I’ve been wanting to see writer/director/star/chauffeur Jason Trost’s “All Superheroes Must Die” (originally working the film festival circuit under the much cooler sounding “Vs”) for some time now. The idea of a gritty superhero movie pitting a small band of vigilantes against their greatest foe in a life-and-death final battle sounds like a swell premise. Turns out, these aren’t non-powered vigilantes as I had expected/wanted, but rather actual superheroes with, you know, superpowers. But because this is a low-budget superhero movie, rather than show off cheesy special effects, Trost has instead written the powers out of the movie. Clever, clever boy, that Trost.
Known primarily as one of the two men responsible for the festival comedy hit “The FP” (in which Trost co-wrote/co-directed/co-starred/co-danced with brother Brandon Trost), Jason Trost goes it solo on “All Superheroes Must Die”. The film is not nearly as campy or cheesy as the title would suggest. It’s in fact a dead-serious movie that opens at night in a small town in the middle of nowhere, following superheroes Charge (Trost), Cutthroat (Lucas Till, who has since graduated to the much more famous superhero team of “X-Men: First Class”), Shadow (Sophie Merkley), and The Wall (Lee Valmassy) as they find themselves dumped into the closed-off town with no memories of how they got there.
It doesn’t take long for the gang to figure out that their not-bestest pal Rickshaw (“Dexter’s” James Remar) is the culprit responsible for their current dilemma. It seems ol Rickshaw has figured out how to block the heroes’ powers, and is holding the small town’s 100 or so citizens hostage. Rickshaw wants to play a game: pit the heroes against other bad guys (and eventually, each other) for the lives of the hostages. Failure means people die in fiery explosions. Or as “fiery” as Trost can manage it. I did mention that Trost is working with a very small budget here, right? As you might expect, there are no elaborate “comic book” action sequences, no CG (or at least, none that I could detect), and the whole thing is shot with unspectacular aesthetics. The film’s biggest “effects” take place during a couple of flashback scenes, which are shot in black and white. That’s about it for fancy.
It’s easy to spot who Trost modeled most of these heroes after. Although they look nothing like their comic book counterparts, my guess is that Trost’s Charge is meant to be the Batman of the group. The tactician, the quick thinker, the one has no room for failure. (Though unlike Batman, ol Charge doesn’t seem to understand the importance of back-up plans.) Which makes Till’s character Robin, of course. Not so sure who The Wall is supposed to be, but Shadow could be Catwoman or … someone not Catwoman. In any case, since the film opens with the heroes already stripped of their powers, the only person I can remember doing anything remotely “superheroic” is Shadow, who disappears at one point in a flashback scene. Well, the camera cuts away and she’s gone, I mean. She doesn’t really disappear onscreen. Like I said, small budget…
You can tell that Trost is trying very hard to be serious, though parts of the movie really undermine his intentions. (For instance, Rickshaw’s henchmen wear thick, cumbersome furry costumes. What’s up with that?) The dialogue features some unintentionally amusing conversations between the foursome, in particular the Charge/Cutthroat as viewed through the prism of Batman/Robin. Though there are some excellent suspenseful moments as Rickshaw jacks up the stakes of each successive “challenge”, the movie’s action sequences aren’t too impressive. It doesn’t help, of course, that only Charge seems to be the only one who has actually punched a bad guy before. Shadow and The Wall, sans powers, are hilariously useless. Cutthroat shows off some skills in one scene, but it’s Charge that, well, takes charge here.
If you found the premise of “All Superheroes Must Die” as intriguing as I did when you first heard about it, I wouldn’t dream of telling you to steer clear of the film. (It’s currently available on VOD via an online retailer of your choice, with the DVD and Blu-ray due out later this month.) I am telling you, though, to keep in mind that Trost is working with a very limited budget, and though the film could certainly have used some lighthearted moments every now and then, the fact that Trost decided on a strictly dead-serious policy is somewhat impressive. And remember how I mentioned that Charge/Cutthroat are essentially Batman/Robin? Well Rickshaw, the villain, is basically the Joker and the Riddler rolled into one. I mean, the guy is homicidal … and he did have henchmen dressed up in furry costumes. (Seriously though, what was up with that?)
Jason Trost (director) / Jason Trost (screenplay)
CAST: Jason Trost … Charge / John
Lucas Till … Cutthroat / Ben
James Remar … Rickshaw
Sophie Merkley … Shadow / Jill
Lee Valmassy … The Wall / Charlie
Nick Principe … Sledgesaw