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observation notes: NAZIS AT THE CENTER OF THE EARTH

Every now and again, a movie comes along whose very concept generates hype the instant it is heard. So rarely do the films live up to that hype, so rarely do the filmmakers manage to not only fulfill but eclipse that promise, that when a film actually does manage these things, we call it nothing less than a classic. Ladies(?) and gentlemen, Nazis at the Center of the Earth is that film. For real.

Whatever you're expecting, throw it out the window. You're not predicting this one, and I'm not going to spoil a single damn second of it for you. I will say, however, that if you're expecting some sort of throwback camp-fest, you're watching the wrong movie: NATCOTE is a truly tense, gruesome, and disturbing thriller mixing history, perverted science, sci-fi, adventure and that good old Asylum sense of insanity all rolled up into perhaps the most mind-bending 90 minutes the studio has ever produced. And I know I'm biased, cuz I love these guys and everything, but for real, FOR REAL, you owe it to yourself to watch one of the most ingenious B-movies ever set to celluloid.

Again, in the interest of not spoiling a single thing, I won't go into great details about the individual characters, but our celebrity leads here, Dominique Swain (Lolita, New Best Friend) and Jake Busey (Starship Troopers, The Frighteners) bring the heat, Ms. Swain playing with emotional aplomb a hyper-intelligent yet vulnerable doctor, and Mr. Busey reeling in a pensive and conflicted performance. Other standouts include Christopher Karl Johnson as the reprehensibly vile Doctor Mengele, and Adam Burch, Marlene Okner and Lilan Bowden as other scientists.

The film, the first directorial effort from Asylum VFX Supervisor Joseph J. Lawson, does not skimp on the visuals and does not fail to deliver. My expectations in this specific arena were pretty high, especially as I really believe Asylum VFX have improved a hundred-fold in the last couple of years, but the things these guys pulled off in this one? Some of the most memorable visuals of the year. And you'd never know it was Lawson's first time at the helm; there's a very keen sense of control over the picture, for as crazy and labyrinthine a mystery as this film is, it moves at an expert pace, doling out the goods like breadcrumbs leading to a wholly satisfying and thoroughly unexpected climax.


The story comes courtesy of Paul Bales (Sherlock Holmes, 2010 Moby Dick) and is smart, steeped in scientific and historical details that only enrich the suspense and horror, and wickedly brutal. Seriously, I'm struggling to find the words to describe just how surreally awesome this film is, while at the same time being starkly scary, wildly inventive and all-too possible. The last 35 minutes of this film is a masterclass in WOW. Plus, I learned a lot of useful German.

So have I beamed enough? Have I spit enough hyperbole to convince you that Nazis at the Center of the Earth is a tent-pole Asylum project, certain to be one of the first three anyone mentions 100 years from now? This one's a game-changer, folks; the bar has been raised. This isn't what you were hoping for, this isn't what you were expecting: it's sooooo much better. Out Tuesday on DVD, Blu-Ray, and VOD. Whatever else you thought you were doing, scrap it. Trust me.

17 comments:

  1. I'm so incredibly proud of this film. The team we put together is one of a kind and I couldn't have asked people to work harder. Definitely a labor of love.

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  2. I shat my pants and sat and looked at the deposits...Yes.. it was better than this pile of crap. My life is sad, so much sadder for watching this Cack. Goodnight.

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  3. Anonymous... at least have the courage to step forward so the rest of us can appreciate the creation of your art, being as it's so much better than what we have done. Be bold, make the world a better place for your abilities. It's easy to criticize something you have yet to even see (your post arriving 3 days before anyone but screeners have had the opportunity to see). Perhaps just be bold enough to watch the movie first before wasting the bandwidth of telling us about your creations you are too sad to show and have judged as harshly as you've judged us. Your life may still be sad but it's possible you could be pleasantly surprised by the ride. Watch, think, then get back to us with an informed honest opinion. Perhaps we could learn something from your constructive criticism for the next time. Good day! Joe Lawson, Director, Nazis at the Center of the Earth

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  4. It's like a strange version of Iron Sky! I wasn't sure whether to watch it at first, but then I took the giant leap and played it. The effects aren't that great, the storyline is acceptable (though with some flaws in my opinion)
    I wouldn't exactly recommend this film to anyone, but I don't feel like I've wasted my time with it. Hope anyone else watching this enjoys it. :-)

