poor films I try to find things I like, but there was nothing here. Not even a cheesy shower scene helps. The cast are amateurish in the extreme and the fight scenes nonsensical. It's home movie night through and through and it's a film difficult not to fall asleep through. Amazingly, a proper sequel EMPIRE OF ASH III followed, so somebody somewhere must have liked it... but why?
Empire of has a lot going for it at first glance. Plenty of action,
lots of guns, lots of armour clad vehicles, topless girls, rock
soundtrack and plenty of extras. The direction is decent for the most
part too in a TV movie style.
The main problem is that the story is disjointed at best, completely absent for the most part. It feels like at some parts, the film makers actually forgot what the plot was, so they through in a few minutes of topless girls to distract the viewer long enough to pick up wherever they liked. The acting is atrocious for the most part. It's unclear who the lead characters are and the dialogue makes no sense. None of these things would usually put me off, but this one is just too difficult to actually be convinced at any level.
There are some excellent action scenes mixed in with some ridiculously poor action which is a real shame.
There seems to be two lead female characters both of whom get their kit off which seems sensible. Then there are a number of other characters who's characters are not really developed enough to really get a grasp of. There is a religious element thrown in which really is very vague and half hearted.
It has a similar vibe to Death Run which I reviewed a few months back for UKfilms net. But where Death Run succeeded on a pocket money budget, Empire of Ash fails. The production value of Empire of Ash is miles better than Death Run, the make-up is not dissimilar but its clear that there was a costume designer involved in this one.
To sum it up I would have to say that it looks good, the sets, costumes and props are good. The leafy locations are not so great and the lack of any decent plot let it down massively.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
In a post-apocalyptic future, cities have been destroyed so the
survivors roam the remaining forests. An aggressive, traveling gang of
"maniac warriors", named LARD, which stands for, what else, Leukocytes
Acquisitors for Remission of Disease, go around terrorizing and killing
people. Who they don't kill, they kidnap and steal their blood so they
can continue to survive. Naturally they are led by an insane,
shroud-wearing preacher, and when they kidnap the wrong girl, her
sister and a defector from LARD who is now a good guy team up to try
and rescue her. Who will prevail - the survivors pure of blood or the
MANIAC WARRIORS? While this movie is set in the fictional town of New
Idaho, it was in fact shot in Canada. It's your standard Road
Warrior/Mad Max knockoff, but presumably they thought by shooting the
film in the forest, viewers wouldn't make the connection. Naturally,
AIP picked it up and released it in the U.S. Confusingly, this very
film is also known as Empire of Ash 2 (the original title is Empire of
Ash). This must mark the first time in movie history that a movie and
its sequel are THE SAME MOVIE. Well that saves time. There is one
sequel, titled Last of the Warriors (1990). (That movie is known as
Empire of Ash 3, for those that are still keeping track).
There is some interesting camera-work and notable stunts, especially considering its restrictive low-budget status, but the fact remains that this is a middle-of-the-road outing at best, and it doesn't even have the power of a Ron Marchini to keep it afloat. Just think about that. Try to imagine a Ron Marchini movie without Ron Marchini. What's left? But you have to love some of the outfits and vehicles - you know it's a post-nuclear future because the main villainess has crimped hair. And, sensing that there isn't enough plot to sustain 90 minutes, the film veers into the story of two survivalists (potentially named Cochran and McKenzie, but we're not sure). They play Gunsmoke and Ikari Warriors on a post-apocalyptic Nintendo so we guess you have to care about their plight. Additionally, there's some reasonably rockin' music, including a cover of "Born to be Wild", and an original tune by one John Wednesday entitled "Gonna Get Some", but let's face it, he's no Billy Butt.
Last but not least, we would be remiss if we didn't mention that this movie has a rocket launcher hat. Apropos of absolutely nothing, a character comes on screen with this contraption on his head, blows up a barn with a projectile launched from his fisherman's hat, and walks away. Why it's easier, much less cooler, to shoot a missile from your headgear remains unexplained. Besides the obvious question of WHY??????, we commend the use of the rocket launcher hat. It was a welcome invention in this dire world. Sure, one year earlier Heather Thomas sported some wicked-awesome helmet lasers in Cyclone (1987), but this bit of utter wackiness remains a movie highlight here.
