Last February we interviewed producer/actor Jeff Kirkendall about his movie Return to Splatter Farm, an independent horror movie that he made with his long time collaborator Mark Polonia at Polonia Brothers Entertainment. Known as PBE for short, the production company has impressively produced & released dozens of movies, including last year’s viral hit Amityville in Space. We asked Jeff to recommend five movies from Polonia Brothers Entertainment that every indie film fan should check out.
Here are his recommendations (from oldest to newest, with watch links & more details):
Hallucinations (1986) Director: Todd Michael Smith, Mark Polonia, John Polonia Starring: Todd Michael Smith, Mark Polonia, John Polonia Description: When three brothers are home alone one day they encounter a series of violent hallucinations and nightmares with seemingly no escape. (Source: Tubi) Click here to watch on Tubi TV
Feeders (1996) Directors: Jon McBride & John Polonia Starring: Todd Carpenter, Jon McBride, John Polonia, Melissa Torpy Description: A town that’s been taken on as a feeding ground and outpost of death by human-eating aliens gets discovered by two buddies on a road trip. (Source: Tubi) Click here to watch on Tubi TV
HalloweeNight (2009) Director: Mark Polonia Starring: Todd Carpenter, Cindy Wheeler, Danielle Donahue Description: A bullied student exacts his revenge on those who wronged him during a college party on Halloween Night. (Source: Amazon) Available to Rent on Amazon
Jurassic Prey (2015) Director: Mark Polonia Starring: Steve Diasparra, Danielle Donahue, Ken Van Sant, Jeff Kirkendall Description: After a botched bank robbery, a group of thieves and the ensuing police must band together to fight an unearthed T-Rex at a remote lake cabin. (Source: Tubi) Click here to watch on Tubi TV
House Squatch (2022) Director: Anthony Polonia, Mark Polonia Starring: Ken Van Sant, Jeff Kirkendall, Tim Hatch, Titus Himmelberger, Yolie Canales Description: The small town of Shadyville finds itself plagued by a hairy creature and pressures its local sheriff to deal with this sasquatch. (Source: Tubi) Click here to watch on Tubi TV
Are you a fan of Polonia Brothers Entertainment? What are your favorite PBE movies?
Cybernetic Showdown from Ian Russell is a micro budget comedy/sci-fi flick about a world overrun by mutants, and the one man that stands in-between them and the last city. The movie stars Tyhr Trubiak, Stephen Washen, and Veronica Ternopolski.
Last month we learned more about Ian Russell’s debut independent film The Killing Death, a micro budget horror comedy. This month we chatted with him about his b sci-fi flick Cybernetic Showdown!
When “mutants invade the last city left on earth. Only one man stands in their way, but he’s running out of bullets.”
When? Cybernetic Showdown was shot in 2007 over nine days at a cost of about $1000 (Canadian). The movie was in post-production hell for 12 years before finally being finished and released in October of 2019. It’s set in a post-apocalyptic future Winnipeg under attack from flesh-eating mutants.
The movie was made the summer following my previous feature, The Killing Death, using much of the same cast but with a bigger scope and ambition. This ambition, combined with a whole bunch of factors kept the movie on various hard drives for so long that I sometimes wondered if it would ever come out. It took Zellco’s interest in The Killing Death to provide the final kick in the pants to complete the movie and get it out there. But before you think that it was just laziness or distraction that delayed Cybernetic Showdown, I’ll present to you the photo of my flame damaged iMac as backup.
Cybernetic Showdown was supposed to have Sega CD FMV game quality visual effects, so much of what was filmed was deliberately done with a “add it in post” mentality. We didn’t bother with a lot of fake blood, we put green screen everywhere, and used some shoddy props, all in the thought that it would look great when finished later. The only problem was that we had no understanding of how long those kind of effects would take. An actor volunteered to do some of the work, but quickly came up against the reality of the monumental task before him. He had a life and a job and could only do so much. So I found help. Things were plugging along fine until the great computer fire that (I thought) wiped out everything done up to that point.
