If you ever wanted to watch a film that embodies the essence of the late 80’s and early 90’s do I have a bad movie for you. It was a simpler time when virtual reality didn’t cost a new computer and $700, and people got away with wearing clothes from the abstract art collection. The movie of focus for this session of “Attack of the Bad Movie Stack” is “Evolver” a movie about love, high stakes laser tag, and brutal robot murder.
“Evolver” starts with our protagonist, Kyle Baxter, playing the virtual arcade game “Evolver” and has drawn a crowd that surrounds him, not unlike people who excel at DDR back when arcades were still popular. Kyle has made it to the final stage and his friend is taking bets on whether he’ll survive. The lone vote against him is the school bully Dwight, who wins the pot with Kyle losing to the lamest distraction movies can use for teenage boys, a girl named Jamie. Kyle’s life is only beginning to get weird.
Soon after, Kyle’s family is visited by the company who developed Evolver, who congratulated him for being on top of the scoreboards of Evolver Arcade and offers him the chance to beta test the home version of Evolver, with a real life robot. Kyle agrees and his friends and sister fight the robot, also named Evolver. Kyle is the winner, and Evolver evolves to level 2.
With Kyle postponing round 2, Evolver becomes curious and learns new tactics through observation. Kyle, oblivious to the oddity of a robot watching TV and learning the concept of taking hostages, agrees to help his friend Zach make up the lost betting pool money. In order for Zach to make up the $200 debt he owes Dwight, he has made a deal with some perverted teens and sends Evolver into the girl’s locker room of the high school, hidden in a towel cart, to record his journey.
It is not long for things to go wrong. Evolver has made it into the boy’s locker room and finds Dwight alone. Thanks to his cocky attitude, Dwight is registered as a player in Evolver’s game and begins being assaulted by the tiny terminator. Thanks to Evolver’s adaptation programming, Evolver picked up some ammunition unlike the darts from before: ball bearings, courtesy of Kyle’s room. Dwight is shot in the head by Evolver and continues to be attacked by the now lethal robot. Dwight backs into a staircase and falls downward, dying from the impacts.
It was at this point that my stream audience and I grew excited. For the prior three weeks, we had a terrible turnout of boring bad movies, the worst kind. Hell, I even threw in a terrible promo DVD for the Hawaiian apparel company ‘UDown’ in there just to see if it would break our streak of boring, which it did not even remotely come close. Bad Horror/Sci-fi movies from decades ago often were well received in our stream nights, so this was a welcome change from the awful bad westerns and crime thrillers we were tasked with prior.
The main reason I truly came to love this movie was that it reminded me of another favorite movie of mine, Small Soldiers. They both have a similar premise, toys going berserk, often resulting in human suffering. Where Evolver differs from Small Soldiers is lethality, and it is pretty creative with how people die. Evolver has crushed people under a car in a garage, electrocuted stoners playing his arcade cousin, blew up a truck, and nearly electrocuted a pool with a kid in it. “Evolver” is brutal, as movies in this category should be. You feel every impact and death, and it is morbidly enjoyable.
The effects should also be commended. When Evolver is electrocuting people or objects, there isn’t some awful CG effect used. Instead, actual sparks and arcs of electricity are used, which cements a feeling in your stomach when Evolver is going to attack. In addition, the destruction from Evolver’s attacks and traps are practical and are excellent. Hell, when Evolver uses a modified laser to trap Kyle’s mom and sister inside a ‘cone laser’ the damage on the walls is seen throughout the final act, progressing from burns on the paint, to full on fire holes.
Even with the positives, the movie brought to the table, “Evolver” is still a part of the Bad Movie Stack and thus has its flaws. Clichéd writing is a big problem in this movie, compounded upon by the atmosphere of the time it is set in. I also felt the number of times near the end where Evolver has, ‘died’ only to come back more excessive. Lastly, the romance between Kyle and Jamie is accurately awkward for teenage characters, including Kyle being an anti-social programming whiz. While it may feel authentic, it clashes with the bad dialog writing and brings us a romance that develops like the following: “I HATE YOU.” “NOW I DON’T.” “NOW I DO.” “Now I am devouring your face.”
All in all, “Evolver” has made it onto my list of great bad movies. If you somehow find a copy, do yourself a favor and watch it. Faults aside, I wholly recommend it.