When you're in a comedy band, you need a gimmick. Maybe that gimmick is a love of The Simpsons, like Okilly Dokilly; or superheroes, like The Aquabats. Occasionally, that gimmick comes with some extra lore to flesh out the band's comedic persona. But in one strange case, the gimmick morphed and changed into not only a feature film but a genuinely good sci-fi story punctuated with catchy folk music. Lurking deep in Netflix's archives, it's the best offbeat comedy you've never seen.
The History of Future Folk is a 2012 indie movie built around the real-life folk duo Future Folk. The group consists of General Trius (aka, Nils d'Auliere), the current creative director of Pandora; and the Mighty Kevin (aka, Jay Klaitz), best known as Lester from Grand Theft Auto V. The movie initially feels like a Tenacious D-style cross-promotional cash in, but as it continues it slowly grows into the epitome of the comedy sci-fi movie.
The film opens with a bedtime story, providing General Trius's background. He was sent from his home planet of Hondo to find a replacement planet for the Hondonian people, armed with a deadly virus to kill everyone on Earth. However, upon arrival, he found something he had never encountered before — music. Enraptured with the concept of musical expression, Trius abandons his mission and settles down in Brooklyn. He even has a wife and a daughter, whom he tells this bedtime story to every night.
Just as Trius was introduced to Earth music, we are then introduced to his music as he performs at a dive bar (owned by Dee Snider of Twisted Sister) in his spacesuit. He sings of his home planet and laments how he can never return. "I imagine I'm back upon my home, with magic sponges and the sulfur pits of doom," he sings over deftly plucked banjo.
The plot starts when he realizes he's not alone. Enter: Kevin, a fellow Hondonian. Trius quickly knocks him out and introduces him to music, and together they become Future Folk, an alien acoustic folk sensation. The only problem? The Hondonians are sending a horrid monster to finish the mission and kill all humans, and the police are after them too. On top of all that, Trius is still hiding his true identity from his wife.
The History of Future Folk absolutely could've gotten away with being a cheesy low budget movie with terrible special effects and lazy plot devices, but somehow it avoids all of these traps. The practical creature effects aren't Star Wars-quality, but they're impressive next to plastic bucket helmets. The production design is minimal, but that's the point. If you were an alien, a storage facility would be the best place for a secret HQ.
Where this movie really shines is its writing. This is not a musical — there is music, but it's all in-universe, no bursting into song. This is a science fiction movie, and while it intersperses its climactic fight scene with a nonsensical tango, it's nothing more ridiculous than what's found in Starship Troopers or The Fifth Element.
By the end of the movie, you'll forget it's so low budget and be genuinely moved by how well a planet-saving plot meshes with soulful crooning about space worms and cyber rhinos. It just goes to show, a gimmick is good, but a fully-fledged story will go down in history.
The History of Future Folk is streaming on Netflix in the U.S.