There’s so little life to these cyborg sequels
Wisely brought into the high definition home video market as a single disc release, Nemesis 2: Nebula, Nemesis 3: Time Lapse, and Nemesis 4: Death Angel all come to us thanks to the fine folks at MVD Rewind Collection who are doing very distinct work in this market space right now. They’re releasing a bunch of films on Blu-ray that it seems no one else was willing to touch, and which I can’t possibly live the rest of my life without seeing… but which also are really quite bad. There’s just something about the time and place in film culture which Albert Pyun occupies that will forever fascinate me and attract me towards checking out his work. And yet, it’s hard being a Pyun fan as the overwhelming majority of his work really isn’t content one would recommend others seek out. I actually adore Pyun’s Kickboxer sequels, which I recently discovered. But Blast and Crazy Six, two other Pyun titles recently released by MVD, were largely chores to make it through.
No doubt, these Nemesis sequels fall squarely in the category of chores to get through, but to varying degrees.
I didn’t know one could base an entire trilogy of films solely around a lead characters’ physique… but Albert Pyun did! All starring female bodybuilder Sue Price, Pyun went all in on a muscle fetish trilogy that one almost has to admire for its sheer commitment to showcasing almost nothing beyond glistening flesh. Listening to Pyun’s commentary and behind the scenes thoughts on all 4 Nemesis movies and one of his magnum opuses (Cyborg) reveals that Pyun has a clear obsession with “true cyberpunk”. I’m not sure Pyun and I have the same idea of exactly what cyberpunk is, but Pyun is on the hunt for it and these films are some attempt at grasping that aesthetic.
By his own admission, however, extreme low budgets and Sue Price’s total inexperience with acting hamstrung these films from the start. Each one steals footage from previous installments in order to recycle the effects and action shots and get more on screen than they really had. Even the construct of a war between man and machines that’s supposed to hold these barely related stories together feels amorphous and ever shifting in its rules, vision, and outlook.
This is truly a series of diminishing returns, with each installment worse than the last. They also had decreasing budgets, shorter production lengths, and less and less connective tissue holding them together thematically. It’s a little bit hard to watch, but a fascinating footnote in trashy sci-fi action even so.
Nemesis 2: Nebula (1995)
Easily the best of these sequels, Nemesis 2 had the most time to shoot and spent the most money of the 3 (which was nonetheless a vastly smaller budget than the first film). Shifting away from that larger budget original starring Olivier Gruner, Pyun attempted to establish a new world with new characters and new rules. It doesn’t feel connected to the first film at all, frankly. And while it starts out with some interesting ideas of this white muscle-bound warrior woman sent from the future and raised among an African tribe, it soon descends into a budget-cut Terminator rip-off with our characters just kind of running around in an abandoned factory location with practical explosions going off all around them. It’s repetitive and sloppy, but at least the kernel of some fun ideas can be found.
Price is fascinating to look at, so Pyun wasn’t entirely wrong in his hunch to cast her. Her physique is astounding and really pops. But Price is a non-actor and there’s truly no charisma beyond her frame. She’d have been fabulous as a side character without a ton of dialog, but she’s dead on arrival as an acting talent. Her lines are often ADR’d or edited around to account for this, but it shows.
There’s at least a fairly cool monster after her that results in a big action-packed showdown. The monster is supposed to be sent back from the future to kill this human that will eventually topple the cyborg overlords of the future. It’s exactly The Terminator. Apparently John Wick director Chad Stahelski is under the creature costume for half of the movie before he quit, but even this amounted to little excitement as it’s a man in a rubber suit with no performance to speak of.
Nemesis 3: Time Lapse (1996)
Filmed back to back with 2, Time Lapse suffered because Nebula sucked up more of the time and budget than planned, and these two films were approved as a single budget with a set timeline to complete both. It further complicates the mythology, bringing in sister characters that are supposed to be enhanced “DNA humans” much like Price’s Alex, but which really just gave Pyun an excuse to have even MORE bodybuilders on camera.
It’s all a narrative mess, but at least this time we get genre all star Tim Thomerson playing some kind of variation on his villainous cyborg from the first film. None of the confusing elements of Alex’s lost memory or the sisters she was supposed to reconnect with to overthrow the cyborgs in the future ever come to any fruition either here in this film or in the next one. It all goes nowhere.
Nemesis 4: Death Angel (1996)
Handily among the very worst feature length films I’ve ever seen (and I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe), Death Angel is barely even a movie. I hate to say things like this because I really am a Pyun fan and love trashy sci-fi. But Nemesis 4 was shot in just four days of production (4 days that were tagged onto reshoots for an entirely different Pyun film), and it absolutely shows.
If 2–3 focused entirely on Sue Price’s physique, Death Angel appears to exist solely to showcase her NAKED physique. There was no nudity in 2–3, but Alex barely wears any clothes at all in Death Angel. Despite being by far the worst film of this series to date, Death Angel nonetheless has the biggest highlight of the sequels in a Cronenbergian sex scene involving a weird body-horror protrusion that comes out of an android guy and enters some kind of extra cavity that opens up in Alex’s stomach?! It’s so insane and left field and disgusting that you simply have to give Pyun some props for hanging an entire film around some gross gags.
But there’s a reason feature films don’t get made in 4 days. There’s so much talking and dead space here. It’s padded to the extreme with truly boring dialog and some cringe worthy concepts about angels and demons. Even the nudity is largely boring and purposeless. The film has no momentum and pads out its length with a few long acts entirely made up of Alex and another character just talking, sometimes in the same exact location as the last extended scene. It’s an across the board failure featuring fetishistic nudity and body horror that nonetheless manages to be categorically boring throughout.
I frankly adore MVD and their Rewind Collection. It’s true that I end up negatively reviewing many of their titles. But I also can’t resist exploring the titles they’re bringing into the high def era. I’m thrilled to indulge my curiosity and unearth obscure films from my lifetime that I either never got around to or never even knew existed. While I did not care for these Nemesis films at all, at least my curiosity is now satiated and I’m somewhat anachronistically glad I watched them.
These releases are often a little scrappy, and this one is no different. I had some real challenges navigating the menu, with the disc often freezing upon selecting an option of the menu. I had to completely close the app and re-open my Blu-ray player several times when selecting features or bonus content. Weird, but eventually it all worked out.
Each movie has a little bit of audio commentary from Pyun, somewhere between 15 minutes to 30. Pyun suffers from multiple sclerosis and I believe some early onset dementia. He’s still got a ton of recall regarding the production of these films but he’s also somewhat repetitive and any longer commentary tracks here would’ve been redundant.
These films are packaged just right. They aren’t good enough to warrant individual releases and feel like somewhat of a bargain presented in this way.
I wouldn’t recommend any of these titles, but Pyun obsessives like me will probably have to check these out no matter what I say.
And I’m Out.
Nemesis 2–4 are now available as a single disc Blu-ray set from MVD Rewind Collection