It seems that Proteus haunted every shelf in video stores throughout the mid-to-late 90’s. I must have strolled by the box hundreds of times. I was never intrigued enough to rent it, and apparently, no one else was intrigued either. I haven’t met a single person who has seen Proteus. For what it’s worth, this is a functional creature feature that squeezes every penny out of its exiguous budget. It’s based on a novel authored by John Brosnan, the same fellow who penned the source material for Carnosaur. Brosnan also wrote the screenplay. I am told that the film deviates from the book to a liberal extent. I have to wonder what the aspirations were here. Brosnan couldn’t have aimed too high, as the premise is as generic as mass-manufactured cotton swabs.

Drug traffickers get themselves shipwrecked and wind up dwelling in the mildewed halls of an abandoned oil rig. They stumble upon a genetic mutation that was created by scientists. God, I can barely type the synopsis without falling asleep. None of the characters have distinguishable traits. They could have swapped lines halfway through the film, and I wouldn’t have known it. Craig Fairbrass gives a competent performance as the “action hero,” but I can’t say that I cared about him or anyone else, for that matter. Proteus falls under the same category as Deep Star Six, Leviathan, and Deep Rising. As with those nautical shockers, the characters aren’t particularly important. It’s all about the monster action. Does Proteus deliver?

Yes and no. I will say this...the special effects hold up rather well. While the shark/squid/lobster aberration only shows up for the finale, it’s still a hearty construct. Plus, the camera backs off, so for better or worse, we get to see the entire armamentarium. The credits list dozens of effects technicians, and I didn’t spot many digital touch-ups (the year was 1995, so crude CGI was available). I must applaud the effects crew, for they evidently toiled away with unflagging conviction. Director Bob Keen builds an effective atmosphere with swirling mist, allochromatic lighting, and musky exterior shots of the oil rig. Useless fact – Keen shouldered effects duties on The Neverending Story, Waxwork, and Return of the Jedi.

Most of the halfhearted tension stems from a subplot that has our shark/squid/lobster fucker “infecting” the characters. Everything plays out like a tired riff on Invasion of the Body Snatchers and The Hidden. Boring. There is also a twist, but it’s exceedingly minor. I’m still not sure if it was supposed to bowl me over or not. Overall, Proteus could have been worse. It could have been better. I would reach for Deep Rising before I sought out this middling time-waster. It sports more action, more blood, more Treat Williams, more Famke Janssen. Better yet, check out Deep Star Six. It features a stronger dose of Ferrer. I found Proteus to be lacking in the “Miguel Ferrer” department, as well as the “Treat Williams” department.

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