SPOILER WARNING...NOT THAT YOU CARE
Today, 1993's Carnosaur is a source of calumniatory gibes from b-movie savants. These cheap shots are deserved and good-natured, but I realized something yesterday afternoon. This flick isn't so bad. For years, I put it on a pedestal out of playful irony. It will never be confused for a landmark achievement in the genre; that much is true. However, it's not quite the absurd buffoonery that I remember it being. For every scene of a spurious dinosaur puppet mangling some poor bastard's innards, there is a purposeful stroke of refractory nihilism. No, really. Carnosaur is fucking bleak. Don't believe me? Check out the downbeat denouement where our protagonist is honeycombed with bullets and set on fire. Damn.
Of course, the heavy themes of oracular misanthropy are buoyed by wild gore and tacky special effects. It's plain to see how Carnosaur earned its reputation. The sequels didn't help in that regard. I wouldn't dare complain about the film's elemental schlock, though. I have vivid memories of renting it from the video store as an itsy-bitsy scalawag. My dad let me pick the movie that night, and I was still beaming from catching Jurassic Park at the multiplex. I was a dino freak, so I was prone to buying tupperware if it was emblazoned with a prehistoric creature (and by "buying," I mean "needling my parental units until they caved in and bought it for me"). We took home Carnosaur. I was dumbfounded by the gut-gnashing, the limb-tearing and the face-purging on display.
As I recall, this was the bloodiest motion picture I had seen up to that point. Did it bother me that it was a blatant cash-in? No. In actuality, the screenplay's source material was published six years before Michael Crichton wrote his 'saur story. Most fans forget that Carnosaur is based on the 1984 novel of the same name. But that doesn't change the fact that the premise was retooled beyond recognition and fast-tracked by Roger Corman to capitalize on the miasmic success of Jurassic Park. The book centered around a zoo in England. The "adaptation" focuses on a mad scientist in the middle of nowhere. Dr. Tiptree (as portrayed by a miscast, yet inspired Diane Ladd) is tinkering with the DNA of chickens in an effort to hatch a regiment of dinosaurs.
In her opinion, humans should return the earth to its rightful owners. After all, we have managed to fuck it up in an alarmingly short amount of time. She has a point, but shit, she gives new meaning to the term "proactive." Personally, I would draw the line at pushing a reptilian carnivore out of my twat. Luckily for Dr. Tiptree, her bundle of joy opts to stage an impromptu C-section. Break out the cigars? Switching gears, I found the pace to be rewardingly expeditious. This is a fleet-footed flick, and unless you're nuzzled by fatigue, your eyes should be cleaved to the screen like ivy. I'm aware of Carnosaur's infirmities. My judgment isn't entirely clouded by nostalgia.
For starters, the sexual tension between Doc (a lackadaisical Raphael Sbarge) and Thrush (a wooden Jennifer Runyon) is piss-poor. Their chemistry is forced, and I didn't buy their bullshit for a single second. By the way, whatever happened to Runyon? This was her last role. Ouch. None of the characters are engaging, save for Clint Howard's nuanced interpretation of a truck driver. That dude rules. If you don't consider yourself to be a disciple of the divinity that is Clint Howard, I have zero respect for you. Don't even look at me. Get out of my goddamn house! Woah, sorry. It's just that this is a touchy subject. I can't believe that liberals are trying to take Clint Howard out of the constitution!
Where was I? Ah, yes...my other objection. As much as I appreciate writer/director Adam Simon's creature of choice (the main dinosaur is a Deinonychus, a distant relative of run-of-the-mill raptors), he doesn't exploit his primary beastie to its full potential. I understand that he was dealing with a slim budget, but I wanted more action. Thankfully, the follow-up delivered demolition on an elaborate scale. And that's my cue to stop typing. Carnosaur is ambrosial cheese traced with grim undertones. If you ask me, it's a complement to the very film it sets out to emulate. Mmmmm, I can't resist that Corman stench!