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Hipster Holy Grail: Replica (2005)

The Hipster Holy Grail is my ongoing quest to review an obscure movie before it becomes cool to talk about it. Good, bad, doesn't matter.  It just has to be at least 10 years old and have less than 1,000 ratings on IMDb. This week, I watched....

The Short Bit for People Who Don't Like to Read Reviews

Replica, along with Julie & Jack, is one of the lesser known works of James Nguyen before he made Birdemic and became self-aware.  Fans of bad movies should already be well aware of Birdemic's majesty, so if you dug that and you want more of the same, Replica will not disappoint.  And yet, somehow it doesn't have quite the same "wow" factor.  You'll find yourself asking, "What were they thinking?" plenty of times, but instead of dropping your jaw the way you do with Birdemic, you'll shrug and go, "Oh, right, it was a Nguyen film.  Makes sense."

My Rating: 4 / 5 (Novice Bad Movie)

The Plot Summary

The year is "sometime probably in the future" and cloning has not only become common, but cost-effective and reliable. Dr. Evelyn Tyler (Lana Dykstra), a genius, has refined organ cloning processes and is a world-renowned expert.  Together with the vaguely-threateningly named "Dr. G" (Rick Camp), she has founded a company that produces cloned organs and saves lives everywhere.  The only catch is that they're not allowed to clone full humans, since that's illegal.

Then there's some creepy idiot named Joe Thomas (John David Braddock) who works at the organ company.  He sells "computer chips," whatever the fuck that means.  He also likes to stalk women, though he calls it "picking up chicks."

Joe is, for all intents and purposes, the same character as the lead from Birdemic.  If you've seen Birdemic - and chances are good you have if you're bothering to read my dumb website - then you already know what to expect.  Joe moves like a robot, speaks monotonously and awkwardly, and says ominous things that are meant to be flirty, but come off like a serial killer's inner monologue.

When the movie opens, Joe's having a rough time at work.  (Well, actually, even before his introduction there's a bizarre prologue sequence that possibly involves VR or something.  It's really hard to follow and doesn't make sense, but I think Nguyen put this scene in to explain why all his sets look like crap.  I'll get into that later.)  Dr. G, ostensibly the business-minded partner, is holding a board meeting with his staff to motivate them at sales.  His staff, incidentally, is four people - one of whom is Evelyn, so really it's just three people: Joe and two other idiots.

Dr. G boasts amazing sales, but then berates Joe for not living up to the rest of the staff's (translation: those other two people's) performance.  Joe can't figure out why he's not doing better.  He's trying, boss, honestly!  He just can't close a sale...

...until he stalks Evelyn while she's out for an afternoon jog one day.  She finds his aggressive and cold sexual advances charming, so they start dating and have incredibly chaste, clothed sex.

Fast forward a bit, and suddenly Joe is the number one (out of three) salesperson in the company!  The other two can't figure out how he's doing it, but they imagine it's probably because he's sleeping with Evelyn and he can name drop her in sales calls.

...which he could do, anyway, right?  I mean, it's her company.  Why wouldn't you name drop her?  I don't understand how their sales work.  I'm not even going to bother tackling the math whenever they bring up their budget and sales quotas, because none of it makes any goddamned sense.

Anyway, we're at like minute forty now of a seventy minute movie.  While leaving Joe's house one morning after another clothed tryst, Evelyn gets into the slowest car accident in history.  The impact of a five mile per hour collision is enough to kill her, and Joe's vaguely bummed.

The police start to investigate her death, which I would think is normally a checklist you fill out when you're on the scene of a traffic accident, but whatever.  This leads to a couple of bizarre conversations involving Detective Le (David Nguyen) in which he asks nothing of substance, but confirms that Evelyn is, in fact, dead.  And that she had sex with Joe.

Joe wanders the city and mourns for awhile.  Then he notices a woman walking down the street one day who bears a striking resemblance to Evelyn, except that she's a brunette and has a tattoo that says "Claudia" on her lower back.  Claudia (also Lana Dykstra) claims to be a struggling actress who's never heard of Evelyn before, and there's no possible way she is a clone since cloning a full human is illegal.

Joe acts creepy around Claudia and follows her to her hotel room, which she finds charming.  So they start dating and having chaste clothed sex.  Then Joe starts to call her "Evelyn" and demands that she make herself look more like Evelyn by dying her hair blonde and and wearing Evelyn's clothes.  Claudia naturally agrees and their relationship is saved.

