Almost Super: Sinister Squad
Last year I checked out my first Asylum feature with Avengers Grimm and this year the same director has created a pseudo sequel that’s much more of a mockbuster with Sinister Squad. While Avengers Grimm seemed like it was just a loose amalgamation of an Avengers movie having an extremely loose connection to Age of Ultron, this hews much more closely to Suicide Squad. It’s tough to really call this even a pseudo sequel as the only character that appears in both movies is Rumpelstiltskin though his character is very different in both movies besides being played by different actors. The only real connection is the writer/director Jeremy Inman whose first film, Superhero Party Clown, I actually quite enjoyed. This movie feels like it has more character to it, and while it’s nearly as incomprehensible as Avengers Grimm was, there are many more enjoyable moments and the acting overall is much more passable. I won’t say I fell in love with this movie, but I’m not disappointed that I watched it.
If you know the basic concept behind Suicide Squad, replace that with fairy tale and literature characters and you’ll end up with something pretty close to Sinister Squad. Here, Alice from Wonderland is the one in charge and she’s accompanied by Goldielocks who wields twin pistols for some reason, and the Pied Piper who barely has anything in common with his storied counterpart aside from a couple flute jokes during one of the fight scenes. The villains they recruit are the aforementioned Rumpelstiltskin, the Queen of Hearts, the Big Bad Wolf, Bluebeard, and Carabosse – a cannibal witch who was the precursor to Maleficent. What’s a little bizarre was that two of the villains had the power of persuasion: Rumpel and Gelda, the Queen of Hearts, and yet the Pied Piper who was most associated with the power of persuasion based on his story did not have any within the context of the movie. The Wolf somehow became a cross between the Hulk and a permanent werewolf. He was supposed to be the most sympathetic of the villains, but never really had much personality as most of his time was spent sitting in his cage breathing heavily with some pretty poor fake fangs.
The real main characters were Alice, Rumpel, and the actual villain of the movie Death. The overall plan never entirely makes sense as Death wants this magic scythe that Alice has, but he also wants Rumpel, and he can take over the bodies of the dead but seemingly only when Carabosse uses her magic, unless she’s not around. It’s honestly the weakest part of the movie and exists solely to create the overall conflict between Alice, her Squad, and the group of Death’s minions raiding the place. Carabosse herself is a somewhat interesting concept, but she gets annoying very easily. She’s very animalistic and plays it up with plenty of hissing, grunts, and her body language is almost always crouched down and constantly moving. Death himself plays it up nicely as being rather smarmy, and surprisingly consistent even when he switches between a couple different bodies. Rumpel himself was never that great as a lead villain, and it didn’t help at all that somewhere in the editing process the decision was made to add cartoonish sound effects to him and seemingly only him. So every eyebrow raise and finger twiddle ends up being punctuated by a disconcerting and inappropriately humorous sound effect. Alice meanwhile had the most thankless role, but there’s just enough spice in it to keep things interesting. She’s generally just the boring leader that threatens her captors on a whim with a vaguely British accent. But there are just enough moments of madness and wonderland references to keep things interesting so she’s not quite the one note character that she could be.
The overall visual style of the film is something that is partly a victim of its budget, but at the same time it often uses it in the best ways. There is a very harsh lighting that basks the characters in very garish greens and purples, but it actually does a good job of creating a sense of general uncomfortableness. There’s also one moment near the end once things have started going South that is absolutely brilliant. It’s a very minor moment, but for most of the movie, Bluebeard is brought in line due to Gelda’s power of persuasion, but after she is killed, the effect wears off. We get to see a shot back at the prison cells with several of the hero characters in the foreground and Bluebeard just creepily slides into frame in the background and stabs one of our characters out of nowhere. It’s also a great bit of fun when they bring in another Wonderland character with Hatter. In this movie’s world he is basically a drug burnout who is completely out of it, but is able to see helpful things when given the right kind of drugs. It’s such a minor character, and it’s often played for laughs, but for some reason it makes perfect sense for this kind of film.
What does bog this film down is the overall plot. It’s overcomplicated and underexplained. There is just so much going on with all these characters and Death with his plot involving Carabosse and Rumpel and everyone seems to have an ulterior motive. But somehow with all these threads moving along, there is a brief moment near the end of the film where everything starts to unravel just enough to start to make sense of things. It’s a great bit where Alice, Death, and Rumpel are all trying to double cross each other and it’s actually fascinating to watch how it all is going to play out. There are plenty of moments where you’re not sure who is actually going to come out on top in the end and so many characters start dying. It’s quite well done, if only it wasn’t mucked up when it finally does come to an end in a way that doesn’t entirely make any sense based on all the information given to you. One of the problems that I had with Avengers Grimm was that it felt like there was a 300 page script, but they only had the time and budget to shoot about 200 of those pages, but didn’t bother to make sure it still made sense. This was quite a bit better, but I still felt like I was missing about 25 pages of a 300 page script. There was a lot more to work with, and this did feel a lot more like Suicide Squad with fairy tale characters than Avengers Grimm felt like Avengers with fairy tale characters. Again, this isn’t the best film out there by any means, but you can still have some fun with it. Until next time, this has been Bubbawheat for Flights, Tights, and Movie Nights.