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Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Feature: Death of DVD - The Surge

Death of DVD:

On May 27th, 2014, I was running an errand in Inglewood when I drove by a gigantic video rental store called Jungle video, with a giant going out of business sale sign on its window. Without hesitating I pulled my car over to investigate further. There were many sales signs on the window, but the one that interested me was the one that read "five horror movies for five dollars." I spent the next four hours inside Jungle video, sorting through hundreds of horror DVDs in search of the strange, bizarre, and forgotten. I wound up purchasing 35 horror DVD's, all films I have never seen, and I hope to review every single one for my Death of DVD column. I am sure that most of the films I purchased will be pretty bad, but I hope to find a hidden gem or two in the mix.

Death of DVD presents, The Surge:

Click the RAWR for more!

The Asylum has been making waves over the last decade with a successful string of mockbusters, as well as their more recent creature features. Most people don't realize, however, that The Asylum has been distributing movies since 1992 and producing them since 1997.
The Surge was distributed by The Asylum in 2001, and the reason I bought it was I was curious to see what a pre-mockbuster era Asylum film looked like. I was also enticed by the stills on the back of the DVD case, which promised a film full of colorful, fun special effects.          

The film:

After flashes of a few bloody images, we are introduced to our hero Reese, a Goth kid who listens to CDs and likes to draw, as he is driven to his new school by his dorky father. Reese's father comments that if Reese tries he could dig a niche for himself here. Reese makes an obvious joke about digging a grave.

After moving into their new home, Reese makes sarcastic comments to his father, intentionally hurts himself by running his hand under a hot faucet, has dreams that consist of flashes of bloody images, and applies eye liner.

As you can imagine, Reese's first day at school doesn't go very well. He is made fun of by the preppy kids who make comments about it not being Halloween, and girls ask him if he is wearing makeup. He also gets his CD player confiscated by the dickhead principal.

Reese also draws a portrait of a hot chick... she eats a twizzler.

Later, some boys attack Reese in the locker room, but he is saved by Zack, the guy in the orange shirt. It is never explained how Zack saves Reese. He just tells the bullies to back off, and they do. 

Then, as Reese walks home, Zack and his friend Phoebe invite him to a very strange place.

Ashley, the girl Reese was sketching, is at the strange place. She is eating a twizzler, which she calls a "whip." Throughout the movie, whenever Ashley wants a twizzler, she says "Whip me!" 

This special place has a huge Lithium deposit underneath, and if they can find its source, they will possess unlimited energy. But, they can't find its source. Fortunately, Reese goes off to pee and sees a giant glowing rock.

The rock turns out to be the source of the energy. Naturally, they all decide to stand on top of it so they can levitate.

The characters describe the experience variously as "awesome," and as like a "mainline into the cosmos." Reese doesn't want to stand on top of the rock, so the other characters peer pressure him and Ashley accuses him of being a "weenie."

 So naturally, Reese decides to stand on top of the rock.

He has a more intense experience than the rest of the characters, and falls back. 

This shot of them driving home has nothing to do with the plot. I just think it's well done.

The next day, Zack calls the group. He has figured out a way to harness the power using his computer, in order to make standing on top of the rock even more intense. 

Reese doesn't want to come with them, but they use peer pressure. 

Ta-dah! The new and improved rock:

They all stand on top of the rock again, except this time they take their shirts off. 

Zack monitors their energy on his computer.

Reese still doesn't want to, but Ashley uses peer pressure again. 

So, he stands on top of the rock. 

Later, they all talk and realize that they have Psychic powers. Zack can read people's minds. 

Ashley's power is more sinister. She can compel anybody to do anything simply by saying it. 

Zack and Phoebe are sad because they don't know what their powers are yet. After Reese gets into an argument with his father, he accidentally cuts his wrist open and then it heals on its own. He realizes that his power is to heal.


He closes his eyes.

And opens them!

Look at how surprised he is.

They go to school and all face problems with bullies and the faculty. This part isn't really visually interesting enough to cap.

Later, they all play around with their powers, and Zack records it. Phoebe's power is telekinesis.

Ashley slits her wrists and forces Reese to heal her. Healing makes Reese see scary bloody images, and he revolts, accidentally hurting Ashley. This is how he learns that his power can cause injury as well.