Then Joe is in for a shock - one day he discovers that Evelyn 2 is carrying a bracelet that he gave to Evelyn 1.  He gets pissed off at her, because in a relationship like this, she's obviously the one who needs to come up with some answers.  Evelyn 2 stammers a bit and then tells the truth: she's Evelyn's clone, who Dr. G made in his basement in a particularly over-acted scene.

Joe gives a bit of a speech about how human cloning is illegal and evil, and therefore they have to go to Dr. G's house and stop him (even though the cloning is obviously already complete, since she's here and all).  This leads to the most ridiculous speech in the movie, which is really saying something considering everything else that goes on.  Confronted by his demons and the threat of the law, Dr. G waxes philosophical about the implications of human cloning and possible benefits.

They're all outrageous and stupid, but the worst of it is when he explains that cloning will end racism.  Why?  Because black people will clone themselves as white people to avoid persecution.  Naturally.

Joe and Dr. G get into fisticuffs, during which Dr. G pulls a gun and accidentally shoots Evelyn 2.  Then Detective Le shows up out of nowhere and shoots Dr. G.  Apparently he stumbled onto Dr. G's nefarious deeds by tracing "50,000 dollars in cash in a suspect's bank account," whatever the fuck that means.

The day is saved, but Evelyn 2 still dies.  The end.

What I Liked / Didn't Like

This is a fantastically absurd movie.  The level of ridiculousness in all the dialogue and plot developments is the exact kind of nonsense you really want when you go looking for a good-bad movie.

I skipped over the majority of fun bits because 1) it's more entertaining for you to see / hear it for yourself, and 2) there's so much that you couldn't possibly catch it all in a single review.  There are bad lines in this movie you'll be quoting for weeks to come, terrible filmmaking devices galore, and pervasive shitty visuals.

I would almost put it in the Secret Comedy category, but it falls just barely short of that.  A Secret Comedy is one whose bad elements become transcendent, so even if somebody isn't expecting to watch a bad movie ironically, they'll likely be won over and enjoy it.  Replica isn't quite there.  It's funny, but if your friends made you watch it without telling you it's a bad movie, I think you might still be annoyed even while you laugh.

That's not to say it isn't gloriously bad.  The special effects alone are worth your time.  Nguyen chose to save some money by shooting much of his movie against a green screen and inserting a background later on, which is not an entirely rotten idea.  Unfortunately, he chose some of the most poorly rendered backdrops you could imagine - they're all static CGI sets that clash horribly with reality.

I'm not selling just how bad these look.  It's not just that the CGI doesn't mesh with live action - it's that everything about them is awful even independent of the actors.  They all lack depth and have an uneven perspective, which becomes worse when you see how the actors block themselves.  They all have inconsistent lighting sources.  They make use of Doom-era textures and have such low resolution that you can't actually tell what certain portions of them are meant to be.  The result is that over half the movie looks like FMV cut scenes from a Sega CD game.

Hell, why am I bothering to describe it?  Just look at this shit:

The main drawback is that the movie is just so sloooooooow. It's fine when you're laughing, because you just soak it up and laugh even more.  But if you're not laughing?  God help you.  It's not even 70 minutes long and it will take up your whole afternoon.

Because of the pacing, I don't think this one will lend itself to re-watches.  Still - that first time is damn fun.

How Much Hipster Cred Is It Worth?

It almost gets the full 50 point obscurity bonus for having less than 100 ratings on IMDb, but since it's right on the border at 91 (as of today), I'll give it 45 instead.  I'll give it a 10 point pedigree bonus for being directed by James Nguyen, plus a 25 point recommendation bonus and another 15 point "you've probably never heard of them" bonus for the cast overall.

That should add up to a pretty high score, right?  Well, there's a bit of a catch.  Y'see, this movie was more or less discovered by Riff Trax and recently promulgated by their website / circle, which leads to two immediate draw backs.  First, the IMDb ratings are probably going to shoot up soon, which means I expect the cred to rapidly diminish by summer.  (Hell, it may very well age out by the time this post goes live.)  Second, since a Riff Trax not only exists, but is pretty much the sole reason you would have discovered this in the first place, that's going to incur a 20 cred penalty instead of the usual 15.

So right now it has a total of 75 hipster cred out of a possible 100, and I expect it to drop to somewhere around 50 or 60 by the end of the year.  But hey, go check it out now before it's popular and you'll get your cred before it expires.

Where You Can Watch

As mentioned above, you can find this on the Riff Trax website behind a paywall.  It's also on Amazon Prime to stream for (basically) free, though you won't get any special commentary.