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Columbia Pictures/Sony Pictures Home Entertainment . R4 . COLOR . 91 mins . M . PAL


Question: what do you get when a director tries to film a $100 million FX-driven action movie script with a budget of $13.10? Answer: Scorcher.

The art of low budget film-making is a noble and worthy thing; after all, the world of cinema would be much poorer if it was restricted to just big studio dollar-driven blockbusters. But when small studios pump out direct-to-video fodder that shamelessly apes the multiplex product, yet without the resources to do it properly, one wonders why they bother. I suspect that if one in every three video stores in the US bought a copy of Scorcher just because renters might want to see it, the studio would still see a profit on their miniscule outlay. And that's why crap like this is continually inflicted upon the world.

Scorcher is a low-budget remix of Volcano and Armageddon, but not as plausible. That says it all, huh?

Okay, I know that you have no desire to see this film, but stick around for the plot synopsis; it's hilarious. A seismologist, Julie McGrath (played by Tamara Davies), discovers that due to a sudden shift in the Earth's tectonic plates, the planet has four days before an inevitable Armageddon. Almost killed by an erupting Volcano before she can make her report, she is rescued by Ryan Beckett (Mark Dacascos, regular star of Z-grade action flicks who probably deserves better), a maverick US military man with a groan-worthy smartass quip for any occasion.

After escaping through some volcanic special effects lifted straight out of Dante's Peak (quite literally - it's the same footage!), Beckett and McGrath visit the White House, which due to cost cutting measures in this economically depressed day and age seems to be run by a staff of three.

Her father, the world's foremost seismologist Professor Sallin (John Rhys-Davies... from Lord of the Rings to this???), agrees with her conclusions: to stop the shifting of the plates, an atomic bomb must be set off in Los Angeles.

Beckett is shocked to hear this because his teenage daughter lives in LA (of course). The President (poor Rutger Hauer, whose first and last decent film was Blade Runner) is shocked because he "never thought I'd be the first President since Truman to nuke a city." And the audience is shocked because it's so incredibly stupid.

Convinced by the unsubstantiated data and ridiculous conclusions presented to him by two lone scientists, the President promptly evacuates LA and sends in a team of seven soldiers (led by our hero Becker and accompanied by the seismologists) to drill a big hole into which the bomb will be dropped. He wisely chooses to send in only seven men, as you wouldn't want to waste any more US soldiers on a simple task like nuking a city and saving the world, huh?

Naturally it's not smooth sailing. The team are ambushed by a lone sniper, who obviously thought that taking on a bunch of heavily armed marines driving a tank was a good idea because "I guess he figured that something protected by a bunch of soldiers has gotta be pretty valuable." Uh huh.

Next there's the horribly scarred Satanic wacko who is convinced that the Apocalypse is looming, and celebrates by kidnapping, of all people, Beckett's daughter (the only other person in a population of five million who didn't manage to evacuate).

And then there's the arrogant soldier, shunned by his laidback comrades, who might - just might - snap under the pressure and start killing off his team-mates. It would be a pretty dull film if they just dropped the bomb and flew off, huh?

Effects shots stolen from Terminator 2 and Daylight are interpersed amongst the dullest action scenes and most insipid emotional discourses ever to be put on film. But at least the banality of it all provokes frequent gales of stunned laughter... fans of really, really bad movies might gobble this up.

The cover blurb promises "Hell On Earth." Scorcher delivers.


Surprise surprise - we get a full-screen 4:3 picture, with no 16x9 enhancement. It's a fairly crisp, noise-free image, marred by the horribly flat cinematography, the changing film stock apparent whenever we cut to footage from other (and better) films, and the dull, lifeless colours.


This is one gutless Dolby Digital stereo mix. The dialogue is frequently muffled, and even repeated rewinding fails to make some lines distinguishable - not that you'll be shedding any tears over that. During the ambush scene, the gunfire sounds like you're hearing it from three blocks away.


We're "treated" to a crappy trailer for an equally crappy movie. Somehow I wasn't expecting commentary or docos...


Scorcher? More like Stinker. Avoid.

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      And I quote...
    "Question: what do you get when a director tries to film a $100 million FX-driven action movie script with a budget of $13.10? Answer: Scorcher, a film that makes Armageddon look like a Science Channel documentary."
    - Terry Oberg
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