Skip to content

Plot: behold the new model to fight the cyborg oppressor.

Once upon a time Hawaiian shlockmeister Albert Pyun directed Nemesis (1992), a low budget action movie that placed film noire characters in a dystopian cyberpunk setting with the style, swagger, and gunplay of some of John Woo’s best explosive Hong Kong heroic bloodshed features. It liberally lifted ideas and concepts from James Cameron’s The Terminator (1984) and gave them a HK bend. With the arrival of Nemesis 2: Nebula (1995) and the induction of Sue Price the series took a turn for the worse – something from which it never recovered. For those who thunk Nemesis 4: Cry Of Angels (1996) was the ultimate insult and the lowest the series would sink, Nemesis 5: The New Model pulls the once-glorious franchise to previously unimaginable new lows. With Albert Pyun executive producing (more of a symbolic honorary title instead of anything substantial) and Lincoln, Nebraska micro-budget one-man-industry Dustin Ferguson directing Nemesis 5: The New Model (Nemesis 5 hereafter) makes one cardinal mistake. That is considering the Sue Price episodes canonical. If Nemesis 4: Cry Of Angels (1996) effectively buried the franchise for 21 years, then the nostalgia-driven grab-around Nemesis 5 will ensure it remains that way for the next twenty, or so, years.

Nemesis (1992) was an introspective musing on life and what it meant to be human – and when it wasn’t, it was a hyper-stylized explosive HK action movie with a cyberpunk aesthetic and literal acres of skin, both of male and female persuasion, on display. The Nemesis sequels with Sue Price were nowhere near, or at all for that matter, as thoughtful or nuanced as the original. They weren’t written by David S. Goyer after all. The depth and subversive elements that Goyer brought to the original were conspicuous only by their absence. For Nemesis 5 apparently nobody bothered dissecting the original and why it worked as well as it did a quarter century ago. When a franchise doesn’t produce a sequel in over two decades there’s probably a very good reason for it. After Nemesis 4: Cry Of Angels (1996) even Albert Pyun thought it was high time to relegate the franchise to much deserved obscurity. Nemesis 5 is not that long overdue sequel or soft reboot to restore the long-suffering series to its rightful glory. Instead Nemesis 5 is a crushing disappointment. A cruel and sobering reminder that good things not always come to those who wait. If this was meant to be a symbolic passing of the torch, Nemesis 5 is a stark and abject failure on all fronts.

It is the year 2077. Humanity has been enslaved by the cyborg oppressor. The Red Army Hammerheads control all aspects of life, but the arid wastelands are overflowing with dissent and rebel enclaves are omnipresent. In the ruins of civilization once-fearsome bounty hunter Alex Sinclair (Sue Price) continues the grassroots insurgency. After her parents are killed in an attack young Ari Frost (Joelle Reeb) seeks out Sinclair and becomes her student. In the years that follow Sinclair tutors Frost to become her successor thus earning the tag of The New Model. Once she has come of age The Red Army Hammerheads realize that Ari Frost (Schuylar Craig) poses a threat against their power structures once she kills one of their operatives (Daiane Azura) in a hotelroom. Henceforth the Hammerhead strategists/controllers Lt. Telecine (Robert Lankford) and Sgt. Telecine (Jennii Caroline) dispatch the bounty hunter twins (Breana Mitchell and Lia Havlena) as well as Nebula (Zach Muhs) to dispose of her. Ari is ordered to take down a reclusive Red Army Hammerhead leader (Mel Novak), but he won’t be going down without a fight and is constantly guarded by his trusted partner Barbarella (Dawna Lee Heising). Aiding Frost in her seek-and-destroy mission are Eve (Crystal Milani), Dan (Daniel Joseph Stier, as Daniel Stier), and Edwin (Edwin Garcia).

