Arcade (1993) Review

One from the to watch pile…
Arcade (1993)

The cover of 88 Films Arcade


Film: The 90s were a pretty dire time for this horror fan, and as an 80s horror fan, that may have been partially my fault. It the 80s we had become accustomed to every film becoming a franchise: Freddy, Jason, Michael…. even Full Moon Pictures, who produced this film Arcade, had their franchises with the Puppet Master and Subspecies films. By the time the 90s hit, horror was just potential series starting and failing; I’m looking at you, Brainscan and Doctor Giggles.

Those few early years of the 90s just were terrible, and even Fangoria knew that there was something gumming up horror’s plumbing as some of the articles, and covers of this period included mainstream films like Jurassic Park and Batman Returns!

Thankfully due to fresh blood like The Blair Witch Project (not a film I like but I appreciate what it did for the genre) and revamped old blood like Wes Craven’s with his successfully, cynical and self-aware Scream films, horror survived and didn’t go the way of the western or the musical, a topic discussed occasionally at the time.

Arcade is one of the not so successful attempts at franchise creation, but it does stand out as having, for its day, some pretty incredible computer effects not done by a big Hollywood company like ILM.

Arcade: Megan Ward and Peter Billingsley


Onto the story: Alex (Megan Ward) has had a rough year. First her mother committed suicide, and then her Dad, well, he should be committed. To make matters worse, her friends are a bunch of 90210-styled buttholes (amongst them, Seth Green, who still looks exactly the same as he does now). 

Dante’s Inferno is a club/ video game arcade that they hang out in, and some of them are quite excited to try a brand new virtual reality game called ‘Arcade’ which is introduced to them by a video game executive from Vertigo Tronics called Difford (John De Lancie), but there is something not quite right about the game.

The games antagonist, Arcade, can bring people into the game peemanentky, and manipulate reality to his own ends…

So I’ll get a few of the bad points out of the way first. The characters are the most facile, awful bunch of turds I have ever had the misfortune of witnessing. Seriously, they are like the worst of each of the jerk characters from the Nightmare On Elm Street series all put together in one film, and they grate on every single nerve you have. Now this wouldn’t be a problem if any of them could act, but there were less wooden performances in 18th century puppet shows.

Next is the character of ‘Arcade’ itself. Remember how the killer from Bad Dreams was like a poor man’s Freddy, and then the bad guy from Brainscan was like an even cheaper version of him? Well Arcade is an even cheaper version of him, but they spent a fortune on now-archaic special effects to realise him. He’s (it’s?) a taunting smartarse just like the rest of the group, so I am surprised he wants to kill them, and not just join their gang of butt-plugs.

Next, it’s Albert Pyun’s direction. Normally I like his direction, and count The Sword and the Sorcerer as one of my favourite fantasy films, but here it meanders along with the adore mentioned sub-par acting and clunky dialogue.

Arcade: Megan Ward and Peter Billingsley


Which brings us to the final issue. The packaging for this disc from 88 Films proudly announces ‘from the writer of The Dark Knight and Man of Steel’. The person they refer to is David S. Goyer, who didn’t just write THOSE two films, but also two of the best Call of Dutys (in Black Ops 1 and 2), and the Blade films, and the weird scifi film Dark City. This is not a careers highlight, and it’s not necessarily that the idea is bad, because it was great when it was a film called ‘Tron’, it’s just poorly executed, which possible circles back to the acting and direction.

It’s a circle of suck.

On the plus side, the computer effects, considering their time, are a fun look at where we were in computer graphics was at this time.

I must say though that my favourite bit is when the surviving kids meet the game programmer, who doesn’t look like a cool, hippy-nerd in a superhero shirt, but instead is a 40-something, porno-moustached nerd in a labcoat and spectacles.

As a weird aside, one thing I did find interesting was I kept getting reminded of the film Pulse that starred Kristin Bell and Ian Somerhalder, which in itself was a remake of the Japanese film of the same name from 2001. It was probably just me, but I just felt a few suggestions made by the film made me think of that one.
Unfortunately those couple of musing things didn’t make up for the rest of the film, and I kid you not, every 20 minutes feels like an hour. Don’t bother.

Score: *

88 Films Arcade title screen


Format: The reviewed copy of the film was the UK’s 88 Films region free DVD release. This film ran for approximately 85 minutes, and was presented in an average 1.33:1 video with a decent digital 2.0 audio

Score: **1/2

Extras: There’s a couple of extras on this disc, but not a great deal. First we have a ‘making of’ in the form of ‘Videozone’ which Full Moon Pictures used to put on VHS tapes at the end of the feature. This one’s pretty good as it has an early look at how what we now call CGI is created for the film.

There is also a trailer for Arcade, and an 88 Films Trailer Park featuring trailers for The Corpse Grinders, Two Moon Junction, Blood Orgy of the She Devils, Hideous, Girl in Gold Boots, Robot Wars, Dollman, The Doll Squad, Castle Freak and Slice N Dice.

Score: **1/2

WISIA: I am never, ever, ever, ever, ever going to watch this ever again.

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