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by Eli Kroes

You might not be familiar with the term 'Z-Movie,' but if you grew up in the 90's, chances are you've seen one. They're the beyond-low-budget monstrosities that teased you from the walls of the mom-and-pop video store. Usually, the films themselves could never live up to the pictures on the videotape boxes (because this was way before your fancy 'Digital Video Discs' and 'Blu-Rays') but occasionally you'd find something truly unique. 'WEIRDO FLICKS' will clue you into some movies which 'unique' doesn't even begin to describe...

'Split' - 1989, Directed by Chris Shaw

This film seems to have nothing but bad reviews, unfortunately. Of course, that's never stopped me from watching a movie before! And, really, this is some pretty good stuff if you like 80's sci fi or things with a cyberpunk feel to them.

For those who don't know, cyberpunk is basically futuristic, dystopian sci-fi that revolves around the use of jury-rigged technology, and often involves characters 'going inside' computers or the internet. I don't know how to explain it better than that. It is very fast-paced usually (except 'Blade Runner') and has lots of neat gadgets. Other mainstream examples would be the first 'Terminator' movie and 'The Fifth Element.'

While 'Split' might have a MUCH smaller budget than any of those films, director Chris Shaw does what he can to pull you into his world. I think he did a great job.

Right away we are introduced to a homeless, possibly crazy man who is being watched by the government/corporation/Big Brother. It is never specified as one or the other, but this adds to the mystery of the film.

Supposedly, he is one of the few people without a 'file,' so they want to track him and tag him basically. They assume he is a schizophrenic homeless man who simply slipped through the cracks, when in reality he is a master of disguise who is planning on contaminating the drinking water with a mystery drug.

He plays a number of characters to avoid these all-seeing officials, while they track him with a number of high-tech gadgets and cyborgs. Crazy electronic music and 80's CGI happen throughout.

The film has a very anti-authority, pro-diversity message, and you are left to decide the ending for yourself (which isn't necessarily a bad thing in this case.) Basically, it's a neat little tech thriller made on a shoestring budget, and if you're into bigger-budget versions of this, you can't go wrong here.

It's not really cheesy, and it almost never drags...there are even a couple laugh-out-loud moments. Plus, the main character is zany and likable. Recommended, at least by me.

Plus, it's one of those out-of-print things that find their way on YouTube:

VHS photo by Toby Hudson.