Needless to say I was pretty dejected. I didn’t want to have to re-edit the movie, let alone re-do the few effects that I’d done, but luckily the hard drive was able to be salvaged and work could continue. But time marches on and these things take time. A bit of work would get done but then a major life change would get in the way. Moving out, having a kid, buying a house, changing jobs (multiple times), having another kid, getting married, etc. I couldn’t very well come down on volunteers when this was mostly my fault. So, as YouTube tutorials grew and visual effects work became more intuitive, I learned what I needed to do and started filling in the blanks myself. But the reality is that I never would have been able to get this thing done without local whizkid Ryan Hill, who was paid in expensive vodka and deserved way more.
The movie played in a local theatre to a big audience that shockingly seemed to enjoy it! So, now you can watch it on Amazon Prime and hopefully soon on DVD!
What? Cybernetic Showdown was a mishmash of inspirations, from the obvious (The Omega Man, Rocket Robin Hood, kung fu movies) to the less so (Jesus Christ Vampire Hunter). This was really my attempt at making a goofy 80’s action movie spoof a few years before 80’s nostalgia really kicked in. Some of what we did, like using the Nintendo Power Glove as a substitute for a robotic hand, having a video game themed animation sequence, would be used in other movies while this one was lost in the ether. I’d like to think that we were ahead of the curve, but the reality is that this movie is so tiny that most people would have never seen it had it actually come out when it was supposed to.
Taking what I’d learned from making The Killing Death, I figured I’d expand my vision for a follow up and threw everything I could into this one, all while keeping the cheapness factor foremost in my mind. That meant places I could use for free but looked like they might exist in a post-apocalyptic world.
The story is really meant to be a comedic version of the tough guy action hero trope, so much so that Jimmy is supposed to be knowingly portraying himself as that trope for what he believes is the benefit of the survivors and rookie cops. He’s a bit of a buffoon, but still competent. Every now and again, the armor comes down to show the person behind the eye patch, but not so much that the character isn’t still silly. I don’t know if that meta aspect of the story comes across or if people just look at this as a goofy parody, but as long as they’re laughing, I can’t complain.
Where? The movie is supposed to take place in a post-apocalyptic Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. It’s meant to be funny that the only city left on earth is Winnipeg, but we’re so isolated sometimes that it can feel like we already are. The film was shot in Winnipeg and the surrounding area, including an abandoned quarry, the ruins of a monastery, a dilapidated barn south of town, a local bar, an office, an artists studio, and a shockingly unsafe roof in the downtown.
This time I wanted to be more professional, so I secured a few permits, but that created new complications as it meant that we had much more pressure to get everything we needed on that specific day. It also meant that if something didn’t turn out, I had to roll with it. I’d like to think that considering the budget and what I had access to, I made the best of it, but a movie like this really needs a stronger setting established, and we just couldn’t do large scale crowd scenes or set dressing. You make do with what you have and hope the concept gets across anyway.
Who? I [Ian Russell] wrote, directed, edited, produced, stunt choreographed, acted in, location scouted, etc., Cybernetic Showdown. Pick a job and I probably did it. This time around I wanted more of a “real” crew, and tried to keep people on specific jobs where possible, but things pop up that toss monkey wrenches into the best laid plans. I usually set up the camera and (when we used them) the lights, but a few others helped out as well. One interesting challenge came the day that nobody from the crew showed up! Whatever actor wasn’t on screen had to either hold the camera or the boom (or both!) That was a bit of a disaster, but we made it through. The scene was supposed to be much grander and more action filled but I didn’t have the manpower and had to drastically scale it down. What made it worse was that it was the opening of the movie! So much for the first impression.
Despite my intentions, when you’re relying on volunteers working for food, you have to accept that you’re going to get amateurs and people just looking to learn. Heck, we were learning too, so the whole project was much more laid back and lax than a “real” movie. Of course nothing turned out like I’d imagined. Some of it was actually better (the video game fight scene) but the whole thing was an incredible crash course and I learned so much from my mistakes that I hope I can correct on the next movie.
The visual effects were a hodgepodge of work from many different people. Tyhr Trubiak (the movie’s lead) did some, Ryan Hill did a lot, and I did a few as well. The ease of doing this stuff now versus in 2007 is night and day. There are so many more places to go for help today and the visual effects website Productioncrate was a life saver. I honestly don’t think the movie would have turned out half as well as it did had we been able to finish it in 2007, so maybe the delay was a boon in disguise.