That the above plot summary reads nothing like an Albert Pyun Nemesis movie was expected. That it would get the most established basics wrong is far more damning In the original Nemesis (1992) LAPD cop Alex Rain was a police detective tasked with tracking down Red Army Hammerheads information-terrorist cells. On one such mission he suffered grievous bodily harm and his handler convinced him to defect to the Red Army Hammerheads camp. In changing his alliances Rain drew the ire of his former employers and was hunted by a cybernetic infiltration unit disguised as his direct superior in an attempt to dispose of him. It’s later revealed that the police and government have been mechanized by the cyborg oppressor, and the Red Army Hammerheads are in fact the last bastion of human resistance.

In the sequels, set several decades after the original, genetic descendant Alex Raine (later Sinclair) is transported to 1980s Africa where she’s first chased by Nebula, cybernetic bounty hunters Lock and Ditko, and much later an upgraded Farnsworth. No mention is made of the Impact clan, nor are there any references to Ramie (Ursula Sarcev) and Sinclair’s tribe of half-sisters from Nemesis 3: Time Lapse (1996). Nemesis 2 to 4 never managed to resolve their overarching plotline, and Nemesis 5 does so by glossing over the particulars. There’s a gender-swapped re-enactment of the “goddamn terrorist” scene from Nemesis (1992) but it makes little to no sense even in its present context. The remainder of Nemesis 5 is piss-poor on just about every conceivable level. In short, this is an exercise in tedium and futility that bears little to no semblance to the series it’s continuing.

If anything Nemesis (1992) was not afraid to be sexy. Olivier Gruner was bare chested for at least a quarter of the movie. Deborah Shelton, Merle Kennedy, Marjean Holden, Marjorie Monaghan, Jennifer Gatti, and Borovnisa Blervaque had something for everybody. The only good thing to come from Nemesis 5 on that end are Schuylar Craig and stuntwoman Crystal Milani, both of whom would be right at home with Rene Perez. The only star, nominal though it may be, that Nemesis 5 was able to afford is Dawna Lee Heising who (pre-plastic surgery) famously had an uncredited bit part as a showgirl in Blade Runner (1982), as a priestess in Big Trouble in Little China (1986), and a number of famous TV shows. The obligatory faded American star is martial arts veteran Mel Novak who has several decades of pulp to his credit. In that capacity he appeared in, among many others, in respectable fare as The Ultimate Warrior (1975), Game of Death (1978), and Force: Five (1981), Moonbase (1997), to direct-to-video action/science-fiction fodder as Future War (1997), Samurai Cop 2: Deadly Vengeance (2015), and Dustin Ferguson’s latest attempt at a franchise, RoboWoman (2019).

Nemesis (1992) never let its creativity be restricted by the budget, Nemesis 5 on the other hand is dictated entirely by its budget – or complete lack thereof. To dispense with the obvious, Nemesis 5 is cheap, shot on video cheap. This makes the oeuvre of Rene Perez look like Stanley Kubrick and Neil Johnson like Michael Bay. It was so cheap that it couldn’t afford neither director of photography George Mooradian nor composer Anthony Riparetti (although he’s involved as sound designer). It slavishly follows the template of the Pyun-written sequels with Sue Price, and never quite seems to grasp just what made Olivier Gruner headed original a modest hit on home video.

More often than not Nemesis 5 feels like a very bad piece of fanfiction. And it looks like it too. Nemesis (1992) had some hard-hitting and explosive action that clearly took after Hong Kong heroic bloodshed and bullet ballet. Nemesis 5 has random nobodies, faded once-somebodies, and pseudo-goth chicks standing around in the Nebraska desert holding dollar store props with a red or a green filter for that futuristic look. The action was more explosive and convincing in Ugandan action-comedy Who Killed Captain Alex? (2010) as were the martial arts for that matter. Nemesis 5 is amateurishly shot, badly choreographed, terribly written, and acted even worse. It’s the ultimate insult to anybody who ever followed the Nemesis series in any capacity for the last two decades and counting.

If there’s one thing that Nemesis 5 does right it’s that it, rightly, decries the increasingly totalitarian state of the US government, the increase of the police state, and the rampant militarization and systemic unaccountability of its law enforcement. It’s absolutely the last place where you’d expect to find a leftist, anarchistic agenda. Schuylar Craig couldn’t possibly be expected to carry this thing and the brunt of the blame for this unmitigated fiasco falls squarely on the shoulders of Dustin Ferguson and writer Mike Reeb. They completely dropped the ball on this one. Nemesis 5 not only lacks just about everything that the Albert Pyun original (and the three sequels of increasingly diminishing returns) had – but apparently forgot what this series was about.

