Black Scorpion II: Aftershock (1997) — Introducing the Gangster Prankster

“The last thing that this city needs is another wacked-out broad in a mask.”

Justin’s rating: Out of batteries on this one

Justin’s review: Yes, I am aware that I have an unhealthy fascination with ’90s superhero movies. I can’t help it; it’s so much more fun to examine the genre when it didn’t have the aid of millions of dollars of CGI and the unquestioning love of legions of fans. No, the nineties was a decade where to be a superhero movie that wasn’t Batman meant you were a straight-up freak of nature. That bears examination.

Today’s subject is Black Scorpion II: Aftershock, the sequel to 1995’s Black Scorpion. If you’re unfamiliar, that starred Joan Severance as Darcy Walker, a cop who moonlights as a leatherclad superhero with the power of whips and high voltage and teenage boy fantasies. She’s also got a car that transforms using electricity, because why not? Trust me, that’s the least weird thing about these movies.

I don’t recall the tone and editing of the first movie, but I can say with newly attained authority that Aftershock may be the most distracting piece of cinema I’ve seen in a while. Literally every single shot involves some crazy camera angle, zoom, Vertigo pull, shaky cam, slow-mo, overclocking, and more. Almost every character has the lens shoved right into their faces when they speak, which is unfortunate because this movie is 87% bad puns.

Add on top of that cartoonish sound effects, jarring musical transitions, and tonal whiplash, and you have the perfect headache delivery system. It’s harder to watch than a Michael Bay movie — and more exhausting, too. With silly characters in tow, you’d assume this would be angling to entertain little kids. That would be true in any other universe than ours, because this movie throws in absolutely bizarre nudity every once in a while. So there’s no demographic suited for this movie. Glad we got that settled.

You people, you have no idea what I put myself through for you. I’m the real superhero here.

Since it’s a sequel, this flick demands twice the threat for our heroine. Angel City’s been suffering seismic shocks for a while, but a professor-type comes up with an anti-earthquake machine to put an end to it. However, her machine is sabotaged by the mayor (who wants structures to collapse so the government can get new building contracts), and she turns into a villain named Aftershock who can touch people and cause… peoplequakes? Aftershock teams up with the Gangster Prankster, who is like when you throw the Joker, Pennywise, and Two Face into a blender and hit “puree.”

To make matters worse, Darcy’s mechanic is kidnapped, her transforming car stolen, and she can’t seem to make her partner realize she’s into him, so her dance card is pretty full. It’s certainly enough to keep the plot moving along in its manic fashion and presenting opportunities for everyone — seriously, everyone — in this movie to overact to the nines. My favorite was the mayor’s inexplicable two lackeys who dress alike and talk in unison.

The action is outright terrible, which is an unforgivable crime in a comic book movie, but there are the occasional, oh so occasional moments of genuine humor that are so weird that they, erm, aftershocked a laugh out of me.

Unbelievable as it is to report, this Roger Corman production wasn’t the end of the Black Scorpion saga. The Sci Fi Channel made a single-season series (with a new actress in the lead role) in 2001, which itself got two follow up direct-to-video flicks.

Didja notice?

  • Could the opening credit flashbacks be more rapid? Don’t blink!
  • This movie loves its wacky camera angles and zooms
  • Black Scorpion gets her own soundtrack
  • Did she just straight-up kill the bad guys after they were disabled? Yes, she did.
  • Cars can transform with (checks) electricity
  • That is a horrible crown
  • There is no way this is a police station. It’s a warehouse set that didn’t pay its electricity bill.
  • This police captain will literally eat anything
  • Cops can be taken out by hundreds of falling balls
  • Real life hangman with all of the puns that entails
  • Acid super soakers
  • How does she braid her hair so fast when she turns into Black Scorpion?
  • That is a suspiciously scary smile in the interview
  • The mayor’s lackeys who speak in unison
  • Rick, way to be the worst date ever
  • Girls are totally OK with you drinking straight out of the milk carton and rifling through their underwear
  • And smelling their undies
  • Seriously movie?
  • C’mon.
  • Now he’s wearing her underwear on his head.
  • She drives her car into her… kitchen?

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