I’ve been following All Superheroes Must Die ever since it was originally being marketed as Vs, so you can say I’ve been anticipating B-Movie specialist Jason Trost’s Saw/superhero hybrid for an awful long time. Why? Because ever since I saw Trost’s short The FP, which eventually spawned the feature film I absolutely fell in love with, I just couldn’t ignore anything this guy was working on. I mean, he wears an eye-patch and won’t tell anyone why. How are you not following his every move?!
Hearing about the abstract concept of All Superheroes Must Die, I was immediately hooked from the start, and I wasn’t kidding about the whole Saw aspect either. Four superheroes wake up in different parts of a generic town, only to find their arch enemy Rickshaw (James Remar) has scattered innocent civilians around the town who need saving. If they play by the rules and get through Rickshaw’s game, hopefully every civilian can walk away unharmed. If they “cheat” though, Rickshaw has the entire town rigged to blow with the push of a button. Let the games begin.
But Ok, before getting all excited by thinking you’ll see some Saw equivalent gore and lavish doom devices, understand that Trost still hadn’t made a name for himself during the film’s production like he has now. Sure, he’s still not a big-shot by any means in today’s Hollywood scene, but more and more people are hearing about this crazy Dance Dance Revolution battling dystopian film, and Trost even earned himself a role in the upcoming films Hatchet III and This Is The End. But before all of that hype came All Superheroes Must Die (even though it was made after The FP according to IMDB), and our fiercely determined filmmaker was given a tiny budget to work with – and it shows.
Trost does everything he can to make his budgetary constraints invisible, but it’s far too obvious. He starts off by stripping his superheroes of all their powers, blaming it on a clever game evener by Rickshaw, but at least smartly works the missing powers into the script later on as well. Still though, with no super speed or laser beams, Trost didn’t have to pay for a lick of CGI or special effects.
The same lack of special effects can be recognized whenever Rickshaw gets trigger happy and blows something up. Explosions are always off screen, you never pan back to see charred remains, and all we get is a lot of blurry smoke. I mean Trost uses tricks necessary to try and mask budget problems with smoke and mirrors, but sadly it doesn’t always cut it.
Aesthetically we’re also treated to the same brand of independent quality, skimping instead of striving. As you can tell from the picture above, our costumes aren’t made from Batsuit leather or Superman spandex, and instead look more like homemade costumes, but I like the touch that gives. It plays along with the notion that these crime fighters took the duty upon themselves and made their own costumes, even though it looks like Halloween all the time.
Our settings don’t give the same vibe though, as everything is dark, desolate, and just straight up abandoned – as if Trost was shooting wherever he couldn’t get in trouble. I really hate how the Watchmen rip-off poster for All Superheroes Must Die shows a much slicker clothed Charge and Cutthroat against a rainy metropolis background, while in reality the film seems as if it’s filmed mostly in a junkyard somewhere in the middle of a desert. At one point there’s a fight scene that should take place in some kind of wrestling octagon, but Trost’s version is a trampoline with the eight netted posts around the edge. Again, it’s like he ran in an unoccupied backyard at night and filmed while some suburban family was asleep.
The biggest shame of all is that Rickshaw 100% comes off as an enviable villain, played by James Remar (aka Dexter’s Dad), who gives a bit of bite to All Superheroes Must Die. I had an absolute blast watching him taunt our characters, going for that often sought after victory for the bad guys just this once. He makes these heroes feel helpless, a dastardly plan worth capturing in cinema, torturing them slowly, both mentally and physically, breaking them down and crushing their spirits – the most evil and vile of plans.
Jason Trost, Lucas Till (X-Men: First Class), Lee Valmassy (The FP), and Sophie Merkley (?) all embody their superheroes, but it’s the characters themselves that are a bit flawed. Charge (Trost) stands as our fearless leader, but is completely clichéd and unleashes a bevy of one liners that will have you laughing for the wrong reasons. Cutthroat (Till) is OK, but plays overly badass and unnecessarily brooding far too long, again falling into the clichéd category. The Wall (Valmassy), well, doesn’t really do anything, and appears to be an inept fighter – making you wonder what the hell superpower he had at one time. I know he’s now unfortunately human, but Rickshaw only removed their powers – he didn’t turn them into giant babies. As for Shadow, she’s the typical sexy female hero caught in a love triangle that weighs the whole group down.
When all these little ducks are lined up in a row, you can’t even tell if they’re superheroes or just angst-filled kids wearing spandex body suits. Not even a cannibal dressed as Uncle Sam or a bulky looking circus strong-man can spice up the action, mainly because their supporting villain parts are so insignificant. Again, the budget really limited what Trost could do to signify the whole superhero vs. super-villain aspect, not even able to show a single flash of other worldly power – unless you count someone walking off camera.
All Superheroes Must Die is an uber-independent attempt to do something fun that seems right up Trost’s alley, yet he completely misses the exciting cult feel The FP so exotically flaunts. His rave-tastic DDR epic is flashy, vibrant, unique, and creates a gangsta-riffic world of wonder you can fully immerse yourself in – it is an experience. Trost’s superhero flick on the other hand is nothing of the sort, feeling flat, uninventive, partially lazy, and far too mundane to have such a reckless director attached. Any attempt Trost makes to add his signature spunk – like henchmen in animal costumes? – seems forced instead of intoxicating, right down to every lackluster detail. The ambitious idea sounded so great, too bad production just couldn’t deliver a deserving product.
I want to see Trost re-visit All Superheroes Must Die with a much bigger budget someday, because I know he can deliver something tenfold better given the proper funding such an idea deserves.