If you have rotten, treacherous children, Oleg Stepchenko’s Forbidden Empire works better as a punishment for them than entertainment. Maybe Memorial Day weekend is not what it used to be. Crazy parties at the Hampton’s or Fire Island have been replaced with taking the rugrats to their soccer games and then going next door to your jerkoff neighbor’s barbecue. You hate the guy, with his flat belly and full head of dark hair. When he smiles his teeth don’t look like they were marinating in melted butter. He has a better house, nicer pool, more expensive car, less obnoxious children and, the one you lament the most, a hotter wife. You’re not sure if those tits are real, but you think you need to find out. Like Jonathan Green (Jason Flemyng) from this movie, you’re a scientist and need to do some experimentation on those bad boys to see if they are miracles of science or gifts from God. After your fourth hot dog and seventh gin and tonic you corner her near their guest house and you start talking about the Mad Men finale. She never watched Mad Men she says, smiling nervously. She asks where your wife is. What wife? You laugh and move closer to her. You look around. Is that one of your kids looking at you? You can’t really recall what your kids even look like at this point. You focus your attention back to your neighbor’s luscious wife, with those toned limbs and perfect skin. You ask her what that phantom bug is on her shoulder and you reach out………
You’re hungover. Your wife is pissed off at you, telling you she will be ashamed to ever see any of the neighbors again. You don’t remember anything bad happening. Although your head hurts and your stomach feels like a dead dog is decomposing in it. You look at your daughter and she has that look that says I told mommy what you did. The wife is going shopping with the mother, so you have the kids, your hangover, and the guilt.
What do you do to get back at them? You don’t take them to see Tomorrowland. Instead, you make them watch something on VOD. Something that might put them to sleep, but maybe give them a little scare right before they nod off. What to watch? Hmm, this one looks good.
Forbidden Empire is a muddled, crazy mess of a movie that can’t decide if it wants to be a horror film, or a children’s adventure. It appears to have been made by a Russian studio run by Walt Disney’s distant and not as talented relatives. The special effects range from actually kind of decent to your basic SyFy channel renderings that look like they could have been done by a ten year old on his laptop. It definitely skews more towards adventure film aimed at the youngsters. It deals with 18th century cartographer Jonathan Green’s adventures in the Ukraine as he battles the forces of evil while trying to convince the local church and superstitious locals that he isn’t the devil.
At its heart it is another religion versus science story that pulls out a Scooby Doo ending after doing several bong hits where the audience witnesses flying coffins, marauding tree roots, drunken Cossacks, ghosts, and tons of religious imagery. One would think in our increasingly secular society, the kids will be bored by all the Christian icons and references to religion. Don’t we all remember how boring church was back in the day? Remember when you had to go to 5 o’clock mass on Super Bowl Sunday and Father Loquacious was giving the sermon? That is how the audience might feel watching this.
To be fair, there are a couple of good bits. Watching our hero’s souped up carriage being chased by ghostly wolves in a dark forest was pretty cool. The best scene has Flemyng’s Green and a bunch of Cossack’s whooping it up around the dinner table. Then the Cossack’s all transform into grotesque monsters and Green is accosted by nasty little flying demons that probably have a bite worse than the average green fly. There are a few other scenes that might be too intense for the kiddies, as well.
If you are pissed off at them, maybe this is what you should shoot for. There are a couple of attractive women in this that reminded me of a couple of strippers I met in my travels. Everyone knows that Eastern European women make excellent exotic dancers. The great Charles Dance shows up for a few scenes to pick up a paycheck. He never mails it in, but he is not really necessary to the story. Flemyng seems to be having a mildly amusing time and he doesn’t disappoint for the most part.
The final word on Forbidden Empire. There is a reason it is going straight to VOD in the USA. It can’t compete with the big Hollywood blockbusters in technical achievement or story. The fact that the shit Hollywood churns out might have a better screenplay than Forbidden Empire is the biggest demerit against it. Hopefully, everyone involved will go on to make better things in the future.