The Film: The Guyver (Buy it from CHUD!)

The Principles: Steve Wang & Screaming Mad George (directors), Jack Armstrong, Mark Hamill, Vivian Wu, Michael Berryman, David Gale, Jimmie Walker, Jeffrey Combs

The Premise: College student and uber-nerd Sean Barker (Armstrong) stumbles onto the Guyver unit: a high-tech suit of alien armor that graces him with super strength, blades for elbows, and a shitstorm of deadly karate moves. Standing in Sean’s way is Kronos, an evil corporation that wants to use the Guyver for nefarious means. We learn that Kronos is really a front for Zoanoids – men and women infused with alien DNA that allows them to transform into monsters.

Mark “Luke Skywalker” Hamill stops by to survey the situation, and seems rightfully unsettled by all the weirdness transpiring around him.

Is It Good: That’s always a loaded question with direct-to-video fare, as lowered expectations will go a long way in determining enjoyment.

I certainly thought it was good as a kid, so much so that I made everyone I knew watch it. My parents, extended family, friends; all people who’d immediately question my taste in entertainment. Play date? Guyver. First holy communion? Guyver. Your grandma died? Come over, we’ll watch The Guyver. My mom would later regret ever pulling it off the shelf of Video Update for her seven year old son. That’s how much “Guyver” the poor woman was forced endure during the early developmental years of her (decidedly odd) child. I’d now classify The Guyver as my first guilty pleasure. I just wasn’t aware that guilty pleasures should be accompanied by some modicum of guilt. I was damn proud of this DTV wonder.

Before you dismiss the movie, here’s what it had going for it: genuine men-in-suit monsters, karate, men-in-suit monsters practicing karate, incredible practical effects for a movie on such a limited budget, a decent premise based on popular Japanese manga, Jimmie Walker, an ever-hairless Michael Berryman (The Hills Have Eyes), and a zesty Jeffrey “Re-Animator” Combs playing a character named Dr. East.

Co-directors Screaming Mad George and Steve Wang saw fit to infuse Guyver with an unhealthy amount of slapstick that sinks it. The almost Return of the Swamp Thing-level of mischief could be misconstrued as parody if Yoshiki Takaya’s Bio-Booster Armor Guyver weren’t such an unknown property here in the States. Had they gone for the Hard-R and pushed it to Robocop levels of violence (something the sequel attempted), this could have truly been something special. As it is, I’m left coming to terms with what a weird kid I was.

Is it worth a look: The Guyver is practical FX porn for men and women who can appreciate everything that entails. There’s a lot to love for people who spent their youths thumbing through the latest issue of Fangoria. Screaming Mad George (born Joji Tani) served on the effects squad for Predator, and that level of creature craftsmanship is again evidenced in this film. Michael Berryman’s Lisker transforms into this strange, reptilian headbutting monster and George’s expertise totally brings the creature to life.

The costume design in this film is top notch with the prominent characters, and a little beneath par with the secondary monsters. It works best as a demo reel for what great practical effects artists can still accomplish. There’s a texture and weight to these effects – the monsters are more lifelike than most creature FX we see today. So in that sense, The Guyver works as a giant “fuck you” to CGI.

Random Anecdotes: The cover on this film (pictured above) would lead you to believe that Mark Hamill is The Guyver. This is not the case. It’s a dirty lie to sell videotapes.

Jack Armstrong did not return as Sean Barker in Guyver 2: Dark Hero. Instead he was replaced by David Hayter, who some will remember as the screenwriter for HulkX-Men and The Watchmen. Even more will recognize Hayter as the voice of Solid Snake in the Metal Gear Solid series.

Cinematic Soulmates: The Guyver 2: Dark Hero, Batman (’89), Spawn, Power Rangers: The Movie, Star Kid