Encrypt (2003)





[Editor Bradley: I came into work at Million Monkey Towers this morning to find that Founder Nate had returned unannounced over the weekend from a two-year sojourn to the jungle temples of northern India. He'd already left again by the time I arrived but there was a sticky note on a PC monitor asking that we post this review. We didn't even know he still had a key to the building.]

Hey, howzit going? Been a while since I've been in the MMT offices, like what you guys have done with the place, love the new couch. [Editor Bradley: Same couch, Nate. We finally had it cleaned.] Anyway, while cleaning out my closet this week I came acoss a stack of loose caseless DVDs in a shoe box with some other computer shit. It took me a minute to remember where these came from but I bought them maybe 12 years ago when my local Blockbuster went out of business. I think I maybe paid just a couple bucks for each one in their everything-must-go sale right before they locked the doors up for good. So, maybe I'll go through them for you all? Yeah, why not, sounds fun? Don't expect much, ok? This isn't really my thing anymore, but I'll give it shot.


Ominous tower of schlock.

Literally grabbing the first DVD on the stack, this 2003 made-for-TV SciFi Channel movie is a terrible way to start. It's cheap, it's dull, it's shot on a Sony camcorder and lit with one of those tree lamps you get at the Dollar Store, and I struggled to remember anything about it ten minutes after I watched it. It's nominally a "post-apocalyptic" movie, but you could cut maybe seven lines of dialogue out and suddenly it would just be a normal "near future" movie.

Anyway, the setting is a post-nuclear war Los Angeles (of course), where all the "starving, cannibalistic, violent survivors" have brilliant white teeth, perfectly groomed hair and beards, and their clothes look like they just threw on some thrift-store leather jackets over whatever the bit-part actors wore to the set from home that day. Oh, and the trash cans in the alley are all on fire, because that's what happens after the nukes fall.


Matte painting stolen from a better movie.

There's a group of survivors, led by Chad McBeefsteak, some ex-Army stud with six gallons of gel in his hair and a suspiciously muscular physique for someone supposedly living in an area where a man would get killed for a rusty can of peaches. Don't waste brain cells on the other survivors, they're only in the opening scene.


Chad McBeefsteak. No, that's not Jeremy Renner, I checked.

Chad gets recruited by a local warlord (some richyrich pre-war billionaire) who lives in a compound in the city. Nice to know even a nuclear war and the total breakdown of civilization hasn't kept the obscenely wealthy from maintaining power over those less fortunate, but I digress. Jeff Bezos here has a proposition for Chad, he wants him to break into another rich guy's pre-war mansion and steal some "priceless" works of art so he can have them for his own collection. Yes, I too question the value of Monet paintings in a post-holocaust wasteland, but who am I to tell Jeff Bezos what to spend his money on?


Rich Dude is evil?

Jeff saddles Chad with a team of four other hired goons to go with him. There's Who-are-You, Random-Dude, Vasquez-from-Aliens, and The Mercenary, the last of whom is a former soldier who has some past connection and some bad-blood with Chad, just because we're going to need some inter-personal drama eventually. These "actors" are the bottom of the barrel, community theater types who hopefully didn't quit their full time jobs for this.


I don't care about any of you.

So the team gears up with their rented prop guns and their Halloween store body armor and heads down into the "wilderness" of nuked LA. The mansion has been long abandoned, the treasures within guarded by a sophisticated pre-war AI defensive system. I get the distinct impression that the producers of this film only had access to maybe three rooms and a single hallway of this house, and had to make it work with different camera angles and dark lighting.


I bet they had this for just a weekend at most.

The house's AI avatar is represented by a pretty Asian woman named Diana, who appears to them as a hologram from time to time as they move deeper into the house. Diana (aka "Encrypt") is essentially a sentient learning program and her motivation is....complicated? She's programmed to protect the house but she's also conflicted by that mission considering her master is long-dead and the world outside is a hellhole.


Diana in her standard outfit.

Diana also seems to have a bit of a crush on Chad, which is not as weird as it sounds, and Chad begins to share those emotions as time goes on. You can tell that Diana sees him as a good man in a bad situation and does her best to keep him from dying from the house's automated defensive systems (which she has surprisingly little direct control over). I don't want to say they "fall in love", but...ok, yeah, they fall in love.


Married to the film's director, not-for-nothing.

There's too many characters for this movie, so we need to thin out the cast in the second act. Who-are-You gets lasered, Random-Dude takes a bullet or three, and Vasquez-from-Aliens literally makes a sandwich for the men before being shot to pieces in a fountain of prop blood and dodgy squib effects. The Mercenary stays alive to the end, because we need to have a foil for Chad.


Can you other guys die already?

Deeper in the mansion's levels, it becomes clear that Jeff Bezos had a hidden agenda all along, he's not as interested in the artwork as he is with some MacGuffin super weapon thingie that he secretly tasked The Mercenary to retrieve for him. Once Chad finds out this (via a sympathetic Diana), he's pissed because he....has morals, I guess? Eh, I suppose I can't complain about it, all movie long they've set up Chad as a guy who has been trying to hold on to a semblance of honor and humanity as everything around him collapses, which makes the clunky contrast between him and the slimy Mercenary as black-and-white as you can get.


They are not friends.

So, clearly, one of them isn't going to make it out of here alive. There's (of course) a lame kung-fu fight in the dark, edited by a coked-up homeless guy, and in the end Chad is the victor. The Merc is stabbed to death, Jeff Bezos shows up and is blown up (?), and global warming is cured (???). Chad is mortally wounded in all this, however, but Diana pops up and...puts him in a cryogenic healing tube as the movie ends? Ok, sure, why not?


Sequel bait!

And yes, I know all this is a rough retread of Resident Evil on a $25k budget with just one camera and a boom mic that keeps clipping out, but it did have a few interesting ideas and the relationship between Chad McBeefsteak and Diana was surprisingly effective. Meh, I've seen worse.


Written in January 2021 by Nathan Decker.



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