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  5. Soverax: I've always thought of Iron Sky as a comedy, ours is more of a documentary. ;-) Thanks for giving it an honest try. Keep in mind their film had about 19 million dollars when all was said and done, 20 VFX artists, 8 months and about 800 shots. We had less than one percent of that budget, 8 VFX artists and one month to do 389 shots... there are likely to be a few differences. :-) That being said, glad it wasn't a waste of time! If it helps, some of the VFX that weren't quite as polished for the VOD we spiffed up for the DVD/Blu Ray and there are several entertaining special features. Joe

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  6. Amazing, I thoroughly enjoyed it! I was an Asylum virgin before seeing Natcote but when I saw that title I knew it just could not disappoint. And I was right.

    Looking forward to seeing more Asylum movies.

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  7. This reminds me of some of my early reviews. The most hilarious movie rambles you'd ever read.

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  8. The kind of movie Ed Wood would be making if he had today's tools. Somewhere in-between Genius and Awfulness. A valiant effort on a limited budget. Oddly, my focus veered more toward the DP's skilful lighting and the credible costumes employed rather than the questionable delivery of the dialogue. I certainly didn't envisage the 3rd act's antagonist! Go easy on this flick. Just look at the title - you know what to expect.

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  9. I, Da Ca$hman: So, indulge us and give an honest and more complete review of NATCOTE so we can see how much better your reviewing skills have become! Seriously, I'd love to know what you think of the film and, more importantly, why! :-) Joe Lawson

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  10. I just saw NATCOTE and am stunned to find that, despite its title and plot, it actually manages to keep a straight face and behave like an earnest horror movie. This is a darn fine balance to tread, and Mr. Lawson deserves much credit for not letting the film fall into an all-too-easy smug attitude. My congratulations! A.P.

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  11. Until this day I have never heard about The Asylum and their movies, but after seeing this particular gem of B-movie culture I am sure to pick up every scrap of Movie material they have dropped, even if it is the snippets on the cutting room floor. This movie is a quite peculiar mix of horror, conspiracy theory, comedy, diesel punk and science fiction and it manages this cocktail pretty well, at least in my book. The acting is surprisingly solid, the special effects are well placed and fit quite well into the rest of the movie, only sometimes they seem to be just a little bit over the top. Nobody would criticize the few plot holes, because not a single one of them really manages to damage this dark, twisted and outright entertaining ride down the "nazi-hightech-conspiracy-UFO-mechahitler" alley. Anyone expecting to see an awesome tale about vicous swastika-bearing villains and terror ridden western scientists will surly not be disappointed. Everyone expecting something likeschindlers list should have stopped watching this mocie after having read the title.
    Conclusion: Thanks to the crew who made this movie happen thank you for.a wonderful evening.
    MK.

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    Replies
    1. Hi SilentStrider:

      I too have acquired a taste for the distinctive products of The Asylum...somewhat against my long-standing "film snob" attitude. Like you, I have set out to acquire (or at least to view) all of Asylum's releases. A few observations:

      1) Not all of the Asylum productions are as pleasing as Nazis at the Center of the Earth. This is OK, because without those productions, Asylum would not have survived long enough to create NatCotE. Try to embrace their distinctive values and forgive their weaknesses.

      2) Some of the most interesting Asylum films are also the least polished (and the lowest-rated on IMDB)...be prepared to make an effort to appreciate them. I have never resented the time I have spent, watching an Asylum movie (though I might feel my time was wasted, if I watched some of the films a SECOND time.)

      3) Unlike NatCotE, you are sure to find inexplicable "plot holes" in many of the Asylum offerings. Deal with it. My own justification is that some of these stories are not set in our own world, but occur instead in "The Stupidverse"...you'll know why I say this, when you run into these films.

      4) As a beginner, you might want to start with the Asylum films written by Paul Bales. I need to use my "Stupidverse" explanation less often, with his scripts.

      Enjoy!

