The Blood Stream mines the Internet for horror gold so you don’t have to, delivering streamable horror titles never before featured on Dread Central. Occasionally I’ll dredge up something good, maybe even great. To find those gems, I’ll have to sift through a lot of breathtakingly bad cinema. Enjoy!
It’s hard to think of many movies more intentionally, non-ironically derivative than Proteus (1995).
First the obvious: A group of unsuspecting people happens upon an oil rig housing a dark, mutated secret. Right off the bat we’ve got direct plagiarism of maritime monster movies like Leviathan and Deepstar Six, albeit a decade late and several million production dollars short. (Obviously Leviathan > Deepstar. I will hear no argument on the subject.) But Proteus‘ shameless cribbing doesn’t end there.
With the exception of the finale’s more or less passable money shot, the gloppy, haphazard creature effects are a halfhearted knockoff of Bob Bottin’s work in The Thing. Wailing, drawn out violin tones make the comparison unavoidable. Instead of Bottin’s elaborately articulated nightmare creations, Proteus features little more than a few pulsating piles of rubber doused with motor oil. Occasionally, for no reason at all, the monsters take the form of actors wearing Halloween masks. Other times they’re literally just clumps of latex dangling from a string through a hole in the ceiling. The illusion is less than convincing.
As if all that wasn’t enough to cram into one B-movie, somebody apparently decided to squeeze in The Usual Suspects as well. The exposition scenes of Proteus feature two elements that closely mirror the intro to The Usual Suspects: A boat explosion presented with no context and a tense, one-on-one dialogue between a bloodied hero and a half-seen, cigarette smoking aggressor.
Both movies were released in August 1995, but The Usual Suspects screened at Cannes the preceding May. That would have been more than enough time for an opportunistic production company to order hasty reshoots in hopes of capitalizing on what everyone knew was going to be a big hit. Unfortunately, they must have run out of time. After the first two minutes, this interview scene — clearly intended to bookend the narrative — never shows up again. Just like that…it’s gone.
I still enjoyed parts of Proteus for sheer nostalgia. If you haven’t seen it yet and you have fond memories of cheesy, late 20th century sci-fi/horror, you might too. Proteus hits virtually every every 80s/90s action movie cliche with gusto.
Our hero sports huge, perpetually oiled muscles. He wears his pants hiked up to the ribcage, matched with a puffy, tucked-in t-shirt. His girlfriend is inexplicably able to decipher technical schematics, often exclaiming, “It must have been some kind of genetic experiment!” Corporate conspiracies, ethical violations, human-voiced auto-destruct sequences, diving away from explosions…I could go on but I suddenly have an overpowering urge to listen to Smashing Pumpkins and play Magic: The Gathering.
Though the effects, direction and editing are terrible (from the team that brought you Carnosaur!), the cast isn’t half bad. Granted, they’re forced to play New England heroin smugglers with names like Chrissy, Mark and Linda. (GANGSTA!) But they do a decent job with what they’re given. Especially fun is the macho leading man, Craig Fairbrass, whose gruff, London accent will be familiar to fans of the Modern Warfare video game series. I recognized him as Delmar, the hired gun/soccer enthusiast in Cliffhanger who almost kicked Michael Rooker off a mountain.
Fairbrass is a little like a cockney Nathan Fillion on steroids. I wonder if his toned physique got him typecast as a Stallone/Schwarzenegger wannabe, curtailing a possibly grander career. He has solid comedic timing, delivering jokes so naturally they feel ad libbed. In Proteus this hulking, machine gun toting man-beast spends the first act getting his ass handed to him by little old men and mousey research scientists. His wounded masculine pride leads to dry, exasperated quips like, “That’s the second time today I’ve been thrown around the room by a complete stranger. My confidence now is very, very low.”
Alas, Proteus is a movie you’re likely to enjoy only if you’re hard up and/or partaking in a few cocktails. Instead, why not stream yourself a little Death Machine?
Vastly wackier and even more dated than Proteus, Death Machine is also derivative sci-fi horror that will never escape the era in which it was made. Nevertheless it’s a good deal more fun and feels much more like a viable piece of entertainment. And who doesn’t love goofy styrofoam power armor?
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