Studio: Uncork’d Entertainment
Director: Danny Bishop
Writer: Danny Bishop, Shlomo May-Zur, Will Raee
Producer: Shlomo May-Zur, Stephan Galfas, Mosh Grunberg
Stars: Jana Mashonee, Lorenzo Lamas, Cole Brown, Donny Boaz, Cody Vaughan, Lexy Hulme, Kimberly Matula, Jack Gould
A small Texas town erupts in chaos when the dinosaur creations of an eccentric rancher escape their pens and wreak havoc.
When the crown jewel in a cast is a 1990’s heartthrob whose syndicated TV glory days have faded, and the premise involves prehistoric mayhem on shoestring funds, it is fair to expect that some of the onus falls on an audience to meet a B-grade movie halfway by knowing what level of production they are in for and setting expectations accordingly. But there is such a bland sense of style to “The Dinosaur Experiment” that no amount of willfully excusing its low-budget shortcomings can even out the poor plotting, characterization, dialogue, and direction.
Considering the circumstances, the dinosaur effects turn out to be the best thing about the movie. In fact, their relative quality is undermined by everything else about the production.
If nothing else, the filmmakers are smart enough to stage most of the dino attacks at night, allowing deep blacks to swallow seams in ways that make it easier to look the other way when composites risk a phony appearance. Though the visual effects artists do reuse one head-on shot of a slowly stalking T-Rex more times than 1978’s “Battlestar Galactica” reused the shot of a Colonial Viper sweeping through an exploding Cylon Raider.
The story is probably not worth a recap. It would be little more than sentences punching holes in some head-scratching hullaballoo about a hillbilly rancher doing in a two-dollar barn what Richard Attenborough could barely do on a billion dollar island. Building-sized dinos are then unleashed for what should be a widespread rampage, yet they instead only stalk the same half-dozen people for 90 minutes.
“The Dinosaur Experiment” does not have characters so much as tissue-thin stereotypes populating an even thinner plot. Each person introduced is more annoying than the last, starting with a college “kid” in ski goggles who wears a letterman jacket too, just in case his jock status is somehow unclear. On the other end is Little Willie, a weird mix of Little Richard and Bootsie Collins driving the Electric Mayhem’s tour bus in a manner that might be funny if his comical character meshed even a little bit with anything else going on in the movie.
Also on the roster is a tubby stoner whose camo pants provide a generous unwanted peek at his ample plumber’s crack. He is apparently meant to be hilarious since he is a snack chip-obsessed dimwit who opens a dinosaur pen switch labeled “doors” because he is a fan of Jim Morrison’s band. That’s cutting edge comedy right there.
There are in-jokes for horror fans, too. Stranded on a deserted path in the night, one character remarks, “dirt road, middle of nowhere, Texas… I’ve seen this route!” before running past a mailbox marked “Hewitt.” Of course, true “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” fans know that Hewitt was the family in the remake while Sawyer was the name in the original series, making the humor attempt more insult than homage. Regardless, it is only mildly less offensive than lame lines passing for dialogue like, “I’m not gonna become a Jurassic snack pack!”
Not only is top-billed talent Lorenzo Lamas barely in the movie, but he doesn’t even have any scenes with the main characters. He plays a special agent of some sort dispatched to investigate mysterious mutilations and ends up spending almost the entire runtime in his hotel room waiting for word from the sheriff. The seemingly random inclusion of his needless bookend scenes might work if played for laughs, but “The Dinosaur Project” is not on the mark as self-aware camp. It is just poor writing and poorer moviemaking.
Even bargain basement creature features from SyFy and The Asylum have established some kind of low-bar standard for this type of film. With this script and these resources, a movie has two options. It can either embrace a contemporary Roger Corman charm with Troma-like appeal, or it can take itself completely seriously and fail. The former option brings a game audience along for a cheesy ride of guilty pleasure fun. And the latter affords viewers opportunities for MST3K-style entertainment from forehead-palming grimaces and face-in-the-pillow groans.
Yet “The Dinosaur Experiment” never settles on creating a distinct personality for itself. Some actors play their roles sincerely. Others run an intentionally tongue-in-cheek circuit. But nothing in the music or in the production design defines any mood in particular that movie has in mind as a whole. Unsurprisingly, the result is a muddled mess of all over the place direction and a thoroughly drab tone that makes for one disappointingly wrecked film.
NOTE: “The Dinosaur Experiment” was previously titled “Raptor Ranch.”
Review Score: 30