★1/2 out of ★★★★★
It’s the same team from Zombeavers (2014), but they’re not playing in the same league any more.
Directed by Jordan Rubin
Jordan Rubin’s first feature film, Zombeavers (2014), was a thing of beauty. A heartwarming tale of love and loss exquisitely captured by…. Oh, who am I kidding? It was about girls in bikinis fighting off fake-looking, mutant beavers. Sure, it was John Mayer’s feature film debut, but that’s about as close to stardom as it got.
Don’t get me wrong. When you’re in the mood to watch a dumb movie filled to the brim with cheesy animatronic critters, bad acting, and gratuitous nudity, Zombeavers is the way to go. Which is why I was so happy to hear that the three writers behind Zombeavers (Jordan Rubin, Al Kaplan, and Jon Kaplan) had joined forces once again — with Jordan Rubin reprising his role as director — to give us The Drone (2019).
Now that I’ve seen it my only question is: what the hell happened?!
But let’s circle back a bit. The Drone tells the story of upwardly mobile husband and wife, Chris [John Brotherton; TV’s Fuller House (2016-2018)] and Rachel [Alex Essoe; Doctor Sleep (2019)]. They’ve just moved into a brand new house with all the electronic bells and whistles; life is good.
Meanwhile, in another part of the city, a serial killer known as The Violator [Neil Sandilands; TV’s The Flash (2017-2018)] has been spying on redheaded women with his drone before he abducts them and kills them. Unfortunately for Mr. Violator, the police have tracked him down to his lair. He gets chased up to the roof drone in hand, is struck by lightning, and has his consciousness transferred into the consumer-grade remote controlled electronic device.
As we all know by now, electricity is capable of transferring souls from one container to another. It happened with serial killer Horace Pinker in Shocker (1989) and it played a big part in re-housing Charles Lee Ray’s soul into the Good Guy doll in Child’s Play (1988). I’m not sure why The Violator had to yell out a string of ones and zeroes before getting lit up by fiery bolts from Heaven, but serial killers aren’t known for their rational behavior.
Eventually, the Violator Drone makes its way to Chris & Rachel’s house — as we all knew it would — and quickly begins making a nuisance of itself. Things escalate (as they always do when you’re dealing with mass produced recreational electronic products) and pretty soon there’s a body count, murder investigations, and some inappropriate pictures of the next door neighbor.
As a story idea, it doesn’t sound like it would be super terrible. Automatons run amok! Rise of the machines! Unfortunately, it seems like they didn’t have the budget to do it right so while we should have had a raunchy, immature gorefest we’re left with a tacky, poorly edited waste of time.
Effects-wise — which is where a movie like The Drone should strut its admittedly minimal stuff — the filmmakers took the polar opposite approach to the one they used in Zombeavers. Instead of showing severed limbs and splattered horribleness, most of the nastiness happens either completely off camera or is shown as animated cartoon shadows of what’s supposed to be going on. Case in point, a double decapitation scene. Not only did they not show the action except as a cartoon “shadow” on the wall, but they also never showed the resultant headless bodies. They just had the actors lay on the floor, heads and shoulders offscreen, with a bit of fake blood for good measure.
That’s pretty much par for the course in The Drone, though. If you think someone’s about to get droned and you’ll finally see it happen, guess again. Invariably, they find a way to slip off camera before anything actually happens.
Other aspects of the project suffer just as much as the special effects. The music — while still written by Jon & Al Kaplan — sounds more like a low-budget 80s production than a low-budget production from 2019. In fact, the theme that plays while the Violator Drone is flying around sounds strikingly similar to the theme from Knight Rider. Zombeavers had its own lounge-singer-fronted theme song, for pity’s sake. What happened?
In general, The Drone feels like a slap-dash project knocked out as an afterthought while everyone was actually focussed on their day jobs.
Steer clear of this one. Maybe Jordan Rubin & The Kaplans will get their mojo back for their next endeavor.
Review by Robert Zilbauer.