My interest is piqued by a new straight-to-DVD epic about underground mutants who are trying to wipe out the above-ground humans. Called Chronicles of Hollow Earth: The Next Race, the flick's twist is that those underground mutants are actually the planet's ruling class, a race genetically engineered to be human slaves who turned the tables generations ago. Now humans are their tortured factory drudges. I like the moody industrial feeling, the genetic purity obsession, the underground cities, and the raw human torture stuff. Plus you've got to love the audacity of director Stewart St. John's scope. He's planning to turn this into a feature film trilogy and TV series. St. John wrote in an email to io9:

Last year I directed a little indie film called The Chronicles of Hollow Earth: The Next Race — it's the prequel story to my feature film trilogy and TV series franchise. This is a non-linear film, jumping back and forth as it builds to a major revelation centering around the Pryme family of Hollow Earth — Crecilius Pryme is the military leader who wants to eradicate the remaining human population who toil above-ground; Aiden is his loyalist brother; and Hannalin is their distraught mother whose sympathy for the humans puts her in direct conflict with her sons. There are many references to history past and present, all mixed together to create a new mythology . . . The film is dialogue/story-driven, given its limited budget. But my intention was to set the stage for the thrilling stories to follow.

I'm a little worried about any movie that its director calls "non-linear," but after watching the preview I'm definitely intrigued. Admittedly the protofascist underground villains' eyeliner looks a little Green Day, and the heroine needs to be a bit more Sarah Connor in the asskickery department. Still, I like that feeling of Gattaca crossed with the family power struggles of Dune. What I find most interesting about this is that the cheapness of filmmaking these days allows people to do with movies what they once did with epic novels. Ten years ago, St. John would have been pitching this story to publishers as a 6-book epic. Today he's turning it into a straight-to-DVD feature film cycle and (maybe) a web TV series too. St. John kindly sent us a screener of the movie, so I'll watch it and let you know how it goes. The Next Race [official site]

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