They continue to play with their powers, and then Zack shows the video to some mentor of his.

The mentor warns Zack, "You're flying high Icarus. Just be careful you don't fly too close to the sun."

Later at school, they use their powers to get revenge on the schoolmates and faculty who torment them. Again, this isn't visually interesting enough to cap, but here is an image of Ashley forcing a cheerleader to pick her nose.

Once losers, the four are now self-confident and cool. 

They even use their powers to steal back the electronics that the principal has confiscated from them. 

Later, a group of boys comes to their special place and ties them up.

One of the boys assaults Ashley.

But actually, Ashley is controlling the boys with her power, and had them attack the group as a joke. Here she is laughing about it. The rest of the group does not find it amusing.

Reese goes home and gets in a fight with his father. We learn that the violent images he sees every time he uses his power are of him discovering his mother's corpse after she committed suicide

Meanwhile, Ashley's power grows. 

She brings her group of boys into the principal's office and makes them kill the principal by throwing him off the roof.

Zack is freaked and goes to the rock to power-up.

Ashley confronts and overpowers Zack. 

She also sends a guy with a gun to kill Phoebe and Reese. 

Phoebe freaks out. 

They find Zack, but he is comatose. 

Zack's mentor guy explains that only Ashley can cure Zack. 

Reese ignores Ashley's warning sign and powers up at the rock. 

Also ignoring the mentor's advice, Reese tries to cure Zack with his power, but it doesn't work. 

Ashley powers up and they go off for the final confrontation.

At the school, the students are all under the control of Ashley. 

Zack is dying, so they must find Ashley, and quick! 

 Ashley has set herself up as a God.

In the weirdest plot point in the entire film, Reese distracts Ashley by playing annoying music. 

Ashley is not happy about this.

So she orders her brainwashed goons to kill Phoebe and Reese.

Phoebe uses her powers to defend herself.

As does Reese.

Ashley is pissed.

For some reason Reese talks to her through a megaphone. 

And uses his power to hurt her! 

She relents and releases Zack from her spell. As you can see, Zack is pissed. 

Ashley uses the megaphone to tell her brainwashed goons to kill Reese and Phoebe. 

Reese and Phoebe run.

But Ashley's goons are hot on their trail.

Reese and Phoebe do the stupidest thing you can under these circumstances and run up onto the roof. 

Where they are cornered by Ashley's brainwashed goons. 

Reese and Phoebe use their powers to defeat the goons.

 So Ashley comes to finish them off.

In the most clever scene in this film, Ashley uses her power to compel Phoebe to use her own power to levitate herself and drop herself from the roof.

Reese is very upset. 

Ashley compels him to have another flashback, in which he remembers that he didn't discover his mother dead, he discovered his mother dying, and did nothing to save her.

Reese grabs Ashley's necklace, which it has just been established is what drove her insane, and throws it from the balcony.

Ashley loses her powers.

She is sent to a very strange place...


Which makes her very upset. 

Meanwhile, Reese uses his power to fix Phoebe.

And reconciles with his father.

And the rock vanishes somehow, and is replaced by this religious symbolism.

Ashley winds up at a mental hospital, where one of her followers returns her necklace to her. 

Cut to closing credits. 

The Surge is a very derivative movie that feels suspiciously a lot like The Craft. But, you wouldn't expect anything else from the Asylum, the production company infamous for films such as Transmorphers, and The Terminators. It is certainly a very silly film, but due to a very professional editing job, the pace is quick enough that you don't really care. There are a lot of nice touches, such as the characters developing powers that somehow relate to their personalities. Ashley, for example, is very manipulative, and she gains the power to control people's actions. Phoebe is physically weak, so she gains the power to move objects with her mind. Reese is tormented, so he gains the power to hurt or heal.

While not a great film, it has a sense of fun to it that many B movies today lack, and that everything I have seen from the Asylum over that last ten years lacks. I highly doubt that The Surge will be the worst film I will watch before my Death of DVD series is finished.

The Surge has also been released under the title The Source. It has been out of print since 2002.

This is my first Death of DVD column. It is an experimental work, in that I have never tried anything like this before. Please leave me feedback in the comments. What do you like? What don't you like? What do you want to see more of? What do you want to see less of? I hope to bring you all a lot more weirdness in the months to come.

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