Def-Con 4 (1985) Review

Produced by New World Pictures, the independent studio established by Roger Corman, Canuxploitation cult Sci-horror Def-Con 4 attempted to ride the wave created by post-apocalyptic obsessed audiences desperate for more Mad Max style entertainment to stave off their very real Cold War fears.

Made on the cheap in Canada and featuring a cast of relative unknowns the movie opens in outer space where a trio of astronauts have been on a 15 month mission manning a secret American satellite capable of launching nuclear missiles against Russia should World War 3 start.

Desperate to return to Earth and see their loved ones their worst fears come true when they see news reports detailing the destruction of several cities as the USSR fire nukes at America. As they watch the world they knew being wiped out on small computer screens they receive a coded message telling them to strike back against the enemy with an eye for an eye mentality that leaves the planet devastated.

As radiation spreads across the Earth and the death toll raises those left alive fall prey to sickness and starvation while in space the surviving crew contemplate what to do next. The decision is made for them when the craft is hijacked and they have to jettison the remaining missiles and crash land back on earth.

Stuck in the pod they desperately dig themselves out only to discover in the short time after the war humanity has changed for the worse. Infected cannibals crave flesh, military men rule with an iron hand and violence is law.

Can the crew survive in this post-apocalyptic wasteland and will they be able to disarm the nuke that crashed with them and slowly counts down till detonation? You will have to watch and find out.

Low budget and trashy the first act of Def-Con 4 is surprisingly innovative and original as we witness Earths final moments from the satellite played out on the screens and faces of the main cast. The small set of the space craft is well made and although they somehow seem to have artificial gravity as a story telling tool the almost theatrical early serious scenes of claustrophobic clashes and duty driven guilt work wonders adhering us to the cast and the set up shockingly effectively.

Once back on Earth things get a lot more stupid but also more entertaining and the rest of the film sees our hero Howe (Babylon 5’s Tim Choate) attempting to escape from a serious of increasingly worse situations including flesh hungry crazies, a kilt wearing areola obsessed survivalist named Vinny (Maury Chaykin from War Games) and the big baddie which just happens to be a twisted kid in charge of his own army.

The sets, clothes and crazy vehicles are very much inspired by Mad Max and the many clones that came out after it but look convincing enough, evoking exactly the kind of dirty, downtrodden decay you would expect after the world has been wiped out.

The constant ticking digital clock on the big bad bomb keeps up a level of tension and the twists and turns of Howe’s journey make for engaging enough viewing with the film throwing in enough gore, action and weirdness along the way to keep up the fun.

Perfect for Sci-Horror fans who love nothing more than low budget shlocky shockers featuring the end of the world Def-Con 4 is a decent enough film, it’s just a pity it doesn’t keep up the originality of its opening.

Movie Rating: ★

★ ★ ☆ ☆ 

Def-Con 4 – The Arrow Video Story:


Alex Humphrey

Alex studied film at the University of Kent and went on to work for Universal Pictures in their Post Room gaining an inside look at the movie industry from the very bottom. Constantly writing reviews in everything from local magazines to Hip Hop sites Alex honed his critical skills even spending a brief period as a restaurant critic. Read more

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