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Saturday, March 15, 2014

DVD Review: The Dinosaur Experiment



Like most boys, I was a dinosaur freak as a kid. I collected little dinosaur figurines and watched Land Of The Lost and any sort of monster movie that featured anything resembling a dinosaur. Yet, until Jurassic Park I don’t ever remember hearing of velociraptors. In fact, at first I thought they were invented for that story. But since that film, they seem to be the most popular dinosaurs (along with the always-in-fashion Tyrannosaurus Rex). Well, raptors play a significant role in the new dinosaur horror film, The Dinosaur Experiment.

The Dinosaur Experiment is a ridiculous and very silly horror film, that plays more for comedy most of the time (intentionally). There are a lot of flaws, but the film is often quite enjoyable.

The film opens at night with some voice over by Abbi Whitecloud, who introduces herself, telling us she lives in Fossil Ridge, a small town in Texas. She dreams of heading to Abilene and pursuing a career in music. She is also proficient with the bow and arrow.

We’re then introduced to a lot of characters, some of whom are interesting and some of whom are dull stereotypes. One of the interesting characters is Dr. Cane. At first, he just seems like some weird guy whom we expect to quickly become a meal for a dinosaur. After all, he’s entering a barn, from which weird noises are emanating. But it turns out he has a dinosaur trapped behind an electric fence in there. And, as he reminds the dinosaur, he raised the creature. “I used to hold you and sometimes you’d come and crawl in my bed.” They have a special bond, which is delightfully twisted. I like the way the film very early on goes against expectations.

Abbi (Jana Mashonee) wakes up and shoots an arrow at a picture of Billy Wayne (the picture says, “Billy Wayne for mayor”). A package of sexy red shoes arrives at her door, and so she puts them on and heads to work. So we think maybe she’s some kind of stripper or something. But those expectations are played with as well. It turns out she works at a gas station that also has a convenience store and a small diner. Her dead mother owes money to Billy Wayne (who apparently lost his mayoral bid and owns the gas station) for a truck she bought, a truck we’ve already seen break down. I like that she doesn’t argue with him that the truck he sold her mother has broken down. It’s like she knows that would be pointless, and her silence on it gives us the feeling the truck has been an issue for a while.

Unfortunately, not all of the characters are as interesting or original. We meet Lucas Young (Donny Boaz), a college student who arrives to class only moments before it ends, and jokes with a friend during the brief time he’s there. Why go to class for just the last minute? Why are characters like this even in college? I always feel like characters like this were written by people who never attended college themselves, and got their entire concept of what college is from other films written by people who also didn’t go to college. Anyway, Lucas and his two friends, one of whom is named Beast (Really?), take a skiing trip (though this is Texas, and appears to be warm weather). Beast is the typical party animal, and Sheldon, the third member of this ski trip, is the normal guy that is taken advantage of (it’s his mother’s car that they’re using).

We’re introduced to more ridiculous characters. A band is playing at a town hall somewhere, a trio made up of front man Little Willie (like from the Sweet song?) and two girls. The girl behind the drum kit is clearly not playing at all. The filmmakers couldn’t find a female drummer who could match the playback track for even three or four seconds? A redneck in the audience holds up a gun, so the band stops, escaping in their Partridge Family bus in the middle of the day. Why did all those folks pack that hall if they weren’t interested in the band?Who brings a rifle to a concert? It's absurd.

There are also two FBI agents in Austin who receive an email about a killing in Fossil Ridge. Oddly, one agent says, “in this town called Fossil Ridge, Texas.” But they’re in Austin, so wouldn’t he just say “Fossil Ridge”? He wouldn’t mention the state unless it were a different state. The FBI guys arrive in Fossil Ridge, where Atwood, a CSI member, is already on the scene. So are Sheriff Morgan and Deputy Jones. Sheriff Morgan asks Atwood if she’s had a chance to check anything out yet. She says, “No.” So Morgan begins describing the scene, but Atwood interrupts. “This is very unusual. The teeth marks indicate a very large predator-type creature.” But she hasn’t checked anything out yet. She then goes on to describe footprints. But she hasn’t checking anything out yet.

Meanwhile, Little Willie’s bus is breaking down, and the college boys run out of gas in Fossil Ridge. So everyone ends up at Billy Wayne’s place. Anyway, the gas station is out of gas because Dr. Cane took it all. They hear a groan, which Billy identifies as coming from Dr. Cane’s place. There are rumors of what is going on up there, but no one knows for sure because he’s so mysterious and secretive and so on. Anyway, Abbi leads a few of them to Cane’s place to get gas. By the way, Cane’s property has a large sign saying “Raptor Ranch.” So not such a secret project after all. So much for the mystery surrounding the good doctor.

While looking for a gas can, Beast finds an electric box marked “Lights,” so he turns it on. To the right is a box marked “T Rex.” To the left is a box marked “Doors.” He says, “I love The Doors,” and flips the switch. What, not a Marc Bolan fan? Of course, that opens the doors, releasing the dinosaurs. The dinosaurs look pretty cool, by the way.

Soon these stupid characters are picked off one by one, and these are some of the film’s most enjoyable moments. There’s a wonderful moment where Lucas and Josie are having sex. She’s on top, and a dinosaur comes in and bites her head off. There’s one very brief shot where Lucas’ hands are still on her breasts, but the dinosaur’s head is coming in over Josie’s neck, so it looks like Lucas is having sex with a dinosaur-head girl. I love it. I also love that Non-Drummer Girl starts laughing when the dinosaurs attack the bus they’re hiding in. She goes mad, which is nice. You don’t see that often enough in horror films, and it’s a totally believable reaction to such an insane set of circumstances. At one point she says she’s fishing. Sheldon asks, “For what?” And the joy in her response, “I don’t know,” is so great, and is one of my favorite things in the film. And I love the moment when Non-Drummer Girl rides the bicycle.

It’s interesting that with all the dinosaurs and destruction in town that no one else has come around to see what the fuss is about.  Where are the sheriff, the deputy, the CSI chick and the two FBI agents? They disappear for a good long time. And Abbi, who is introduced as a master with the bow, only shoots off a couple of arrows at the dinosaurs. Why introduce the whole bow thing in the very first speech of the film if it’s not going to come into play later on? Also, there is no explanation on how Cane created the dinosaurs.

At the end of the film, one of the agents tells a reporter, “This isn’t Jurassic Park.” Indeed it isn’t.

The Dinosaur Experiment was directed by Danny Bishop and is scheduled to be released on DVD on May 27, 2014. It will also be available on Video On Demand starting April 1, 2014.

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