The fifth episode of any series is usually where the bolts and nuts come loose, and things are no different here. Nemesis 5 is the malformed offspring of the series, the abomination of which nobody speaks, and the unspeakable atrocity from which there’s no return. In other words, Nemesis 5 stands among universally loathed cinematic abortions as Friday the 13th: A New Beginning (1985), Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers (1989), Hellraiser: Inferno (2000), and Terminator Genisys (2015). As with many of these ventures, nostalgia can be a dangerous thing. Nemesis 5 is, as the great philosopher James Hetfield once put it, the thing that should not be.

Plot: supernatural murderer spreads terror in metropolitan Newcastle.

Great Britain has a rich and storied history in horror and cult cinema spanning several decades. In the fifties and sixties Hammer Film dominated the market. Amicus and Tigon came close behind but only flourished when Hammer began ailing in the seventies. Independent producers as Peter Walker and Norman J. Warren went for a sexier, bloodier route updating the horror conventions that the old houses had used so well for the new times. In the late eighties and nineties Nigel Wingrove (from Salvation and later Redemption Films) and Alex Chandon were tipped as the next greats of British horror. What do these two very different men have in common? They both were involved with emerging extreme metal band Cradle Of Filth at one point or another. Wingrove had provided artwork and art direction to the Filth’s “The Principle Of Evil Made Flesh” and “Dusk… and Her Embrace” albums as well as the “V Empire” EP. Wingrove made a name for himself on two seperate occassions. First with his 18-minute short Visions of Ecstasy (1989) that was banned on release on charges of blasphemy and would remain so until 2008 when blasphemy laws were finally repealed. Secondly with his irreverent nunsploitation romp Sacred Flesh (2000). Since forming Redemption Films in 1993 it has specialized in obscure Eurocult and hard-to-find erotica.

Compared to the more cerebral Wingrove, Alex Chandon was cut from a different cloth entirely. Chandon made a name for himself in the micro-budget, shot-on-video school of filmmaking and picked his players coming from various counterculture scenes. He debuted with the 7-minute short Chainsaw Scumfuck (1988), inspired by The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974) and Friday the 13th (1980), and from there graduated into the 36-minute long Bad Karma (1991) and the futuristic Drillbit (1992). Before Cradle Of Fear there was the lovably bonkers Pervirella (1997) and four years later Chandon would at long last debut proper with this feature. In 1999 Chandon directed the Cradle Of Filth music video ‘From the Cradle to Enslave’ as well as the home video “PanDaemonAeon” and two years later the videos for ‘Her Ghost in the Fog’ and the Sisters Of Mercy cover ‘No Time to Cry’ plus another home video in the form of “Heavy, Left-Handed and Candid”. That collaboration was extended with Chandon offering Cradle Of Filth frontman Dani Lloyd Davey the starring role in the similarly named Cradle Of Fear with other then-members in cameo parts.

Allegedly an anthology inspired by the Amicus production Asylum (1972) from director Roy Ward Baker, Alex Chandon’s Cradle Of Fear is a showreel for the Creature Effects team who have since become an institution in modern Hollywood. Cradle Of Filth have since the most successful British metal band since Iron Maiden, if Metal Hammer is to be believed. Meanwhile Alex Chandon remains in London and is as much of an obscurity and humble unknown as he has ever been. Cradle Of Fear is, for lack of a better description, an extension and expansion upon Chainsaw Scumfuck (1988), Bad Karma (1991) and Drillbit (1992) - and, sadly, suffers from pretty much the exact same defects as those earlier shorts did. Even by forgiving standards of micro-budget, shot-on-video splatter-horror Cradle Of Fear has little more to offer than a veritable gallery of gratuitous gore and wanton depravity with the absolute thinnest veneer of story.