For that rock-bottom budget, AIP style, this movie delivers it in spades. It features some other weird scenes (we won't spoil them) - but the movie as a whole isn't weird enough to quite warrant full cult status. If you find this style too much to take, stay away.
For more action insanity, please visit: comeuppancereviews.com
Empire of Ash was released as Empire of Ash 2 a year later, i just
bought the vid at a boot sale. Genius! think of the money they saved...
Actually i think a good effort, looks like budget didn't stretch to employing any great actors, but the film focuses on action mainly anyhow so they may not have been given an opportunity to shine. The directing is probably not the best you're ever going to see but again budget may have influenced this and overall feels and looks like a student film. However some of the plot was very well thought out, the concepts behind the two rival groups brilliant, and the music (although some a bit derivative, think ZZ Top) and big hair superb!
Folks looking for Empire of Ash I should be aware that E of A II is not
a higher gloss remake of the first, like The Evil Dead II. This movie
actually IS E of A One, with a different title on the VHS box. As
methods for cutting down the cost of a sequel, that one has to take
Anyway, Empire of Ash II played frequently on Canadian pay TV channels back in the 80s, as it qualified as local content thanks to being shot on location here. On a story concept level, it actually has some intriguing conceits. Two opposing groups have arisen from the flames of our dead civilization: a group led by scientists who are using captives to create a treatment for those stricken by radiation sickness, and a group of religious fundamentalists led by a loony preacher. Into this world stumble two sisters, and one is taken captive. The older sister, who just happens to have kick butt combat skills, enlists the aid of a couple of free living survivalists to retrieve her sibling. The result is a series of gun battles with both groups of crazies. For an 80s era shoot 'em up, this is not a bad foundation upon which to build. Moreover, the technical level of the movie is no worse than is typical for an exercise of this budget range. Lighting, video and sound recording were at least adequate to follow the action.
Unfortunately, the movie's execution falls far short of its ambitions. The story plays out in a hatchet-chopped fashion, with the action sequences lacking sharp form and dovetailing poorly one with the next. The dialogue is terrible and often makes little sense and the performances are all over the place. This tells me that either the script was being rewritten on the fly, or the creators had no idea how to shape a film, or more likely both. When working with a nothing budget and semi-pro actors, a sure directorial hand, good pre-production planning and effective rehearsals are essential and none of this is in evidence.
The action scenes themselves, the point of the movie in other words, are also of very inconsistent quality, and range downward from not bad to will-somebody-tell-me- wth-is-going-on? In certain scenes, the viewer is required to expend more energy trying to keep straight who is doing what and where than is justified by the underwhelming thrills. The lead actress, Melanie Kilgour, tries hard to keep the viewer watching, but frankly deserved better.
The only reason to watch this backyard movie making mess is to set up the more watchable sequel, E of Ash III.
In a post-apocalyptic future, a virus has destroyed much of the
population. In New Idaho, commander Baalca leads her group in
kidnapping and collecting fertile young healthy women. The Shepherd
leads the ruthless campaign to kill non-believers. Danielle convinces
drifter Orion to help her rescue her younger sister from these
This is low-budget amateurish effort. The acting is horrible. The lead actress' best move may be taking her top off. There are lots of fun badly-filmed stunts. The dialog is badly written when they actually have any. The editing and directions are probably the weakest part of the movie. There are some good campy aspects to this movie. They put in lots of guns, trucks, crashes and stunts. It's low grade Mad Max wannabe. The effort is there but it's a bit of a mess.
In your typical post-apocalyptic drama, we have mutated survivors and men dressed in rags sparring off against each other. They drive around in big trucks, swear a lot and take orders from scantly clad ladies with massive fringes. If anybody is captured, they have the white blood cells and bone marrow literally sucked out of them to preserve the lives of the people at the top. The heroine is a young woman who goes on a journey to save her sister from this terrible fate. She is a bit handy with a gun, and picks up a mysterious hunk on the way, with whom she shares an obligatory sex scene (after the obligatory shower scene, of course). There is lots of bullets flying around, some very unconvincing explosions, plenty of incoherent dialogue and a mad preacher guy who baptizes, then kills you. Viewer gets bored around the hour mark, removes cassette from VCR and throws it across the room. Want to know the end? Waste your own time.. 2/10
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