Monday, 8 September 2008

Raptor (2001)


Roger Corman has carved out a nice little niche for himself, releasing low-budget versions of popular films that are often more entertaining than the film he is imitating. He has never seen a popular film he couldn't attach himself to like a cinematic lamprey, and of course the marketing blitz surrounding 1993's Jurassic Park didn't escape his inscrutible gaze. Carnosaur was produced and released just in time to coast in on the wave of hype. Any remaining potential stored in those rubber puppets and animatronic dinosaurs was wrung out in Carnosaur 2 and Carnosaur 3: Primal Species in 1995 and 1996 respectively. This may reveal a shocking gap in my cinematic knowledge, but I haven't seen any of the Carnosaur films. Luckily, I've seen 2001's Raptor, so I don't need to. Raptor recycles every last dinosaur-centric action piece from the Carnosaur series. These disjointed sequences are held together by the flimsiest plot possible. Only the barest of attention is paid to logic or continuity.

In what is the first of many to come, the film opens with a scene taken from Carnosaur. A bunch of teens ride through the desert in a jeep before stopping at the side of a cliff. One guy is attacked by a raptor-cam when he gets out to take a leak and the two remaining occupants are disemboweled by a hilarious rubber hand puppet. Well, at least they reused the good stuff. The next day, Sheriff Jim Tanner (Eric Roberts) and Animal Control officer Barbara Phillips (Melissa Braselle) arrive to investigate the grisly aftermath of the dinosaur attack. There is some sort of ex-lover tension between the two. Braselle is allegedly attractive but looks more like a makeup-caked, silicone-enhanced, tooth-whitened, tanorexic mockery of Western beauty. It's around now that the continuity errors start to surface like a plague of boils. The jeep is not only in a completely different location but bears only a passing resemblance to the jeep from the opening of the film. The inside of the jeep is relatively clean as opposed to splashed with blood as we saw minutes earlier. The corpses inside can't even sit still for their few seconds of screen time, which isn't a continuity error but is still annoying. Barbara also demonstrates her animal expertise by estimating the culprits size at about 150-200 pounds, at least 100 pounds heavier the tiny hand puppet we saw earlier. Their investigation is interrupted by an piercing roar from over the hill.

Meanwhile, at the Eunice Corporation, some scientists are busy crossing the line man was not meant to cross. In charge of the research is Dr. Hyde (Corbin Benson), a dude who looks kind of like the Alton Brown of advanced genetic research. The escaped dino has come to the attention of Dr. Hyde, and he is understandably upset and ranting to his two underlings and the chief of security. Tensions are no doubt exacerbated by the fact that they appear to be the only employees in the entire building. Even the security chief has been reduced to manning the front gate. Dr. Hyde's order to lock down the front gate isn't fast enough, and one truck full of chickens makes it out the front gate.

This is a surprising development. I'm not sure what the Eunice Corporation does exactly (something involving genetic research and poultry apparently) but I think they need to streamline their business activities, especially since we've only seen about four employees (five including the truck driver). With such a diverse portfolio of interests and a lack of staff and infrastructure to support it, quality control is bound to suffer, such as a hungry dinosaur stowing away in your shipment of live chickens. I don't know how he got in there but now that he's there he makes a hell of a mess and pretty soon the driver stops to investigate and he's munched too. Since we've got to link this chicken truck scene (which has been lifted from Carnosaur) to Sheriff Tanner somehow, a deputy immediately pulls up to investigate and he before he even realises that it's a completely different truck parked in a different location, he is munched too.

Meanwhile, in the back of a pickup truck, Tanner's daughter Lola is busy making out with her no-good older boyfriend. After giving us our requisite flash of silicone boob, her boyfriend goes off to investigate a Strange Noise(tm) and is subsequently munched by our surprisingly hungry dino. Lola manages to jump into the driver seat and escape, but plunges the car (or rather a different car from a scene taken from Humanoids From the Deep) over the side of a cliff. This is presumably because she's in a high-stress situation and not just because she's a woman. It explodes in a ball of flames, but Lola proves rather resilient and is taken to hospital in a state of traumatic shock.