Roaming the streets of Newcastle upon Tyne is The Man (Dani Lloyd Davey, as Dani Filth) in search of a number of very specific (and other quite random) victims. In a goth nightclub he spots sex kitten Melanie (Emily Booth, as Emily Bouffante) and before long they retreat back his place and the two spent the night together. The day after Emily wakes up back in her apartment, not sure how she got there and what exactly happened to her the night before. She starts to have strange hallucinations walking around town and asks her friend Nikki (Melissa Forti) if she can sleep at her studio. Mel takes a sleeping pill (with more booze, of course) and starts to have stomach cramps and strange belly bulges. Mel has Nikki examine her stomach and the two girls meet their gruesome end as the demon spawn from The Man bursts from Melissa’s belly. First at the crime scene is low-rent and disgraced police inspector Peter Neilson (Edmund Dehn) who immediately feels up the lifeless body of Melissa. Supposedly because he has a supernatural gift of some kind (which is, of course, never mentioned again), but more pressingly because it reminds him of an old case. One he very much would like to forget…

In another part of town small-time crooks Sophie (Rebecca Eden) and Emma (Emma Rice) decide to burglarize the apartment of an old man (Al Stokes). The two bicker back and forth so much that they ignore the obvious fact that the elderly man is still very much at home. The world’s worst prepared robbery goes horribly, terribly awry when Sophie and Emma are attacked by the man defending his property and end up killing him in the fracas. Instead of checking the state of their victim they decide to take a bath on the premises. Once the two have soaped each other up Sophie - apparently the more upwardly mobile of the ditzy dames - turns on Emma and kills her in cold blood. Thinking the spoils of the robbery are hers for the taking Sophie gets her comeuppance from beyond the grave as she’s beset by the reanimated corpses of the studio’s occupant as well as her former partner, neither of whom are prepared to let bygones be bygones. At this point Neilson finds enough circumstantial evidence to link the current spate of homicide to Kemper (David McEwen), a detainee in Fenham Asylum in Kettering, but he has no solid proof to substantiate his findings. His superior officer chief inspector Roper (Barry Lee-Thomas) is none too pleased with his performance and urges him to crack the case.

Nick (Louie Brownsell) has erectile problems ever since losing his leg. His girlfriend Natalie (Eileen Daly) is accomodating to his disability but Nick wants nothing more than to be “a whole man” again. One day he does find a donor. His doctor operates on him and Nick is restored to his former state. Nick and Natalie have never been happier, until one day Nick’s donor leg starts having a mind of its own. The leg kills Nick and Natalie in a violent car crash. Meanwhile Inspector Neilson has taken to Kemper’s cell in Fenham Asylum where he finds a list of all his targets, himself included. Kemper is going after everybody who was behind his conviction and incarceration. Richard (Stuart Laing) works for an internet monitoring company and investigates dubious web content for a living. One night Richard happens upon The Sick Room, a live video service where customers can order custom-made homicide within the room. Richard is apprehensive of The Sick Room but soon is addicted to the sheer depravity of it all. One day he’s not ordering a custom-made murder from the web, but thanks to some intervening from The Man he IS the custom-made murder. It’s revealed that Richard was in fact Neilson’s son. Things come to a head at Fenham Asylum when Neilson confronts Kemper with The Man hiding in plain sight disguised as an armed guard leading to a bloody stand-off. Neilson is able to kill both Kemper and The Man but not without suffering a (very much implied) bloodsoaked, graphic demise himself. To nobody’s surprise, The Man (who has been orchestrating all the carnage up to this point) is Kemper’s son…

