David Mitchell is no new kid on the block. In the past twenty years Mitchell has had a hand in a wide variety of low budget genre work. First as a Producer on FOOD OF THE GODS II then on the Jesse Venture sci-fi vehicle ABRAXAS and most recently as Cinematographer on the Robert England flick HEARTSTOPPER. For UKM, Mitchell steps behind the lens and into the director’s chair to helm an interesting—if ultimately flawed—look at a government experiment gone horribly wrong.
Essentially borrowing a cue or two from FOOD OF THE GODS II and SOLDIER, you can always count on a secret government lab to unleash a hellish beast. In the case of UKM, the Army is in need of some new recruits and they’re willing to create genetically what king and country can’t provide for in volunteers—drive, skill and a thirst for blood. When a group of unsuspecting new misfits decide to join up, they’ll fast find out that being all you can be is a dangerous prospect if you can’t control your killer instincts.
Although the premise is nothing new, and the execution of the film is uneven at best—often slipping from lighthearted comedy to unnecessary romantic tangles—UKM still offers the casual viewer a few brief glimmers of hope. Most come in the form of Michael Madsen (KILL BILL) who—I can’t for the life of me figure out—came to be cast in this project. Now, to be fair, Madsen is hardly acting here—mostly he growls, barks orders and looks genuinely like he’s enjoying picking up this paycheck—it’s still fun to watch him chew a little scenery every now and then. The rest of the cast is made up of some varying degree of post adolescent stereotypes, The Nerd, The Shy Girl, The Dope Fiend and the Rebel Chick. It’s almost like watching THE BREAKFAST CLUB does ROTC. The only standout performance in the crew is Erin Mackinnon whose Carrie suffers the first casualty of the scientists’ wicked scheme. It was a shame to see her go, leaving the film to rest on a lesser field of thesps and a killer that stepped right out of Duke Nukem.
Visually, the film looks great. Cramped up, tight in quarters, the cast runs from room to room in the underground bunker, trying to save their lives as they realize that they too have been altered—though some more than others. The pace works like gangbusters for the first 60 minutes and the film starts to feel more and more like a first person shooter than your standard super action/horror film. Even though I think this set up works in the confines of the film, it’s also the major drawback here as the repetition grows tiresome and the idea that every beat or two, the scrambling cast is bound to run into a new fright or fight, continues ad nauseam. By the closing credits the film has run out of ideas and the final battle is shockingly tame. The climactic escape sequence is also clearly hampered by the films budgetary constraints and would have best been left on the cutting room floor—forcing the filmmakers to make some kind of more acceptable conclusion to plight of the survivors.
UKM might be derivative, I could list a dozen or more films, both high and low brow that hit all the same markers, but that doesn’t make it terrible. However, it clearly suffers from the tight reins of cash flow when it needs it most and the villain is more tragic than terrifying which, leaves the whole of the film laying in the hands of four fairly inexperienced actors and one Reservoir Dog who gets neutered far to soon.