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Fantastic Fest 2011: “Manborg,” reviewed

Fantastic Fest 2011: “Manborg,” reviewed (photo)

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The plot keywords for “Manborg” on the Fantastic Fest website are: action, comedy, sci-fi, and bizarre. To which I would add the following: goofy, violent, funny, cheap, and charming. The mythos of this film is huge. There’s a cataclysmic war between the armies of man and hell, a dystopian future ruled by drippy-skinned demons, chase scenes on hoverbikes, and massive sci-fi battles. If Hollywood tried to remake “Manborg,” the movie would cost at least $150,000,000. I suspect director Steven Kostanski’s budget had at least five less zeros.

Stylistically, the movie looks and sounds like a really impressive cinematic from a Sega CD launch title circa 1992. The backgrounds are flat, the effects are crude, the voice dubbing is laughable, and the entire film looks like it was shot in front of a green screen with an old camcorder. All of that is by design. “Manborg” follows in the footsteps of recent movies like “The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra” and “The FP” in celebrating a time in genre filmmaking when imagination and creativity were more important than photorealism. No one will mistake anything in “Manborg” for reality, and that’s the point. The movie is a crazed fantasy, freed of the limitations of budget, taste, realism, or good common sense.

It is about the aftermath of a war between man and the armies of hell, in a broken world controlled by an evil dictator named Count Draculon (Adam Brooks). A soldier who died in the war (Matthew Kennedy) awakens into this dark future with most of his body replaced, “Robocop”-style, by cybernetic enhancements. When someone asks him his name, he looks at his hands, one still marginally human, one covered with robotics. “Man…borg…” he replies. All righty, then.

Captured by Draculon’s forces, Manborg is forced into gladiatorial combat alongside a few other feisty human survivors, including a karate fighter (Ludwig Lee), a marksman (Conor Sweeney), and a knife wielding hot chick (Meredith Sweeney). Together they rebel against their overlords and plot to destroy Draculon. Along the way there are some surprisingly effective, anime-influenced fight scenes and some really good comic relief from a character called The Baron (Jeremy Gillespie), a future demonspawn warlord who has a crush on the knife wielding hot chick but doesn’t know how to talk to her. “You may be Prisoner #7, but you’re Prisoner #1 in my heart,” he stammers through a lipless, desiccated mouth held permanently in place by metal clamps.

Manborg himself is a fun character, but he’s also a living, breathing declaration of principles for high-flying, low-fi-ing Canadian filmmaking collective Astron-6, whose five members — Kostanski, Kennedy, Brooks, Sweeney, and Gillespie — did basically everything on the film from the acting to the special effects to the screenplay, and who assert on their website that their films, inspired by the “obscure VHS movies of the ’80s,” are financed “by pure, naive passion and ignorance alone.” Manborg, this hideous beast of a hero cobbled together from spare parts, symbolizes the power of discarded junk.

I don’t know how many people are going to find “Manborg.” But I suspect a lot of the people that do won’t be so quick to throw it away.

“Manborg” does not currently have U.S. distribution. If you see it, we want to know what you think. Tell us in the comments below or on Facebook and Twitter. We’ve embedded the film’s trailer below.

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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

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