Canadian director Lowell Dean’s films are terrific works of homage, modern takes made by and for lovers of 1980s direct-to-video and drive-in fare. He and his ensemble cast and crew made a big splash on the film festival circuit with the horror comedies WolfCop (2014) and Another WolfCop (2017), and with their new effort SuperGrid, they look to do for post-apocalyptic action movies what those first two movies did for lycanthropy flicks.
WolfCop franchise star Leo Fafard again toplines here in another outstanding job, this time as Jesse, a man struggling to survive in a futuristic, earthquake-plagued Canada where a deadly airborne virus called The Black Lung is devastating the population, turning its victims mad while slowly killing them. Jesse’s brother Deke (Marshall Williams) does contraband runs on the titular stretch of road between Canada and the United States, a deadly No Man’s Land filled with nasty villains happy to rob, kill, and do much worse to those who would brave traveling it. Deke convinces a very reluctant Jesse to help him on a final run.
Standing in their way are an assortment of villains, including Jonathan Cherry (another WolfCop alum, in a marvelous performance) as highly placed gangster Lazlo, and Jay Reso — well known to professional wrestling fans as Christian in the WWE and Christian Cage in Total Nonstop Action Wrestling (TNA) — in an adept, nuanced performance as King Kurtis, leader of an outlaw group. Luckily, our heroes have some help, including Jesse’s ex-wife North (Natalie Krill) and her security partner Owl (Daniel Maslany).
Any true post-apocalyptic road film should be filled with vehicle chases, run-ins with all manner of nasty sorts, and a certain amount of gunpowder. SuperGrid delivers on all fronts. Dean and his special effects crew come through again, as they did in the WolfCop series, with incredible-looking practical effects. From rotting flesh to shoot-’em-up sequences to big explosions, the film provides plenty of adrenaline-inducing thrills.
What puts SuperGrid a notch above many other movies in its subgenre, though, is the touching humanity behind the story and characters, and the fine performances that bring those elements to life. The drama in this story — with the screenplay by T.R. McAuley and Justin Ludwig — feels real and meaty, giving emotional weight to everyone from the two main protagonists to the plague-stricken patients, and earning true emotional investment from viewers. The stars and supporting players alike are all super in their turns, and Dean proves himself equally capable of handling both the most dramatic of moments and the most pulse-pounding of action setpieces. Cinematographer Michael Jari Davidson captures the proceedings with aplomb.
SuperGrid may tread on familiar apocalyptic highway ground at times, but Dean’s vision, McAuley’s and Ludwig’s compelling human characterizations, and the cast’s crackerjack performances make this a must-see effort for fans of the subgenre, and those new to it, as well.
SuperGrid is available on digital and on-demand platforms starting December 18, through Vertical Entertainment in the United States and Raven Banner in Canada.
Joseph Perry is one of the hosts of When It Was Cool’s exclusive Uphill Both Ways podcast (whenitwascool.com/up-hill-both-ways-podcast/) and Gruesome Magazine’s Decades of Horror: The Classic Era podcast (decadesofhorror.com/category/classicera/). He also writes for the retro pop culture website That’s Not Current (thatsnotcurrent.com), Diabolique Magazine (diaboliquemagazine.com), Gruesome Magazine (gruesomemagazine.com), Scream Magazine (screamhorrormag.com), Ghastly Grinning (ghastlygrinning.com), and several other print and online film critique and pop culture magazines.
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