The cast of this one once again rose above the material. The lead was played by Tyhr Trubiak who was just incredible. He was game for anything, from super detailed fight choreography that left him drenched in sweat (and maybe a few pounds lighter) to climbing sheer quarry walls, kissing scenes, getting splashed with water, endless Yop drinks, to even pounding back a Pepsi (which he hates). He was the face of the movie and without him, it falls apart. The rest of the cast were brought back from The Killing Death with Jeremy Dangerfield playing The Frank Computer, Darren Felbel playing the Keeper of the Lore, and Veronica Ternopolski playing the love interest. I loved working with so many great actors and great people and it made the whole thing more of a lark than a serious enterprise.
If you look closely, you’ll see me more than a few times in the movie. That’s because I was needed as a stunt performer. I’m a black belt in Hapkido (although I wasn’t then) and I used some fellow students to take break falls and try to give the fight scenes a bit more of a kick. Some turned out better than others and that was because I was still figuring out how to shoot and stage them as I went. In the years since, I’ve also taken up Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, so I’m pretty sure the next time I do something like this, I could really bring a few cool new tricks to the table!
Why? Cybernetic Showdown was made because we wanted to make another movie after making The Killing Death! I learned so much on that project and made so many mistakes that I (naively) thought I could do much better the second time. I tried to avoid all that went wrong in the first movie with the second. In theory, that was sound, but in practice, it just meant that we made all new mistakes.
I had the camera and equipment already, I knew actors, and could get locations cheap, so why not make a movie? At the time, I saw no reason why I couldn’t be constantly pumping out features with that same group. I had more scripts written and ready to go and was all set to be my own little production unit of no-budget schlock. But then the delays happened and I told myself that I wasn’t going to start something new without finishing the previous project. If I’m being honest, that was just a way to avoid doing more. I thought that I wasn’t going to be like my hero Orson Welles and just leave an endless string of unfinished projects, I was going to be the guy who finishes what he starts, but instead I let that idea take over and didn’t make another feature in all the years that Cybernetic Showdown sat on the shelf. All those scripts are still sitting in my drawer and now that I have completed the long unfinished albatross, I hope to get back on track making more movies.
Unfortunately COVID hit and everything is on hold for now.
Cybernetic Showdown was supposed to be another step in my filmmaking journey. A bigger scope, a grander vision. It was supposed to be another learning opportunity for everyone involved. If things had gone the right way, it would have been a stepping stone to bigger and better things much faster. As it is, it’s a fun, if flawed bit of goofiness that I hope people enjoy without taking too seriously. There will be a novelization coming out in the future that is going to fix a lot of what went wrong, so stay tuned for that! Frank and Jimmy have lots more adventures in my books, so if you like the style of humor you see on screen, you may like those as well.
How? I was about to film another feature before the COVID-pocalype, but that’s been put on hold until the restrictions lighten up a little here. In the twelve years that Cybernetic Showdown sat on the shelf, I was keeping busy publishing books, making YouTube videos, and writing new screenplays. Everything I’ve been doing all connects, so The Killing Deathand Cybernetic Showdown are a part of the same universe, using the same characters. Frank and Jimmy have loads more adventures on the page and will soon (if everything goes well) have even more on the screen.
We are super excited that MHD friend, author, and wrestling expert David Creighton has a an all-new anthology book and will be hosting a virtual book launch tomorrow on Halloween!
Here are the official details about the event: This Halloween, Trent Radio host a virtual book launch with local author, and mental health advocate, David Creighton. Hear excerpts from his new book “Tales from Other Realms” and learn more about his struggle with Bipolar Disorder.
I’ve known about this book being in the works for a while, and even was able to read preview/early versions of the time travel centric “The Grassy Knoll”, the space based “Logic Problems”, and the DND inspired “11”. The shorts are well written and engaging. I highly recommend the book for fans of fantasy, magic, and general wonder.
Here is a rundown of the seven stories that are part of this anthology collection:
METAPHORICALLY SPEAKING Being an Avatar of a trickster god isn’t always easy, or even fun.
ZORRO A new take on the classic legend.
THE GRASSY KNOLL A time traveler is the last hope of a dying future. Can he save the world, before it is annihilated?
TO KILL THE DEAD A Paladin follows his sworn answer, a powerful necromancer, into a deadly swamp. But, the swamp’s residents are just as dangerous, and not very friendly.