While Cradle Of Fear is superior to anything Chandon had done at that point, the writing - or lack thereof - is still the biggest sore point. All of the characters (except maybe Emily Booth and Melissa Forti in the first vignette) are unlikable to say the least. Dani Lloyd Davey’s The Man is so much of an abstract that the last-minute revelation that he’s Kemper’s son begs the question why the relationship wasn’t explored to any degree during the preceding two hours. The Man is central to the plot and there isn't a single motivating factor behind anything he does. He's a harbinger of doom, certainly - but there's nothing to go on. Not a name, or a backstory. Chandon’s screenplay offers the bare minimum in terms of story and what little plot there is exists merely to facilitate a number of gory setpieces in an anthology format. The four vignettes, lest we be remiss to mention, barely seem to have any connection to the main story. The framing story remains unresolved and goes nowhere. At no point during its two-hour runtime does Cradle Of Fear bother to explain why Kemper goes after a goth girl, two small-time crooks, a disabled person, and an internet addict; nor how The Man figures into his masterplan. Neither inspector Neilson nor The Man, the nominal leads in the feature, are given any kind of identifiable character traits, let alone that they undergo any development. Most ancillary characters aren't even named and those that are barely exist for any other reason than to be killed in some far-fetched fashion.

Despite its low-budget nature and grimey aesthetic there a few well-known faces to be found in the cast. Stuart Laing is a regular on British television with roles in Berkeley Square (1998), Cambridge Spies (2003), Holby City (2004-2008), and EastEnders (2006–07). Al Stokes was in the Aphex Twin video ‘Come to Daddy’. Eileen Daly appeared in music videos from Soft Cell and from there out carved a place in low – and micro-budget cinema with Nigel Wingrove’s Sacred Flesh (2000) as a lone highpoint. Emily Booth appeared in Event Horizon (1997), Pervirella (1997), and Sacred Flesh (2000) and was one of the hosts of video game show Bits (2000). One of Booth’s career highlights came with an appearance in the “Don’t” trailer of the Robert Rodriguez-Eli Roth exploitation homage Grindhouse (2007). She worked with Chandon again on Inbred (2011), his first feature in a decade, and a homage to the backwood horror of Tobe Hooper’s The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974) and Wes Craven’s The Hills Have Eyes (1977).

Cradle Of Filth fanatics will recognize Emily Booth and Eileen Daly from the ‘From the Cradle to Enslave’ music video and David McEwen (with the voice of Doug Bradley) from the ‘Her Ghost in the Fog’ video. Cradle Of Fear was as much a promotion tool for Alex Chandon as it was for Cradle Of Filth who contributed the instrumentals ‘At Gates Of Midian’ and ‘Creatures That Kissed in Cold Mirrors’ as well as ‘Lord Abortion’ and ‘Danse Macabre’ to the score. Anna Haigh has since become a much in-demand costume graphic – and concept artist in Hollywood. The same goes for Creature Effects who have worked on some of the biggest blockbusters in recent memory. Director Alex Chandon hasn’t produced a feature since Inbred (2011). It's not that Cradle Of Fear was in any short on ideas, but the anthology format didn't permit for any to be developed in any meaningful way. We'd love what could have become of the body horror vignette with Emily Booth, or the Tesis (1996) and 8MM (1999) inspired piece of found footage and torture-porn that the The Sick Room vignette could have been.

Empire Magazine called Cradle Of Fearthe best British gore film since Hellraiser. While there’s certainly an abundance of gore to be found in Cradle Of Fear to put it on the same plain as Hellraiser (1987) is just a tad too hyperbolic to do justice to either. Hellraiser (1987) was a clever and imaginative piece of subtextual horror full of arresting imagery and introduced iconic master villain Pinhead to the world. Cradle Of Fear has slumming actors, buxom babes in the buff, and a slew of unknown non-actors dying overwrought, excessively bloody deaths in a barely coherent screenplay that at no point manages to establish a narrative the way it’s typically understood. At no point does Cradle Of Fear provoke any sense of dread or tension, let alone that it inspires fear of any kind. Certainly there’s plenty of tedium to be had. It’s a farcry from the Victorian finesse of Hammer, the knickers-and-knockers exploitation of Peter Walker and Norman J. Warren and this is the last place to look for a heir apparent to Barbara Steele or Candace Glendenning. If only this was as entertaining as Pete Walker’s proto-slasher The Flesh and Blood Show (1972). Had Cradle Of Fear been half as long, twice as fun and functioned as the special effects showreel and investor prototype it ought to have been, then Alex Chandon would’ve been able to produce the feature this was probably meant to be.