Def-Con 4 (1985) — First Wargames, now this

“Do you think that if there was a sailboat I’d be sitting around here breathing radiation?”

Justin’s rating: Can someone catch me up on what happened in Def-Con 1, 2, and 3?

Justin’s review: There are always those movie posters or box art that catch our attention way, way before we ever buckle down to watch those flicks, and Def-Con 4 was one of these for me. I mean, this is a poster I’d gladly have hung up in my college dorm room:

But I also knew that there was no way for the movie to be anywhere good as what my mind imagined from that image. So I hesitated for a long time before finally going, you know what? I need to put this to rest. Good, bad, it needs to get done.

So it’s the 407th day of a mission aboard the Nemesis, a spaceship carrying three crew members. Everyone on the ship is starting to fray at the edges. It gets much worse when World War III breaks out as they’re far away, sparking nuclear war across the planet. By the time that they crash-land back on Earth, the astronauts discover that the survivals have jumped right into “kooky themed cannibal bands” because it’s like day 3 after the apocalypse and what else are you going to do?

The official movie response for this radical shift in civilization is that germs have been affected by the radiation to become super-germs or something. Those have infected people and turned them into crazy “Terminals,” and the ones that stayed sane are now led by some weenie college kid named Gideon.

It turns out that Gideon — who you truly do want to hit with a decaying halibut about ten seconds after you meet him, as he’s so grating — was the one who changed the programming on the Nemesis to land near him. His goal is to find a “survival station,” whatever that is, and he needs the ship to tell him where one is.

The two surviving crew members attempt to escape the clutches of Gideon before the single nuke that they brought down with them goes off in 60 hours. You might think that this sounds like a tense nail-biter of a setup, but really, once the Nemesis arrives back on Earth at minute 20 into this movie, it gets duller than dirt.

And I’m sorry, but we’re talking about Canadians here who turn into these crazed tribal lunatics. Canadians. The far more realistic scenario is that the survivors would still be playing hockey, brewing some replacement beer, and politely inviting any wandering spacemen into their dens.

I think it would’ve been a much better movie had the entire story taken place on the spaceship in a no-win scenario between staying in outer space indefinitely and returning to a ruind world. But by throwing us into a lame Mad Max rip-off, Def-Con 4 removes its only interesting plot point in exchange for bad acting and a low-stakes march to the end credits.

I guess I can give the filmmakers credit for doing the best with an obviously limited budget here. However, Def-Con 4 lacks a strong character witness to testify on its behalf, so it remains nothing more than a cool poster in my mind.

Didja notice?

  • Nothing like your girlfriend calling you up long distance to say that she’s already thinking of you as dead, but, you know, she hopes for the best
  • The woman in the locked basement
  • Running back and forth over a Terminal
  • Vinnie’s last words are kind of pathetic

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