If you’re like me, you loved The Taint. It was a b-movie unicorn: a movie that was actually funny, gory, uncouth, and genuinely well-made all at the same time. Of course, the question that always crawls across one’s mind when they see a movie too amazing to exist is if the director was that good due to talent or if it was all just a fluke. For Drew Bolduc, Science Team has come to answer that question.
Drew Bolduc (sans The Taint collaborator Dan Nelson) spent the intervening years working on Lloyd Kaufman’s Return to Nuke ‘Em High Part 1 in the special effects department, and funded this movie through an Indiegogo campaign. Armed with a $15,000 budget (3 times the budget he had on The Taint) and some connections he made while working on the movie with Troma, he set out to make his sophomore feature.
Our protagonist this time is Chip (Vito Trigo); a writer and quite possibly the most angry man in the world. After accusing his girlfriend of cheating on him (his evidence is a text from his friend with too many ellipses) he destroys a living room with a baseball bat, grabs some things, and charges out in his underwear and a bathrobe to his mother’s home in the country. When he gets there he finds her dead and a grotesque alien taking up residence in the guest bedroom.
After the alien has an altercation with the police, the titular Science Team is called in. Science Team is a sort-of Men in Black organization that protects the world from supernatural, alien, and extra-dimensional threats because “nothing evil has ever come from science.” But under the tutelage of their current leader Professor Dick Willington III (Grandson of Science Team’s original founder and not actually a professor) they’ve just become a group of xenophobic alien exterminators that spend more time killing things than they do actually doing any actual science.
Field leader Joey Tweed (our secondary protagonist played by Richard Spencer) reveals to Chip that his mother was a member of Science Team and worked with Joey and that Chip would be have already been killed if not for his relationship to her. What follows is a lot of drama, violence, and insanity.
The first thing one needs to keep in mind going into Science Team is that it’s not a sequel to The Taint either literally or spiritually. There are hallmarks and stylistic choices that reflect that the same person is responsible for creating both but they are different movies with very different goals. Science Team is a much more subdued and serious movie by comparison but it’s also a deeper movie by design.
There’s a much more complicated story here and a meaning that can’t be summed up quite as simply as The Taint’s could. That movie wore its heart on its sleeve, this one isn’t so obvious about its motivations. This works both for and against the movie at different times. In the case of Joey’s story the more philosophical nature makes for a rather depressing tale of disillusionment and a mission statement once bent on discovery and adventure now changed to represent destruction and suppression. Joey’s arc features some very heady themes for any science fiction movie, let alone one that features someone threatening that his dick will be so far in someone that they’ll call it the next Jeff Dunham. There are also just a lot of great quiet moments (one strangely poignant one involves tentacle porn) which were experimented with briefly in The Taint but are fully utilized here.
The downside of the more complicated narrative is Chip’s story. I’m going to be honest, I really have no idea what purpose Chip serves to anything other than as a vehicle for plot movement. There’s obviously something significant about his relationship with his mother and the alien but it just sort of became muddled and I wasn’t able to glean a clear meaning out of it. Chip’s also a completely unlikable dick, which he’s obviously supposed to be, but his temper tantrums start to grate after a while.
I don’t want to misrepresent the movie here, I’ve made it seem like a pretty somber affair but it isn’t. Drew Bolduc’s greatest talent as a writer is that he can tell a story that’s serious with gravity and deep implications and still make it funny just in the stilted, surreal way he (and the actors of course, because not just anybody could sell this shit and make it work) tells it. It’s not that the story that’s occurring isn’t deadly serious, it’s that everyone it’s happening to is a bombastic asshole with no ability to censor themselves and it’s that wry and irreverent approach to the subject matter that makes these movies so fresh and attractive to me.
To be fair though, there are some story problems. The narrative meanders, Chip is more of a narrative device than a character, and the alien is really just a fancy McGuffin and a vehicle for the big splattery finish. To Bolduc’s credit he seems to realize that too and spends the entire middle section of the movie building on Joey and Science Team while Chip acts like an asshole and the alien throbs impotently. I just kind of wish there had been more Joey and less Chip from the beginning, though I want to say that’s not due to any failing on the part of Vito Trigo.
Trigo gives his soul to this performance and he deserves some kind of award for the physicality he brings alone. I’ve seen a lot of actors play mad people in movies but Trigo seems to actually be enraged, it’s exhausting to watch him act because you can tell he’s putting every ounce of energy into what he’s doing. And that’s not even counting all the crazy physical stuff he does even though his wardrobe is just boxers, a t-shirt, and a bathrobe. He’s jumping over brush piles, rolling on boat docks, running barefoot through the woods at full speed, and smashing VHS tapes on his head. This isn’t to say that his actual spoken-word acting is bad either, it’s just that the man is a supremely talented physical actor.
I was happy to see Richard Spencer back (he played Misandra’s husband Bob in The Taint) and I’m glad to see he’s gotten a much larger role. Spencer remains charismatic and likeable, which is impressive as he spends most of the movie as a belligerent and mean-spirited jerk. His particular flavor of acting is almost tailor-made for Drew Bolduc’s writing style and I hope the two will continue to work together in the future.
While the camera work was extremely good in The Taint, it has improved a great deal in Science Team; likely due to cinematographer William Robinette. The cinematography has become more dynamic and makes more use of long shots and wide angles. The colors pop and there’s a more lived-in quality to the surroundings.
As before, Drew Bolduc has provided his own score with collaborator Joe Ferris. Science Team’s music is more quiet and ambient with a bit of a John Carpenter by way of The Goblins feel about it. It’s eerie and effective; you can check out some of the tracks on Drew Bolduc’s Soundcloud page.
There are less in the way of special effects in Science Team and Dan Nelson’s absence is most sorely noted here. They’re not bad effects, in fact they’re still well above the caliber of a movie of this budget, but I got spoiled with The Taint’s gore effects. I also kind of have a pet peeve about the blood; it’s a sort of soupy brown color so it often looks more like motor oil than blood. There’s an exploding head gag that’s a bit dodgy but the alien looks great and a lot of the other gore effects still look very good.
In many ways Science Team is an improvement on The Taint, in a few smaller ones it isn’t. What it does do is show a clear evolution as a filmmaker on the part of Drew Bolduc. It is a clever, funny, violent, cool little movie that’s sure to please cult audiences for years to come. Whether you’re a hardcore fan of the director’s previous movie or you just dig on the gonzo horror sub-genre this is definitely a movie worth checking out.
Out of a Possible 5 Stars
There is currently no official release date for Science Team, but when I emailed Drew Bolduc he told me the plan was to have a DVD out before the end of the year.
UPDATE: Drew Bolduc has informed me that there is currently a VHS version of the movie available through its official website. Get ‘em here.