Reel Advice from the Video Store Guy

Tail Sting | The Vector File

By Steve Anderson
Dec 16th, 2004

Tail Sting
Directed by Paul Wynne
97 min

From the big bug files, York Entertainment goes out of its way to bring us a tale (no pun intended, folks, despite the temptation to the contrary) about scorpions run amok in the cheapest place on earth to film in, the American Southwest.

Our film begins rather simply, with a heist in the middle of the desert. Despite the incredibly thick Australian accents of our inept motorcycle thieves (Mad Max these guys ain't!), we discover that they're after a vanload of biohazard materials and other toxic gewgaws.

Boy...I wonder what's going to happen when that stuff ACCIDENTALLY makes contact with the local wildlife! Hmmm...HMMMM....

The biohazard in question does indeed come in contact with some local wildlife, and the biohazard and local wildlife alike are loaded into a passenger airliner for transport back to Los Angeles.

And it's not going to be a surprise to anybody when the wildlife gets loose, gets BIG, and gets bloodthirsty.

ANOTHER movie about giant bugs running amok? Can we do NOTHING original?

Okay, begrudgingly, I'm going to say there is a note of originality in this. The fact that, this time, the bugs are running loose not in a desert town or a hotel building or a government laboratory somewhere or other, but rather in an airplane is a surprisingly refreshing note of originality.

Sadly, it's the ONLY one.

Tail Sting can't even manage to coax some originality out of its ENDING. I'm really rather saddened by this.

I'll be honest. The setting is so original in this, and so much COULD have been done with Tail Sting that it's actually kind of sad to watch the finished product. Watching this just makes your head shake in sorrow. Some real creative events could have gone on here, and instead, we get all kinds of More of the Same.

So all in all, Tail Sting is an original idea, kind of, executed poorly, definitely.

The Vector File
Directed by Eliot Christopher
91 minutes

Vif International Films proves that there's more to solid moviemaking than a cast featuring names somebody's heard of once or twice and a clever acronym-based production company name with The Vector File.

What we have here is the story of some interesting genetic chicanery going on in the depths of Moscow, and a scientist determined to escape with the information in hand. Now, anybody who's seen Rambo a couple times would tell you that the Russkis don't play this whole "one guard at the gate, any scientist can walk out of any building with a freshly-burned CD-R in hand" game, but then I guess the great Iron Curtain's been sorta rusty since Communism collapsed. The whole thing is rendered moot when irksomely porous Russian security allows a three-man team of black-clad, gun-toting assassins to slip in and blast the Russian scientist.

I'd like to thank Vif for including zero subtitles and authentic Russian dialogue for the first four minutes, thus making understanding the entire avant-title sequence utterly impossible for anyone but a classically trained linguist.

We then fade, for reasons that can only be described as inscrutable, to the MacQuillan Aerospace research facility where Casper Van Dien is having some serious marital troubles, and wasting a huge quantity of taxpayer dollars by using satellite technology to take pictures of his daughter playing hopscotch from space. Which scares me blind, frankly...I definitely don't like the thought of being photographed from space.

This is especially interesting; MacQuillan is an obvious play on the MacMillan Air Force Base, and Casper Van Dien is memorable possibly only for his appearance as Rico in Starship Troopers, whereafter he faded into the obscurity of direct-to-video releases like "Tarzan and the Lost City."

Meanwhile, Casper's daughter is receiving coded communications--ooohh, okay! THAT'S why we spent four minutes in Untranslatable Russian Science Lab Three-A. The fact that it took another ten minutes to figure out just why is sort of irksome, but hey, what can you do? And this coded communication is terribly important to somebody, as another three-man team of black-clad, gun-toting assassins in MacQuillan Aerospace who got in past Old Joe (probably not his real name), the lone gray line of defense for MacQuillan security. Old Joe is the kind of guy who pulls candy from behind the ears of little girls, and so you know he's JUST the guy to have fending off highly trained paramilitary groups.

Hey MacQuillan--how about hanging a big neon sign on the front of the building: "MacQuillan Aerospace: This Facility Guarded at Night by One Elderly Man. He'll Be Retiring In Three Months So Please Leave Good Wishes At The Gate." That'll scare off the thugs!

The funny part is it turns out the guard's name is actually Old George.

But the blatantly, alarmingly sad part about The Vector File is that we already pretty much know what's coming here. Someone's going to go after Casper and daughter for the coded communication she accidentally received, and Casper will spend much of the rest of the movie fighting off the (probably) three man teams of black-clad, gun-toting assassins and asserting his own innocence in the face of overwhelming coverups until he figures out just why he's being chased, and of what importance this message is, and how to keep it out of the hands of whoever sent these three-man assassin teams.

I'm making this prediction twenty two minutes into the film, with an hour and eight minutes to go. Locking it in with my credibility as a film critic on the line. Let's seem if I'm RIGHT.

Man, don't you just love the lengths I go to to provide you with quality color commentary on all the stuff you find on your video store shelves every week?

Well, and I'm first to admit it, I turned out to be just a little wrong.

Some of the assassins also carried knives. One even used a long screwdriver.

Everything else was pretty much on the money. This kind of formulaic potboiler makes me lament the state of the direct-to-video market. Are viewers always going to be destined to watching second-rate crap eighty percent of the time? There's almost no originality in this beyond the casting and setting changes; for crying out loud, it's almost a direct ripoff of Mercury Rising, where Casper Van Dien takes the place of Bruce Willis and a little girl takes the place of a little boy. Never mind that that's actually half the fun--like looking for buried treasure. Where's the good one in the piles and piles of DVD wreckage?

There are no extra features, sadly. Not a subtitle or anything else, which I find disappointing. What's the point of a DVD if not to include extras?

So, all in all, the Vector File is thoroughly average. Offering nothing new but doing what it does reasonably well, if what it does is actually worth doing. .

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Steve Andersen, much to his own chagrin, is a five-plus year veteran of the direct to video market. He has spent an alarming amount of time in video stores and seeks to provide the public with advance information on all the video releases that they may never have heard of...whether they want to hear of them or not. Steve appears in one way or another weekly, biweekly, or monthly on such fine entertainment-related ezines as Film Threat, Dream Forge, Reel Horror, Acid Logic, Chaotic Culture Magazine, Malicious Bitch webzine, and many others. Readers, agents, or editors can email Steve at

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