Filmmakers are ambitious. They have to be to have the commitment to sit on set for twenty-two hours a day, with the weight of millions of dollars on their shoulders and knowing that if this damn movie doesn’t work, it could be their last. Ambition can be a great motivator, but it can also be a killer. In the case of Crossbreed, it’s the latter…
…Directed by Brandon Slagle (The Black Dahlia Haunting) and written by Slagle & Robert Thompson (Aftermath), Crossbreed takes place decades in the future, with the earth on the brink of World War 4 (WWIII optimistically takes place ten years from now, so you know). The president (Vivica A. Fox) hires a team of military vets to retrieve an alien-bio weapon from a top-secret research station orbiting Earth. Of course, nothing goes to plan, and the creature isn’t all about that getting captured life.
I know it will never end, but can I just say that I’m tired of low-budget films featuring name-stars as selling points for their movies, only to have them appear in barely a handful of scenes where they do next to nothing? This isn’t the filmmaker’s fault by any means, they don’t control the marketing, but when I see Vivica A. Fox and Daniel Baldwin (as Weathers), I want to see them being the charming badasses we know they can be, and if they’re going to be the two cast members displayed on the cover art, then they’d better be the stars of the film! But no, that’s not how marketing works, so here I am, frustrated that the money-people can’t help themselves when it comes to teasing the audience into forking over their hard-earned dollars for something they didn’t expect. It’s maddening.
Anyway, Crossbreed. Fox and Baldwin may not be in the film very much, but each is still great in their limited roles, and hey, at least we finally get that female president most of us have been wanting! Despite that, the future in Crossbreed is still very much a guy’s club, as our heroes are all comprised of men with a “bro-centric” attitude. In our main group, there’s Adam (Stink Fisher), Slaughterhouse (Antoine Lanier), Four-Eyes (John T. Woods), Degenerate (Jason McNeil), and Noob (Brandyn T. Williams). Bro codes aside, these may be just your average group of dudes with interests that reach as far as sex, drinking and being a badass, but they’re still a likeable group that brings a sense of fun to Crossbreed. Each is reduced down to their most basic of needs, taking this likely ultra-dangerous job for things like gambling money, college tuitions, and intergalactic bars, but beyond that, we don’t get to know much about these guys or their personalities, other than the fact that Adam is the boss, and Degenerate fits his name as the wild-haired sleaze spending his free time greasing his rod with sex bots. Think of the rag-tag group from Predator, only not nearly as interesting and with a hell of a lot less quotable dialogue, and that’s our cast.
Slagle and the production designers bring a good eye to Crossbreed, giving a quality, futuristic vibe to the few places we see on earth and outside the ship where the film takes place, such as Adam’s bar and the cybernetic strip club which Degenerate attends. Costume designer Kaytee Papusza also lends a hand in creating a futuristic look with the budget she’s afforded, presenting us with robots covered in multi-colored tubes hanging out of their backs and blue-tooth like devices attached to our heroes faces, which have for some reason gotten bigger and more impractical in the future. At least they look cool? Slagle and his team only have so much to work with, and do a commendable job with the resources they have. But, as a film teacher once said while tearing apart one of my pitches, if you’re going to write in an expensive set and shoot it without much money, it’s going to show, and that’s the case with Crossbreed. Once our heroes are on the ship, everything looks like the basement of a factory here in LA, full of cheap, white pipes and rusted ladders, to the extent where it never really feels like we are on an actual spaceship. Not to mention, the scenery starts to get a bit redundant, which hurts an already unexciting film.
The budget shows in the action as well. Slagle and Thompson are clearly writing Crossbreed to be in the vein of 80s sci-fi action shooters like Aliens, but all of it is underwhelming. Poor sound FX make the bullets sound like soft raindrops instead of deadly weaponry, undercutting the adrenaline an audience typically feels watching a film with gunshots reverberating through their chest. CGI blood sprays aplenty, with such off-screen violence as Slaughterhouse slicing up a guy with a freaking Samurai sword, but the digital blood leaves everything too clean and neat, and takes the viewer out of the moment. It’s difficult to accept the reality of the situation when Slaughterhouse has just sliced and diced a guy, and doesn’t have a speck of blood on him. And when the selling point of the film is the action, it’s imperative that it feels authentic, or else we might as well just be watching wrestlers play fighting (sorry not sorry, wrestling fans). Because of all of this, Crossbreed is at its best when our heroes are engaged in hand to hand combat, as the choreography is actually pretty solid, but we don’t see this very often, and so it isn’t enough to save the film.
Crossbreed is an odd, er, breed, because it feels like it wants to dive head first into that cheesy, action-horror pool, but the script keeps trying to roll the damn pool cover over and ruin the fun. I say that because Crossbreed is lacking in all of the B-film entertainment you would usually find in this kind of movie that would benefit it tremendously. The uninspiring action can be forgiven with the budget. What is harder to accept is that once the action begins, Crossbreed seems to take itself too seriously, foregoing bad humor and one-liners for awkward exposition with the men blurting out why they took this job, all in an attempt for emotional drama that comes off flat.
And about fifty minutes into the film, Crossbreed again takes a cue from Predator and switches things up, transitioning from an action flick into an action-horror film after the creature (played brilliantly by horror queen Devanny Pinn) escapes and begins systematically killing off the heroes. But once again, rather than exploit the opportunity to thrill the audiences with some creative, or even just gruesome, creature kills, Crossbreed does neither, and instead settles for more plain vanilla, while we’re all hoping for some god damn Rocky Road by that point. The rules for the creature aren’t very consistent either. Sometimes it seems to have the power to freeze the men in their tracks like Medusa, at other times, it can’t. The filmmakers toy with the idea of this so called “biological weapon” evolving and growing stronger, but you’ll be hard pressed to find any evidence of that other than a facial change, without any new abilities to play with in front of the camera. I can say this about the creature though, if the budget went anywhere, it’s here, because she looks fantastic as a cross between the Independence Day aliens and the Creeper from Jeepers Creepers, and so it’s a damn shame she gets all of twenty-five minutes to rampage through the men. Plus, Pinn is captivating in her movements, seducing the audience and the characters with eerie poses and twitches that show how much more frightening this film could have been if given the chance.
So, back to that idea of ambition. I respect the hell out of the filmmakers for attempting something grand and exciting, with real potential for having been an action-packed thrill-ride through a house of horror. But as it stands, the script for Crossbreed is way too ambitious for the budget, cheapening the overall film and making this more of a midday watch on the Syfy channel when nothing else is on instead of a possible summer blockbuster. That being said, Slagle and his team clearly give their best efforts in trying to give the audience a good time, but ultimately fall short of that. Still, I can’t wait to see what Slagle could do with the right resources, and headliner stars that are actually in the film.
Crossbreed releases February 5th from Uncork’d Entertainment on VOD.
By Matt Konopka