Death Racers (2008)
Joseph Frank Bruce (Violent J), Joseph William Utsler (Shaggy 2 Dope), Scott “Raven” Levy (The Reaper), Jennifer Keith (Double Dee Destruction), Teri Corcoran (Queen Bee), Robert Pike Daniel (Governor Reagan Black), Jason Ellefson (Fred the Hammer), Damien Puckler (Metal Machine Man)
Social Unrest/Totalitarian Government(?)/Movie Starring The Insane Clown Posse
“Three years from now war began; not among nations but among the angry disillusioned masses. During this time liberty vanishes. In a final attempt to restore order, the president declares martial law. On this day in 2033 The Red Zone opens. This massive prison encampment, built to hold two hundred thousand soon filled with over one million insane and violent felons. America is once again safe, but not for long.” – Opening Narration.
If you were one of the many who thought that the remake of Death Race 2000 was a joyless and moronic slog, well it’s apparent that you didn’t see the film’s unofficial remake, released the same year as Death Race to capitalize on its popularity, Death Racers.
For those unaware, this movie was made by The Asylum a direct-to-video film studio that specializes in “mockbusters”, a type of movie that takes the rough concept of a major studio release and replicates it on the cheap with an incredibly small budget, bad script, terrible actors, and generally a TV or movie star that doesn’t get roles anymore or maybe a lesser Baldwin. Their market is clueless parents and grandparents shopping for a specific film for kids or grandkids, counting on them to pick up a movie with a similar title to the one they’re looking for and thinking they’ve found it. Examples include Atlantic Rim, Transmorphers, The Day the Earth Stopped, and Age of Hobbits (which was changed to Clash of the Empires due to a lawsuit.) I really don’t know how they avoided a lawsuit here as the title is only different from Death Race by one letter, the framework of the plot is almost entirely the same (government sponsored and televised race, called “Death Race”, amongst a group of convicted felons in two person teams all vying for victory because it means a full pardon. Also the logo is a skull with the words “Death Race” emblazoned above.)
The mere fact of being an Asylum film should be enough to dismiss Death Racers as garbage, but there’s another layer of shit atop the first: this film is an Insane Clown Posse movie. Insane Clown Posse (or ICP as they are commonly known and will be referred to for the rest of this review because it’s easier) is a Detroit-based rap duo known for their white trash lifestyle-fetishizing, clown makeup, and violent personas. ICP has sprung to popularity in the last twenty years among a fanbase of primarily white primarily lower-class people who have been christened “Juggalos.” In addition to ICP an entire subset of amateurish musical groups, effectively its own genre, has risen up around the duo’s label Psychopathic Records.
While the group have been around for quite a while they didn’t really rise to the forefront of popular culture until a video for one of their outdoor festivals “The Gathering of the Juggalos” became a viral sensation in 2009 followed a bit later by the group’s music video for their song Miracles, both lead a lot of people to the conclusion that the band and their fans are a bunch of drug-addled, sex-obsessed, immature, idiots. Now, even I have my doubts if ICP really buys into the image they’ve built up, I’ve long theorized that they’re an elaborate avant garde comedy act who have accidentally become cult leaders, but no matter how legit ICP may or may not be their fanbase is bananas. The FBI famously declared that Juggalos were a gang back in 2011 but the band’s mythology (too complicated to go into here, just wiki it) and the way in which they market themselves all smack of a religious cult. Weirdly ICP’s media outside of music is very similar to that of Evangelical Christians in that everything they make is dull, massively offensive, poorly produced, ineptly attempts to deliver deep messages, and generally just serves as wanky self-congratulatory entertainment for people with awful taste. Juggalo movies are the equivalent of the Left Behind series, just with more swears, violence, and insipid white trash gangster slang.
Death Racers’ near-incomprehensible plot (due to lack of explanation and poor sound quality during expository scenes) has something to do with a massive prison known as “The Red Zone” which happens to be located over a massive source of clean water. Reaper (pro-wrestler Raven) is some sort of warlord or something that plans to unleash Sarin into the water which will somehow pollute the entire country’s water and kill everyone. The governor of (I think) California decides to host a televised contest called Death Race where four teams of two attempt to score enough points to gain their freedom by scoring kills in the red zone (including Reaper himself.) Our teams are S.H.G. (the Severed Head Gang) a duo of Latino gangsters, Homeland Security (two solider-types), Vaginamyte (a duo of serial killing lesbian femme fatales), and ICP (pretty much themselves.)
The plot more-or-less centers around an hour of filler where our teams go from locale to locale, unconvincingly run over people with their cars and get in violent fights with the prisoners which generally involve cutaways to blood splattering on walls with the occasional rubber hand thrown in to simulate competent gore effects. The cars are goofy and stupid looking (ICP drive an ice cream truck with the top chopped off and a snow-plow blade, S.H.G. drive a Buick Riviera with flames painted on the door) with hilariously shoddy looking “weapons” (pipes assembled to look like a rough approximation of miniguns and fake plastic rockets.)
Of course, I shouldn’t be down on the filler as it’s still a lot better than the actual “meat” of the movie which features terrible acting, laughably inept attempts to deliver a message (it’s never clear what the great social upheaval is about beyond the fact that the government has outlawed ICP‘s music yet Shaggy and J use it as a rallying cry to drive the movie, and an awful subplot involving a member of S.H.G. and Vaginamyte falling in love on the battlefield. What’s left is bad special effects, casual misogyny, and one of the most poorly thought-out stories I’ve ever seen for a movie (I don’t know much about Sarin, but I’m fairly certain that a neurotoxin is not highly explosive.)
I made the allusion to Left Behind earlier for a reason, because like that movie I went in expecting to hate it or love it for its awfulness but found it too dull and generic to develop any sort of strong feelings toward it either way. There was a time in my life that I might have found it inside myself to hate this movie but that was before I saw Live Freaky Die Freaky (the stop-motion animated “comedy” about Charles Manson) because as bad as Violent J and Shaggy 2 Dope are at acting they’re still a million times better than Kelly Osbourne. The only thing that got a rise out of me were the bits of racism and misogyny but even those barely drew more than a slight frown from me. Also, I’ll be honest, “Vaginamyte” made me laugh the first time I heard it.
In many ways this movie is much more faithful to the spirit of Death Race 2000 than Death Race was, but it just falls flat on its face. Its satirical news correspondents are flat and have no charisma, and end up just feeling like they belong in one of Funny or Die’s Juggalo News sketches. Sure this movie is cheap but worse than that it’s lazy. I feel like if I actually was a fan of ICP‘s music I would want more than two of their songs used repeatedly on the film’s soundtrack.
This movie is such low-hanging fruit that I really don’t even feel like slamming it. I doubt anybody needed to be told how to feel about this movie but I’m a completionist so I had to watch it. It’s the worst kind of bad film and a poor effort even for The Asylum. Don’t waste your time, there’s nothing for you here.
Death Racers can be found in discount bins, trashcans, and crack houses nationwide. The guy who runs the fryer at your local Sonic could probably also hook you up. Also Amazon has it on DVD.
NEXT TIME ON DOOMSDAY REELS
“As much as I would enjoy killing you here tonight, I will enjoy watching you die more in the Deathsport tomorrow. “
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