When a DVD arrives DOA it goes under the knife to find the cause. An under-funded, underthought subversive hero film appears on the gurney for analysis. Read on for my take on this latest specimen, All Superheroes Must Die.

(Movies fail at the box office, and many more fail to even find release into theaters. When one of these dead on arrival titles arrives on disc they go under the knife of the forensic video-examiner, all in the hope of determining the causes of death in the marketplace. Be forewarned any who wish to see the film – this piece is entirely a SPOILER.)

This film, originally titled “VS”, came to light in the fall of 2011, at the Toronto After Dark Festival. It fought for attention, battled indifference, and ultimately in its quest to vanquish good taste it triumphed over apathy and found distribution into the home market. The film is conceived entirely by filmmaker Jason Trost, who previously rose with a cult hit “The FP”, which was set in a dystopian future and pitted rival clans competing in a Dance-Dance-Revolution battle for control of a region -- to give you an idea.

In this attempt we get a group of superheroes who revive in various locales in a small town and have had their powers removed, via intrusive intravenous means. They gather and soon learn they are pawns in a cruel game orchestrated by a manipulative evil overlord, bent on inflicting psychological, as well as physical pain on the group. Yes, it sounds very much like a mutated hybrid of an “Incredibles” premise with the plotting of the “Saw” series. You are not wise begging your film to be conjured beside a film classic while at the same time failing to even achieve the lower rung strata of a torture porn franchise. Let’s open this disc up to determine what caused its cinematic demise.

00:00:30 Ruptured Visual Not a particularly strong indicator when the very first images to a film is a flashing red traffic light, and then a STOP sign. Folks, the director is trying to tell us something.

00:01:06 Septic Introduction A character, in a tattered costume, awakens from lying in the road in the middle of the night. Oh yeah, I’ve been there. Goldschlager, and a cosplay girl in body paint will always be your downfall.

00:05:16 Weakened Impulse The fourth character in a goofy outfit revives and discovers a curious wound on her wrist. As each one pulled back a bandage the foley artist delivers the sound of a piano rolling across a warehouse floor.

00:05:57 Plot Stimulant At each location the costumed individuals encounter a television which comes to life to show veteran actor James Remar. He addresses each of them by name – Charge, Cutthroat, Shadow, The Wall – and begins to detail his fiendish plot. Remar goes by the name of Rickshaw, by the way. Any similarity to persons living or dead, or fictional, named “Jigsaw” is purely coincidental.

00:10:37 Dilluted Tableau The four heroes meet up and they are all acquaintances, even addressing each other by their first names. Despite this, and their loss of powers, they choose to leave their masks on the whole time.

00:11:52 Invasive Pathos The group learns that Rickshaw’s plan involves 100 citizens tied up around town and wired to explosives, set to die if they don’t play along correctly. This dire situation though seems less important to them than the professional dramatics and personal tension between the dysphoric-duo of Charge, and his sidekick, Cutthroat.

00:15:46 Cranial Atrophy The group is sent to a hardware store for their next instructions. They are to split up in pairs and each select one weapon to use at the next destination – despite being surrounded by a store full of objects that could be employed.

00:18:46 Weakened Impulse Despite being given five minutes to reach the next destination lest innocent people die both pairs stroll on their way, often pausing to have a non-related interpersonal conversations about their pasts. What a bunch of self-involved “heroes”!

00:22:45 Cauterized Plot Cavity One scene where civilians are blown up is played as sad. They died because the slow burning fuse could not be stopped by Cutthroat as he tried beating it with a chain or smothering it with dirt. I’d say yanking the thirty foot ignition line out of the explosives MAY have done trick here, but I’m only a non-heroic civilian here.

00:28:04 Blunt Force Dialogue After being disemboweled The Wall is trying to keep his entrails in place, and he has this exchange with Charge. THE WALL: “What happens when you die?” CHARGE: (shrugs) “You feel pain.”

00:30:31 Septic Introduction While going by the name Charge, and only having vague powers attributed to him, there is no reason given why his outfit seems to resemble a high school reptile mascot.

00:44:29 Locale Anesthesia Under Rickshaw’s direction every place he sends our heroes is always a 5 minute walk in distance. Further, he simply instructs them to go to “THE cleaners”, or “THE bar”. This begs the question, what is going on in such a tiny hamlet that it needs to be defended by no fewer than four superheroes?

00:00:46:59 Fiscal Laceration The microscopic budget is pervasive throughout this affair – there are mostly close-ups, numerous exterior scenes, fireball-free explosions, ect. While Rickshaw has the funds to wire the entire town and have security cameras covering every conceivable angle to monitor the gang at every location he is only able to communicate through outdated 7” televisions. (I counted at least a dozen).

And then came another revelation about the under-capitalization. Under full lighting we realize that Cutthroat’s costume is actually just a wetsuit.

00:53:04 Commercial Incision In the midst of the crisis and with people dying around him Charge thinks it a fine time to sit and start slugging back the Jack Daniels.

00:54:37 Weakened Impulse During one of the numerous pointless flashbacks Charge and Cutthroat are discussing a recent mission, and we get a peek at their super-vehicle . . . a Saturn 4-door.

00:57:35 Cauterized Plot Cavity Aside from an allusion to Cutthroat no longer being fast we never learn what the powers of the various heroes had been. Then, during a tearful drunken confessional, Charge reveals that he actually never had any powers in the first place. So . . . not only had the others been oblivious to this detail, this means the one guy who was not actually a superhero somehow garnered a sidekick.

01:02:14 Blunt Force Dialogue The response when asked if he has a backup plan in place to defeat Rickshaw; CHARGE: “Backup plans are for people who expect to fail.”

01:08:11 Ruptured Visual At Rickshaw’s hideout we come to learn he has the place guarded . . . by, um . . . discount theme park characters for henchmen?!

Collapsed Climax Charge stumbles to Rickshaw’s “lair” (a loft in a wooden storeroom) and after slamming into walls, bellowing, and stumbling up a stair case he still manages to somehow surprise the villain. Charge defeats Rickshaw with a shotgun blast to the chest, but the baddie hits a button to set off a timer that will blow up the entire town – via microwave oven. (I swear) Shadow comes in to help Charge leave, and then the movie simply stops. That was literally the end.

While struggling film makers always battle with the lack of adequate shooting funds the reality of a microscopic budget is a double-edged knife in regards to the skills of a director. If a cogent story can be entertainingly delivered the lack of money will actually expose talent. In a case like this film it actually shines a bright light onto the shortcomings.
While it may seem natural to compare this to an organic hero film like “Kick Ass”, in that story we are shown someone who aspires to being a hero. Here we are given a story of individuals who had been blessed with supposed powers, yet they come off looking like people who hoped to imitate that film’s fake hero at a Halloween kegger. Add to this that James Remar was the only watchable performer add you end up with a hero movie where you actually start rooting for their failure in the hopes of bringing up the credits that much quicker. It worked: this thing wraps up in a brisk 75 minutes.

You’ll feel heroic for surviving all the way through to the end.
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