One of Dr. Hyde's underlings decides to quit so Hyde, as a final request, asks him to go down and take a look at the T-rex. Nothing suspicious about that. It also appears that the laser-lined corridor where the dinosaurs are kept projects some sort of anti-aging field, as the scientist appears a good deal younger and slimmer than he did a few seconds ago. Unfortunately his new-found youth is cut short when the laser-grid is deactivated and the T-rex gulps him down. Soon after, Tanner and Barbara arrive to investigate the Eunice lab. They are turned away, but hear a strange roar emanating from underground.

Back at the hospital, Barbara plays her recording of the piercing roar from that morning, hoping that the sound will bring Lola out of her catalepsy. It does the trick, and soon Lola is unconvincingly screaming and crying about a strange "lizard". Afterwards, Tanner drops Barbara at home, where she prepares to take a shower. Disappointment awaits those of you hoping to catch a glimpse of her mammoth mammories (you know who you are), as she heads out to investigate a strange growling just as she's about to doff her brassiere. Her Golden Retriever, which should have been clearly visible to Barbara I might add, leaps up from just out of frame to give us a cheap scare. Damn you, Fido, you just cost us some boobs!

A convenient subplot about an escaped prisoner is trotted out to give one of the Sheriff's deputies an excuse to wander about in the dark and get impaled by a raptor claw. The next morning the Barbara and Tanner head out to identify his body (apparently the murder of a deputy didn't warrant contacting the Sheriff before now) and Barbara discovers a huge black tooth embedded in his body. Tanner then calls his buddies at the FBI to get some information about the Eunice corporation and find out about the barely-copyright-infringement-avoiding "Project: Jurassic Storm". After somehow getting the power company to agree to turn off the power at the Eunice building in exactly one hour, he grabs a search warrant (he conveniently keeps a stack of pre-signed warrants in his filing cabinet) and heads out with Barbara to confront Dr. Hyde. It's here that I was shocked by the appearance of not one, but four new Eunice employees. Two scientists are spotted leaving an elevator as they arrive and two security guards appear once Hyde decides he's had just about enough of their nosey questions and decides to lock them up.

Meanwhile, some Colonel Tanner talked to during his investigations has done some investigations of his own. On some fairly flimsy evidence he concludes that Eunice has resurrected "Project: Jurassic Storm" and sends in not one but two Special Ops teams to investigate, each with their own uniforms, transport helicopter and weapons. Why two teams? Well, that way they can use footage from both Carnosaur 2 and Carnosaur 3. What's more, Tanner's gambit has kicked in so there are no lights and the building is swarming with hungry dinosaurs. Good job, Sheriff! The next gruelling half-hour is spent watching soldiers walking through darkened industrial corridors, occasionally firing at some off-screen dinos. They also come up with the sensible idea of setting some explosive charges to level the building. Hyde gets munched by the T-rex as he attempts to escape, and the film shamelessly steals the climax from Carnosaur 2, a bulldozer vs. T-rex battle, that calls to mind the power-lifter scene from Aliens. Only much, much lamer. Eventually the T-rex is dumped down a massive shaft while Tanner and Barbara manage to escape just before the building explodes.

This movie is directed by B-movie regular Jim Wynorski. As well as directing monster features such as Komodo vs. Cobra he has also directed a string of hilariously named, breast-themed softcore porn films, such as The Breastford Wives, House on Hooter Hill and the Witches of Breastwick. Actually, I'm not even sure he deserves a "director" credit. Maybe "editor", but he didn't even do that particularly well. I've got no problem with some stock footage being used here and there. Sometimes when you're working under a tight budget you've got to make a few compromises. However, Raptor exists for the express purpose of reusing existing footage, milking a few cheap thrills from a trilogy of already-shoddy dinosaur flicks. Luckily I haven't seen any of the Carnosaur films, so the experience was not unlike a watching a greatest-hits compilation, plus it was fun to spot all the continuity errors. So basically, if you haven't seen any of the Carnosaur films you'll get your 85 minutes of dinosaur mayhem, but if you have seen them you'll probably experience deja vu followed by profound sense of being ripped off.

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