Sunday, June 8, 2014

The Dinosaur Experiment (2013)

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.

It opens at night with some voice over by Abbi Whitecloud, who introduces herself, telling us she’s twenty-one years old (almost twenty-two), lives in Fossil Ridge, a small town in Texas, far from the nearest city of Abilene. She dreams of heading to that city and pursuing a career in music. She is also proficient with the bow and arrow. Six months ago her mother was out in the forest praying for a better life. But, as often happens in a situation like that, a dinosaur rushes out of the woods.

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. When we’re introduced to him, 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, and we hear weird noises in there. 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.

Meanwhile, in North Dallas University, Lucas Young is late for class, arriving just in time to hear the professor say that man became upright for survival. Then the bell rings. Why go to class for just the last minute? Lucas owns a mug shaped like breasts, and talks about being a tittie man. 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 college 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 summer). 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).

Then Abbi 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. And her dead mother owes Billy Wayne (who apparently lost his mayoral bid and owns the gas station) money 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. There is also some silliness about squirrel being the secret ingredient at the diner portion of the convenience store.

We’re introduced to more ridiculous characters. A band is playing at some town hall, a trio made up of front man Little Willie (reminding me of that great Sweet song) and two girls. The girl behind the drum kit is clearly not playing at all. They couldn’t find a female drummer who could match the playback track? Sure, she’s cute, but come on! 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? It’s stupid.

And then we meet a couple of FBI agents at the Federal Building in Austin. They receive an email about a killing in Fossil Ridge. Oddly, one guy 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.

Back in the band’s bus, Josie, the blonde, argues with the brunette (the Non-Drummer Girl) about which one of them looks slutty. Important stuff, to be sure. Where are the dinosaurs already?

The FBI guys arrive, but 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. Well, the two FBI guys to go a diner (not the same one we’ve already seen), where an Irish lass named Carri Anne pours them coffee and then is reprimanded by her boss for telling them about Old Man Cane. Why? No idea.

Meanwhile, Little Willie’s bus is breaking down, and the college boys run out of gas in Fossil Ridge. (Where is this ski resort they’re going to?) So everyone ends up at Billy Wayne’s place. (For fuck’s sake, bring on the dinosaurs already!) Anyway, the gas station is out of gas because Dr. Cane took it all. The college boys are interested in the two female band members, and Little Willie is interested in the college boys. Abbi narrated the beginning, and she is perhaps the most interesting and believable character. So why are we spending so much time with so many other characters? Well, 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.

Meanwhile Atwood calls Special Agent Logan to divulge the results of the tests on the body. Velociraptors. She warns him that they’re nocturnal and tells him to stay indoors.

Abbi and the others reach her truck, which is now running somehow. They drive to Cane’s property which, by the way, has a large sign saying “Raptor Ranch.” So not such a secret project after all. So much for the mystery surrounding the good doctor. Cane is lying on the ground after suffering some physical ailment, so they help him inside. Abbi asks if there’s some kind of medication he takes. “It’s upstairs, in the attic,” he tells her. Who keeps important, life-saving medication in the attic? Anyway, Abbi is slow getting the medicine, and Cane dies. The gang then finds a chick coop of young dinosaurs.

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.

They drive to Abbi’s house for some reason, rather than return to the gas station to regroup. And then, inexplicably, Billy Wayne is in her house. But before he can explain his presence, a dinosaur comes breaking into the house and eats him. Abbi then grabs her bow (finally).

Soon these stupid characters are picked off. There’s a cute moment where Lucas is fucking Josie. 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 her neck, so it looks like Lucas is fucking a dinosaur-head girl. Yeah, I love it.

Abbi, Sheldon and Non-Drummer Girl run through the woods for some reason instead of getting back in her truck. Perhaps it has stopped working again. Who knows? Sheldon lets Abbi know she doesn’t have to go into work tomorrow since her boss is dead. And Non-Drummer Girl says, “If that thing catches up to us, we’re all going to be on a permanent leave of absence.” Really. She says that. The three start blaming each other for their troubles, which is stupid. They then run back to the convenience store, where Lucas is still alive.

Lucas and Sheldon say they should call the cops, but Abbi tells them, “There ain’t no cops in this town.” Really? That reminds us: Where are the sheriff, the deputy, the CSI chick and the two FBI agents? We haven’t seen them in quite a while. Anyway, the four survivors get on the Partridge Family bus, and it’s running now. Sheldon is now more annoying than Lucas, worrying about leaving his mother’s car behind.

The bus soon breaks down again. When dinosaurs attack the bus, Non-Drummer Girl starts laughing. She goes a bit 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 fucking great. It’s one of my favorite things in the film. (Later, she has a wonderful moment on a 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.  But then again, the film told us, “There ain’t no cops in this town.” And everyone else in town is probably conked out on sleeping pills.

The next morning the three survivors run to an abandoned factory (because of course there has to be an abandoned factory). Abbi has shot off only one arrow at the dinosaurs, by the way. What the hell? 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? Finally, with twelve and a half minutes left, Abbi fires another arrow (and then drops the bow). And with less than six minutes left (including end credits), the FBI agents wake up. Good morning!

At the end, one of the agents tells a reporter, “This isn’t Jurassic Park.” Indeed it isn’t. And then we have one final scene with Abbi having pursued her musical career. Well, sort of. She is on a small stage, lip-synching to some song. I don’t think karaoke counts as a musical career, but I guess we should just try to be supportive of the poor girl. Good for you, Abbi. Reach for the stars.

By the way, there is no explanation on how Cane created the dinosaurs.

(Note: I posted a slightly shorter version of this review on another site.)

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