JESUS CHRIST: VAMPIRE HUNTER Fanciful, modern horror starring the bad-ass messiah himself.
LOGIC PROBLEMS A man. A machine. A battle against time to solve an unsolvable problem. A lone astronaut, and a damaged AI, must fight not only to save their mission, but their lives. A tense. cerebral, space thriller for those who value the mind over the body.
11 A gaming session hangs on one roll of the die.
The event will begin at 3:00pm pst (6pm est and edt) on Trent Radio, which streams live online at TrentRadio.ca. I can’t wait to hear what David has to say about these new stories!
COMET TV keeps getting and airing awesome classic sci-fi on their free online network! They recently added Space: 1999 (SEE: Journey to Space: 1999!) and air such shows as Stargate SG-1 and Andromeda. Now you can add Babylon 5 into the mix!
The J. Michael Straczynski created show features the crew of the last Earth built space station as it fights for peace and stability in the galaxy. The series starred Bruce Boxleitner, Claudia Christian, Jerry Doyl, Mira Furlan, Richard Biggs, Bill Mumy, Jason Carter, Stephen Furst, Jeff Conaway, Peter Jurasik, and Andreas Katsulas.
Official Description: The year is 2257. Babylon 5 is the last of the five-mile long Babylon space stations built by Earth for peaceful inter-species trade and diplomacy. Babylon 5 is managed by Earth Force and maintains peace and stability in the region during a time of diplomatic tension and even war. The epic five-year tale of Babylon 5 created by J. Michael Straczynski is considered one of the best science fiction television series ever created.
You can watch Babylon 5 everyday at 9am pst and every night at 6pm pst over on COMET TV.
COMET TV just got a little more far out with the addition of Space: 1999 to their Saturday and Sunday night blocks of free programming!
I have not had the pleasure of watching the classic British sci-fi TV series from the 70s, but it has all of the hallmarks that I look for in my b-movie/TV viewings. And I can’t help but love that it is set in 1999, as that is almost right in the middle of when the show aired and present day (and boy was their future wrong!).
In the series, the 311 people that live on Moonbase Alpha’s lives are forever changed when nuclear waste stored on the Moon’s far side exploded and sends them hurtling uncontrollably into space and through black holes and space warps. Over the course of their journey they encounter alien civilizations, dystopian societies, and “mind-bending phenomena previously unseen by humanity.”
Space: 1999 co-starred Martin Landau and Barbara Bain, with notable guest appearances including Christopher Lee, Ian McShane, Peter Cushing, Joan Collins, and Dave Prowse. The series will air back to back episodes Saturday and Sunday nights at 10/9c on COMET TV starting in September.
With Solo: A Star Wars Story now in theaters, talk is ramping up on what will be the upcoming slate of spinoffs (keeping up the new Star Wars/prequel story every other year we have seen since Disney bought the franchise). Thanks to The Hollywood Reporter, talk has turned to a potential Boba Fett spinoff movie, and boy do people have opinions on it.
I remember when word broke about the Han Solo spinoff, it was believed that either Boba Fett would have a large role in it or that there would be an anthology-like quality with two different movies in one. Neither panned out, but here we are again with another rumor about the “biggest disappointment in the universe” Boba Fett (crowned for looking so cool, then being so damn lack luster- Captain Phasma has become a close second). For this reason alone, I’m not against the idea of a Fett movie… maybe, just maybe, he can finally *actually* do something.
I would love to see him in all of his bounty hunter glory (am I the only one that would prefer a whole movie without him removing his mask?) in a bonkers sci-fi western. Don’t make him an anti-hero, just showcase him for who he was. Depending on when it takes place, this gives us a good chance to revisit Alden Ehrenreich’s new Han Solo and fan favorite Donald Glover’s Lando Calrissian. Maybe Lando hires the bounty hunter to track someone down…
If they really wanted to be bold, they could have this be a prequel/sequel to Return of the Jedi– did Boba Fett survive the sarlacc pit? What did he experience in the pit? Where is he now?
I’ve been pretty happy with the newer films, The Force Awakens hit the right notes and The Last Jedi was a bold new direction. Rogue One was an entertaining one off. In the very least, I’d be open to giving Boba Fett: A Star Wars Story a chance.