Today’s cinematic atrocity is Arcade! It’s a Full Moon classic starring little Ralphie from a Christmas Story and Q from Star Trek : the next generation. It also features a VERY young Seth Green and is pretty worth watching just for that.
I’ve had to defend the special effects in the past though – if you look there on that old VHS box, you’ll notice it exclaims “virtual reality special Effects”! They may be pushing the definition of virtual reality – they might be pushing the definition of special effects for that matter… Zacherly used to refer to certain SFX as special DEFECTS, and that’s far more appropriate here. There is a lot of primitive CG splashed up against a blue screen – and what’s really frightening is the original set of special effects were even more primitive, to the point where Charles Band put the movie on hold until they could find somebody who could do you something little better.
The original version of the CG villain had no moving parts – he was a far more blocky solid character, where as the finished product as a bit more personality and movement to it. You can get a glimpse of what it would’ve looked like at the beginning of the video zone featurette’s at the end of every full moon videotape. Those graphics have a lot more in common with Tron – not a bad movie, but back in 1993 that look was quite seriously behind the times. You can see huge differences between the two pictures below – the very static face of Arcade, a mask really with no movement except shadows from the flickering lights behind the mask, transport that looked more like light cycles than liquid metal terminators, and a title font that would look extremely cool in a children’s cartoon but not in an r-rated horror movie. It’s stuff that would pass on VR Troopers or in an 80’s movie, but not in ’93, not after T2 had redefined CG forever (or at least until The Matrix arrived seven years later)
I’ve seen some of those original,and I can see why they decided to redo the effects. Not just the models, we also go from grids and gradients to textured backgrounds with clouds and atmosphere. Electrical effects and far more detail. The original effects were simpler. They took less time to create (one or two moving pieces and slap a bitmap on it for color) and would take FAR less time to render. The finished effects have multiple textures applied, with great detail, are made up of far more polygons and include more lighting effects. The difference in both build time and render time must have increased by months.
Despite the computer generated FX even worse than those in the Lawmower Man, I’m a fan of this film. The CG does not age well, but it’s not meant to – and you can forgive it because of that.
The story is practically paint by numbers. New game put out, someone developed AI. AI turns evil. The girl who can’t play video games is the one who has to save the day.
Despite that, it has the sense of fun and adventure that Full Moon Films typically have. I really love watching this, and another big selling point here is the cast. These are all kids (at the time anyhow), and you can tell they are all having a genuinely good time with each other. watching the behind the scenes feature in particular REALLY brings this out.
Can I talk a little about the actual video arcade they feature in this movie? Because seriously, this place is awesome. A little basement hole-in-the-wall with black lights and glowing stickers all over? A nice mix of old games and new, man I would have loved this place and spent every dollar I ever made if I’d had one of these joints in the 90’s. The only arcades around here were at the Mall and the Bowling Alley. This however, this feels real. It feels like a teenage hangout and it made me want to be there. It’s little details like this that I’m talking about, this is the stuff that makes a mediocre film come alive and entertain.
Truth is, this is a FUN movie. You forget about the low budget, Even though the effects make you feel like you crawled in to your Packard Bell micro tower to play DOOM you don’t care. This isn’t T2 or the Lawnmower man. You didn’t pick this up to stare at the pretty SFX. Sure you can see that plot twist coming a mile away, but you’ll find yourself rooting for it anyhow.
You’ll see it on the shelf at the Record Exchange or Flea market sometimes. It’s sure to be on Full Moon Streaming. Seriously, give this one a try some lazy Sunday afternooon. It’s got to be better than watching the Browns lose.
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