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Community infighting, taken up a bloody notch

May 17, 2003|Mark Sachs | Times Staff Writer

In a forbidding, post-apocalyptic world, an eye-patch-wearing adventurer leads a band of survivors through the bombed-out terrorscape, confronting danger at every turn.

The return of Snake Plissken? Not exactly. But with a new entry in the "Escape From ... " franchise probably hung up in a pitch meeting somewhere, the Sci Fi Channel steps into the breach tonight at 9 with its own two-hour take on the genre.

"Deathlands: Homeward Bound," a dark and violent revenge fantasy based on the James Axler series of books, is set in 2084 in what used to be Virginia before a nuclear holocaust turned most of civilization into rubble, some of it still dangerously radioactive.

With the population reduced to scattered warring fiefdoms, a seriously deranged Harvey Cawdor (Park Bench) decides to slay his father and two brothers, and take over the village of Front Royal for himself and his pregnant (and equally addled) lady love, Rachel (Heather Bertram). Harvey goes two for two in the family-slaying plot and is going in for the kill on brother Ryan (Robert Clark), but Ryan manages to fight him off and escape into the hills, albeit minus one eye and with a nasty scar along his jaw.

The plot fast-forwards 20 years, with Ryan (now played by Vincent Spano) leading his own band of renegades and planning to return to his home "ville," as the locals call it, and settle things with Harvey (now Alan C. Peterson) and Rachel (Traci Elizabeth Lords). Among his companions are a flame-haired main squeeze, Krysty (Jenya Lano), and Billy Idol look-alike Jak (Nathan Carter), two semi-mutants who, when agitated, can summon up super strength a la the Incredible Hulk.

There's gory violence galore, a bit of incest and a light sprinkling of twisted humor in "Deathlands," and the open-ended conclusion leaves room for a possible series. But even a little of this sordidness goes a long way.

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