'Metal Shifters' is kind of a disingenuous name for a movie about metal that doesn't so much shift as it does scuttle, but 'Metal Scuttlers' sounds more like a funny band name than a movie. However, on IMDb this movie is listed under the title 'Iron Invader' so I guess it doesn't matter what you call it. And as you may have guessed it doesn't matter if you see it either.
'Metal Shifters' is another movie in the long line of dopey SyFy Channel movies where bad special effects try to kill people. Here a giant robot terrorizes a town in Idaho that, I'm not kidding, only has around 10 or so residents.
The story of how the robot became a blood-thirsty (literally wink, wink) killer metal being is fairly hilarious so I'll start at the beginning. Jake (Kavan Smith) is a lowly contractor who works with his brother Ethan (Colby Johannson). They're having trouble paying all their bills for the business, but that all changes when they witness a chunk of satellite falling from the sky. They drive out to the crash site to get a peek at the space debris, and then decide it's in their best interest to sell it to the old scrap metal coot around the corner. Earl (Donnelly Rhodes) is the town nutter. Today he's decided he's going to build a Gollum statue out of scrap metal. It stands probably 20-feet tall and looks like a reject from 'Real Steel.' How serendipitous of the movie to unite this space junk, which happens to be infected with a space bacteria, with a gigantic robot just waiting to be controlled by an alien life form. If I didn't know any better I'd swear this was a romantic comedy.
Soon the robot comes to life, but by human-killing standards he's quite tame. With a budget so excruciatingly low, all the robot ever does is stick his giant metal pinchers through a couple windows. While it may not be as showy as Michael Bay's 'Transformers' movies, it's still as brainless.
The townsfolk soon start dying off (at the end the entire population of the town can be counted on one hand) as the robot takes hold of them, changing something in their blood. It's handy that Amanda (Nicole de Boer) is a biologist. She's able to simply ascertain what the bacteria might be and different ways on how they can stop it from controlling the giant metal robot.
All of this leads to a hilarious climax, which would be made all the better if one were inebriated. Hunkered in the town bar, metal pieces of the robot worm their way to the door, trying to get in. They slink, scuttle and roll as the alien bacteria need more and more human sustenance to survive.
From here on out there are spoilers. You've been warned. For those of you who haven't seen the movie and, for some unexplainable reason, wanted to pick it up then all you need to know is that you're in for another boneheaded SyFy original movie. If that's your thing, then 'Metal Shifters' is right up your alley.
For those of you sticking around for the rest of this review, be warned I am going to reveal the end of the movie because I found it so hilariously entertaining that it almost made the 80 minute runtime worth it.
While in the bar, the town drunk and the biologist lament about how horrible the situation is getting. I mean there are tiny metal parts crawling along the ground at them. Who wouldn't be scared, right? Then they start thinking out loud, "What kills bacteria?" I rolled my eyes and laughed. Knowing they were in the town bar, I simply said, "Oh no. Not the alcohol. Are they really going to go there?" Then I thought, "Well, 'Evolution' killed a whole race of evolutionary creatures with shampoo, so I guess anything is possible." After a comical montage of the town drunk pouring everything from hand soap to bleach on the infected metal, he finally gives up. Then he accidentally drops his liquor on some infected metal and after some sizzling the threat is neutralized. It was hard not to laugh; I did, heartily.
'Metal Shifters' can be credited for one thing, ingenuity on a very low budget. See, I have no doubt that if they had the budget this would've turned into a high-powered shootout of epic proportions. Since they didn't have the money to build and destroy a town, they most likely thought, "Hey, we can spare a few bottles of alcohol right? I mean, it doesn't even have to be real alcohol. So we can drink the actual alcohol, fill the bottles with water and call it good." This leads to one of the funniest climaxes I've ever seen in a movie. It's hard to make pouring liquid on metal look exciting, but they sure do try. The leftover townsfolk set about pouring liquor and spraying beer from a keg on any moving pieces of metal as the camera swings wildly like they're in a firefight in Fallujah.
'Metal Shifters' is so moronically dumb, that you really shouldn't waste your time watching it. That is unless you want to see one of the most sidesplitting, amusingly dopey climaxes to have ever been filmed.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
This is an Anchor Bay release. It comes packaged in a standard Blu-ray keepcase and is pressed onto a 25GB Blu-ray Disc. The case indicates a Region A coding.
I wasn't all that impressed with 'Metal Shifters' overly digital look. The 1080p image does feature some nice detail in well-lit scenes, but once the sun goes down it's a different story.
The well-lit scenes feature some great facial detail. Stubble, dimples and even a faint beauty mark on the resident biologist are clearly visible. The digital look never looks cinematic in any way though. Blacks suffer here as they appear flat and crushing. The exterior shots at night are covered in a thick layer of poorly delineated shadows.
The photography of the movie personally bothered me even though it doesn't actually count against the score as a whole. Just know that almost every shot has the camera tilted slightly askew so that the movie seems more exciting than it really is.
In the light colors are bright and vivid. The special effects, on the other hand, are anything but. Yeah, I know it's expected that a SyFy movie is going to have awful special effects, but it has to be mentioned here that 1080p makes them look even worse. There are some pros and cons to this video presentation. Due to its well-produced daylight scenes I'm willing to give it a small bump into the slightly above average category, but there's still a lot of stuff holding it back.
'Metal Shifters' has been given a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 mix to go along with it. Much like the video portion, the audio presentation does some things well, and other things not so well. I was surprised by the amount of ambient sound in the rear speakers during some of the more action packed scenes – like liquor bottles breaking. Sound effects are tinny. Gunshots never sound anywhere close to realistic. The footsteps of the robot produce some LFE, but it's extremely underwhelming considering the robot's actual size. Dialogue is produced with clarity though, and there's some good directionality going on – like when the robot shoves his hand through windows, depending on the placement of the window on screen, the crash is placed in the right channel for the desired effect. There's nothing surprising here, but it's a serviceable, if slightly above average lossless presentation.
I can't say that you should avoid this movie, because it does feature some great laughs if you're up for a terrible movie night. Its laughable climax is something to behold. Truly, you need to see it to believe it. There's some okay work going on with the audio and video presentations here, so watching it won't be a total loss. Although, life is short and there's no sense wasting it watching a movie like this anyway.