Every day Robert Saucedo shines a spotlight on a movie either so bad it’s good or just downright terrible. Today: A bad movie willing to die for your sins.
Religious satire is a tricky act to undertake.
You can’t be overly critical of anybody’s beliefs or you will be seen as mean-spirited or hurtful. You can’t be overly preachy or highfalutin with your message unless you want to drive away your potential audiences with burning torches of boredom. And, perhaps most importantly, you don’t want to be overly goofy if you want to be taken seriously as a movie with a message.
While I may be in the minority, I think TheInvention of Lying was a comedy successfully able to poke fun at organized religion without falling prey to the countess dangers that present themselves to movies in this genre.
On the other hand, Ultrachrist! is a movie that never successfully decides what it wants to be and, in the end, resigns itself to an embarrassment of excess.
A tongue-in-cheek slapstick spoof of RoboCop with a recently returned Jesus Christ as a spandex-wearing superhero on a quest to rid the world of sin and spread his ministry, the movie is for the most part amateurish, yet charming, fun.
Clearly a labor of love, Ultrachrist! is shot with guerilla filmmaking tactics, managing to craft a story larger then the film’s budget may seem to have allowed. The filmmakers were able to flesh out the world of their film by seemingly utilizing the real-life citizens of New York City as extras. Doing so, I imagine, without the use of permits or permission.
When Jesus returns to Earth but is shocked to discover he no longer relates to today’s youth, he decides to don a superhero identity. This new tactic gains the attention of Satan, taking the physical form of New York City’s Parks and Recreation commissioner.
Satan decides to combat Jesus on his own terms by raising an army of some of the evilest souls to ever darken the doorsteps of hell: Dracula, Hitler, Richard Nixon and Jim Morrison.
It’s up to Jesus to save the world with a little help from his friends: a seamstress with self-esteem issues, the patron saint of erotic massages, a duo of self-proclaimed lipstick lesbians and the self-centered anchorwoman for a cable news network.
Unlike the far-more-enjoyable Jesus Christ Vampire Hunter, Ultrachrist! turns out to be somewhat of a boring mess — albeit an impressive one.
I can respect any movie that is manages to find distribution despite the fact that its budget was obviously less then the catering costs of one hour’s filming on Transformers 2.
In the end, though, pure pluck and determination can’t help elevate the film from its humble origins or the fact that the movie never quite settles on an appropriate tone.
The movie relies on the same tired jokes time after time — never presenting the necessary building blocks of an independent comedy: true originality or cutting-edge observational humor.
Mainstream Hollywood can get by on clichés, but in order for a low-budget film to find audiences’ attention it needs something they haven’t seen before.
Watching the movie, though, I was reminded of the fond memories I have of shooting homemade movies during high school.
It is obvious that the filmmakers behind Ultrachrist! had just as much fun as I did making movies with my friends — and that I cannot fault them for. If they found a little success in the end product, that’s a great accomplishment for them.
The movie may not have been the edgy religious satire it seemed it wanted to be, but at least it had some pretty fun moments that celebrated the art of home movies.
Plus I got to see Jesus Christ fight the Lizard King.
Robert Saucedo still thinks Bibleman has the best Christian superhero costume ever. Follow Robert on Twitter @robsaucedo2500.
Robert Saucedo is an avid movie watcher with seriously poor sleeping habits. The Mikey from Life cereal of film fans, Robert will watch just about anything — good, bad or ugly. He has written about film for newspapers, radio and online for the last 10 years. This has taken a toll on his sanity — of that you can be sure. Follow him on Twitter at @robsaucedo2500.