The Direct to Video Connoisseur

I'm a huge fan of action, horror, sci-fi, and comedy, especially of the Direct to Video variety. In this blog I review some of my favorites and not so favorites, and encourage people to comment and add to the discussion. For announcements and updates, don't forget to Follow us on Twitter and Like our Facebook page. If you're the director, producer, distributor, etc. of a low-budget feature length film and you'd like to send me a copy to review, you can contact me at dtvconnoisseur[at] I'd love to check out what you got. And check out my book, Chad in Accounting, over on Amazon.

Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Galaxy Warriors (2022)

Back when I was doing my look at the MCU on my DTVC Extra podcasts--which you can find in the archives of the main podcast feed--I considered doing some low-budget comic book movies for the site, and that's when I found filmmaker Brett Kelly. He looked like a low-budget auteur I could get into, and this is his most recent film, so I figured I'd give it a look in our Indie Spotlight for April.

Galaxy Warriors is about intergalactic bounty hunter Demeter (Christine Emes), who, with her partner Vesta (Alianne Rozon), need to rescue Demeter's sister Artemis (Abbey Flockton) from a prison planet. To infiltrate it, they get themselves arrested and sent there, which seems like a great idea in theory, but the situation's a bit tougher, First, fellow inmate Circe (Christa Cullain) has a bone to pick with Demeter; then, once she's won Circe over, warden Enyo (Ellen Mildred) has been running a dark kumite of sorts, a la Ben Franklin in Bloodsport IV, and she's forcing the women to fight in it. Has Demeter bitten off more than she can chew, or will she be able to find her sister and get the hell out of there?

"You're close." This was Andrew Zimmern said on his show after he tried the plant-based scrambled eggs a vegan food start-up was working on, and this film, in its attempt to be an exploitation film without the actual exploitation, was also close. It's a futuristic women in prison film, with no nudity, no bondage--hell, they even went with gaiters on the prison outfits instead of go-go boots. The problem is, without nudity, bondage, the occasional girl-on-girl hook up--or even go-go boots--everything around it needs to be spot-on. You can have people doing plot exposition conversations in an Andy Sidaris film if the payoff is topless hot tub scenes and exploding helicopters, but without that it hurts the quality that much more. The other thing is I think there could be goofy send-ups to some of those hallmarks of the exploitation film, like maybe oversized chains that have no restraining effect to mimic the bondage elements that are often in these women in prison films, but they didn't do any of that. This does have a lot going for it though. Despite the missing exploitation, it's still fun; and there was an earnestness and heart in putting it all together that I had to respect, especially in this current ecosystem of assemblyline DTV films. I think they're on the right track, and the same way I like an Impossible Whopper, I like the idea of exploitation-less exploitation. They're close.

I'm not a full-on vegetarian, but if a place I'm eating at has vegetarian options, I tend to go with that. The key is, when I'm eating an Impossible Whopper, I know it's not real meat, but I like that it does a good job imitating it, without the inhumane factory farming and damage to the environment that comes with the real thing. Furthering the metaphor, what's interesting is, the fake version costs more to make than the real one--which seems ridiculous considering the latter involves taking a life, but that's factory farming for you--and I think the same idea applies with exploitation films. The exploitative elements cover up the films flaws--or they're more likely forgiven--so doing fake exploitation takes more to pull it off. One of the best examples of this is early on when Demeter and Vesta are chasing a guy in their space ship, and after some back and forth where he shoots at them and they have to dodge it, Demeter decides "let's just teleport him onto our ship." Wait what? Why didn't you do this right away? Again, if there's the pay off of exploitative elements, a flawed story element like that is forgiven; but here it stuck out that much more.

The closest comp to this movie is The Adventures of Taura: Prison Ship Star Slammer, or simply Star Slammer, a Fred Olen Ray film about a futuristic prison ship. That one does have the bondage, the nudity, the girl-on-girl, etc., but it also felt stronger overall. The jokes landed better for me, the story had fewer of the holes this one had, yet Ray was also forced to work on a microbudget. The other thing is it had more memorable characters. Ross Hagen as a baddie is hard to top, plus Dukey Flyswatter with his changing hairdos was fantastic; but even the warden played by Marya Grant and Mike played by Suzy Stokey had more fun material to work with than their counterparts in this, let alone our hero played by Sandy Brooke. Yes, the exploitation elements were there, but everything around it was still pretty strong, and I think for a Galaxy Warriors to get there without those exploitation elements, it'll need to approach what Ray and co. were able to do with Star Slammer in all the other aspects that much more.

A couple Earth-bound equivalents are the Roger Corman-produced Pam Grier classics Black Mama White Mama and The Arena, again both full of exploitation elements, but also stronger all around. Pam Grier talked about how she welcomed the nudity scenes because she wanted to represent that a black woman could be naked onscreen as much as a white woman. In that sense, the nudity isn't just exploitative, it's also empowering, which I think shows that these things we label as exploitation aren't always black and white. I still like the idea of an exploitation sans exploitation--an Impossible Burger kind of exploitation if you will--or even if you won't--but I think there's also a place for exploitation, especially when it's done as well as the Pam Grier films were. She's the inspiration not only for a film like this one, but all of the female-led action we've seen, especially lately. 

Finally, this film was made in Canada. Fun fact about me: I grew up in Maine, but have never been to Canada before. I've had a couple different trips planned, but things like snowstorms came in and changed those plans. I feel like I need to get there at some point, even if I live much further away now in Philadelphia. I mean, at the very least, I need to get to Toronto to see a Blue Jays game, as big a baseball fan as I am. After I moved down here, my friends in Maine started doing day trips to New Brunswick--I think it's about 4 hours one way, but the idea sounds so fantastic. Just watching this film, it seems like there's a lot of fun stuff going on up there, between Blue Jays games, making Impossible Burger exploitation flicks, and bands like Glass Tiger and Loverboy, how can you go wrong?

The answer is you can't. And I think overall you can't go wrong with this, just know going in it's packaged as exploitation, but it is sans exploitation--and like I said, they're close to pulling it off. It has it's fun moments, and appears to be made with a lot of heart and earnestness, which is always a good thing.

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