      PC

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  12. Anonymous: Thank you, it WAS a balancing act (in a lot more ways than just story, let me tell you). For the almost complete story, there's a lot of it on the director commentary. A good game is to find all the movie homages scattered throughout the film. Silentstrider: Thanks so much, glad you enjoyed it! We even got in our little bit of Schindler's List (hall walk) and quite a few more movie moments, for those looking. And a special treat for those who stay past the end credits, even. ;-) Paul Curtis: Yeah, they can be a bit of an acquired taste for some. Me, I grew up on CBS Late Night Movies as a kid (Killdozer, Valley of Gwangi, Night of the Lepus) so I consider us following in an ancient grand tradition. Brain in neutral enjoyments. NATCOTE is... a little bit more than that... but still has it's B-Movie roots worn on its sleeves. Thanks for watching! Joseph J. Lawson, Director, Nazis at the Center of the Earth

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  13. Loved, loved, loved this one, so much. Such a nice surprise with how good it actually turned out. And to the buddy above me who wants to get into Asylum movies - Not all of them are as good as this one, actually not all of them are good. BUT Most of them ARE enjoyable on some level and I find I tend to enjoy more of their stuff then I don't, and there have been some that I hated upon initial viewing but then a year or so later I revisited and ended really liking. I like to look at Asylum like an acquired taste - not for everybody, but then again I don't care about everybody, I only care about myself and as far as myself goes, I tend to love this taste :D

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  14. "I've always thought of Iron Sky as a comedy, ours is more of a documentary. ;-) Thanks for giving it an honest try. Keep in mind their film had about 19 million dollars when all was said and done, 20 VFX artists, 8 months and about 800 shots. We had less than one percent of that budget, 8 VFX artists and one month to do 389 shots..."

    We in Croatia say, Nazovi stvari pravim imenom, or, something like, Make the name match product. First off, we all know what do you do and why do you do that - you rippoff blockbusters and of corse, only because of money. That said, I am not sure why would we sympathize with you. Why should we care about small budget or limited time?

    However. Hollywood is and always will be just one big greedy corporation. So I don't have problem with Asylum.

    About this movie. Well, it's not great, it's not bad, but sadly, it could have been much much better. Seriously, I see much of potentional wasted here. Story is really nice, Hitler was cool in a way, things make surprisingly fair amount of sence... Actors are good, camera work too, also, some CGI was very nice. But lack of time and money is very very obvious. Really, with like x2 budget and only month more of work, this would be GOOD movie.

    Sadly, this is not good movie, but its not boring, so, my rate would be just under 5/10.

    My English is also not good :D, but I am in a way, fan of Asylum. I just needed to say this.

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  15. Christoph KellerbachJune 12, 2013 at 7:33 AM

    It's been nearly over a year, but, man, I also like to ask the director something about this movie: As an Asylum-Fan as was really thrilled about this one, but sadly, the middle portion I found to be extremly dragging.

    At first the flashback and the introduction to the "characters" was fun, but then, after they meet the nazis for the first time, there is just 30 minutes of torture and screaming and people pretty much giving in to the sadistic ways they are used in, after the abortion, the movie takes on a whole new fashion: silly "blubber guns" which pulverise people into smoke, Robo-Hitler and ufos. That was fun again.

    But to go from "fun" to "torture" and to "fun" again, that was just ... well, bad, I think. Instead of maybe cutting some "The Land That Time Forgot" or "Center Of The Earth"-footage with dinosaurs into the middle-portion, maybe even Nazis that command and/or ride the dinosaurs, would've been much more fun.
    And, yes, I know the budget restictions, but, as I said, it would've been fine to use material again.

    And what in my opinion hurts the movie really, is, that the "torture"-moments even don't come off as campy as in similar nazisploitation-movies. Hell, "Ilsa" or "The Beast In Heat" have been funnier. So, yeah, in this instant, the cheap, but well made grisly moments are either hindering the fun that comes, or are just boring and also against the "fun" attitude the movie ultimatly displays.
    And, yes, the zombie-rape, the abortion and the de-brain-iation, maybe they could've been made more over the top to become "funny" (not to confuse with "just plain funny" with "over the top-funny").

    So, yeah, I told people to watch the movie, because they have to see the beginning and the awesome last third. The rest? Well, it was ok, but there was much more potential in this one....

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  16. This movie wanted so badly to be fun and over-the-top horror, but the dialog was dull. Really let down the art direction and effects, really. Even Jake Busey had nothing to chew on.

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