Mars Needs Slackers

A retro review of a D.I.Y. 90s short film scifi/comedy and soundtrack.

By the year 1997 this marvelous thing called the World Wide Web, despite being around since the beginning of the decade, was still finding its footing. This was a time before Google’s search engine was a thing, before LiveJournal and Friendster; a time when people still hung out in AOL chatrooms and used modems to connect. That year UCLA student Vlad Peters released a 36 minute short “film” (read: shot on video) entitled Mars Needs Slackers, available through a web site (now defunct) where you could also listen to the soundtrack by punk outfit CRYPTIK SHOTGUN, which I certainly did. Vlad and his buddies at UCLA were, in his words:

… a bunch of losers with camcorders and various useless college degrees (English, Film, etc.). College was cool ’cause we learned stuff like “objective correlative,” HTML, communication theory, semiotics, cinematography… Post-college sucks because we’ve forgotten everything in our spirit-crushing day jobs.

To continue, Peters:

wrote a script, brow-beat friends into “acting,” dragged them out to the Mojave desert in July, revved up a turbo soundtrack on his 4 track, cranked out special effects on his desktop computer, charmed a professional editor into doing the editing, intimidated his roommate into doing the sound, and rented a video projector for the gala premiere. All in his spare time!

He called the result Mars Needs Slackers and I discovered it back when I was a college student myself (getting a computer science degree at UCF). I do not remember how I found out about it but I’m sure it was because of stumbling across it using Yahoo directories or AltaVista or some hyperlink from a Geocities site, and I’m certain I was using Netscape. Reader, back then, the internet was truly a wonderous thing to behold, a new frontier, before it was completely destroyed by various social media companies. (I mean, sure, later on I had a LiveJournal account, what of it?)

Mars Needs Slackers features an invading alien force calling themselves the Methadones and looking suspiciously like a cloned race of Unknown Comics. They demand 99.9% of Earth’s alcohol (except for American beer – you can keep that!) to be sent to space. In response, the American President Hindenburg calls up General Badass who reactivates the Slacker Corps. (Who else is gonna do it?)

The end result is a lot of slacking. A lot. There are also some expected Nirvana/Cobain jokes (“Must you drag his contemptuous corpse with you everywhere?”), Star Trek/BG references, and philosophical discussions on Spiderman and Wonder Woman. And more slacking.

Recently, Vlad was kind enough to repost Mars Need Slackers on YouTube, so here it is:

Rock’n’Roll Martian

Mars Needs Slackers runs on a kind of Gen-X D.I.Y. philosophy. You do your own editing, your own “special” effects, your own music. And you have a good time while doing it. (I was once involved in something similar, but I’ll leave that for another post). I remember connecting with these guys’ sense of humor and writing some kooky letter to them ordering the video and soundtrack (I’m sure I thought I was being clever at the time).

By the way, the soundtrack by Cryptik Shotgun (also fronted by Vlad Peters) is a lot of fun and has a nice punky, irreverent vibe that seems influenced by the likes of Devo and Dead Milkmen. I listened to it in the gym yesterday and it still holds up.

-Bill G

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