Sci Fi’s Mythological Monstrosities

For the longest time Sci-Fi Channel original movies had a reputation for being nothing but different variations on mutant animals gone amok. Well, they still have that rep; those films just aren’t as frequent as they used to be. Having possibly begun running low on animals to mutant and/or giant-size, Sci-Fi has begun to turn their attention towards movies based around mythological monstrosities. Just the past year alone has seen the premieres of Manticore, Cerberus, Minotaur, The Dragon King, and, perhaps I’m stretching a bit on this last one, Kraken: Tentacles of the Deep. Folks, those were just the warm-up. Break out your mythology books because creatures of legend are rapidly becoming the Sci-Fi Channel’s monsters-of-the-week!

Basilisk!Remember the giant snake creature from the end of Harry Potter & the Chamber of Secrets? It seems someone at Sci-Fi decided it deserved its own movie. That brings up to this weekend’s premiere of Basilisk: The Serpent King, starring Yancy “Witchblade” Butler, Jeremy “Party of Five” London, and Stephen “Babylon 5” Furst. An ancient serpent statue comes to life during an eclipse and turns into the mythical, terrifying Basilisk — a creature that can turn its victims to stone with its gaze. Hopefully it won’t turn viewers to stone (or at least stone-faced) as so many recent Sci-Fi premieres have. I’ll say this; the TV spot promos don’t look half bad at all. Check it out. Maybe this one will actually deliver.

Hey, could this eventually lead Sci-Fi to produce a Snake King vs. Serpent King flick? Better yet, Snake King & Boa vs. Serpent King & Python – the Sci-Fi Channel’s first ever “VS” tag team match-up! Or not.

January 2007 looks to be mythological monster month for the Sci-Fi Channel judging by the announcement of two original movies premiering that month featuring legendary creatures of yore.

First up on January 13th will be Grendel, a “gritty, hard-hitting new adaptation” of Beowulf’s epic battle with the monster Grendel. Hey, as long as it’s better than that awful Christopher Lambert Beowulf flick from years back… Grendel stars “The Dead Zone”‘s Chris Bruno as Beowulf, Chariots of Fire‘s Ben Cross as King Hrothgar, and “Star Trek: The Next Generation” star Marina Sirtis as Queen Wealhtheow.

Amber Benson stars in GryphonJanuary 27th will see the premiere of Gryphon (Originally titled Attack of the Gryphon, thank goodness they changed that). This one will apparently be set in ancient or medieval times (I think) with two warring kingdoms having to unite to defeat the mythological winged lion creature threatening them all. I’m not 100% certain but I think I read something about this once that mentioned an evil wizard being behind it all. Or perhaps I’m confusing this with another Sci-Fi Channel original with a remarkably similar premise, Dragon Storm. Regardless, “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” alum Amber Benson, Superman II‘s Sarah Douglas, and “The District”‘s Jonathan LaPaglia star in the film directed by “Farscape” helmer Andrew Prowse.

Two more films based around mythological monsters (that I know of) no doubt destined for Sci-Fi Channel premierdom (I think I just coined a new word) are also coming down the pike.

Cinetel, the company that already gave us Cerberus earlier this year, is currently in pre-production of Hydra, which I’m sure you have already deduced is about the multi-headed serpent of Greek mythology. According to the synopsis, “Jack Stone believes Ghost Island to be mystical, holding secrets of a mythical treasure from long ago. What he doesn’t know is that the island holds a darker secret … protecting the ancient treasure is the mythical Hydra, the multi-headed serpent from ancient Greek lore. While they search for the treasure, Jack and his crew are about to discover this ancient creature and find themselves trapped on the island with only one way off.” Not sure exactly when this one will slither into production.

Not the Cyclops they'll be using, but you get the ideaRoger Corman’s New Concorde is also looking to get in on the mythological mayhem act with Cyclops, although this particular beast isn’t all bad. According to the synopsis, “A Cyclops, a ferocious, one-eyed giant and cannibal is captured and brought back to Rome by Marcus, a centurion and popular war hero. The Cyclops both terrifies and thrills the crowds at the Emperor’s Victory Games when he fights Rome’s greatest and strongest gladiators, including Marcus himself, who, as a result of the treachery of his jealous rival, the Emperor’s nephew is tripped of his rank and forced to become a gladiator. Ultimately, Marcus and the Cyclops become allies and lead a rebellion against the tyrannical Emperor and his corrupted nephew.” This one is currently in development so don’t expect to see its one eye anytime soon.

However, New Concorde has Cry of the Winged Serpent waiting in the wings (no pun intended) with B-movie veteran Maxwell Caulfield starring alongside “Star Trek: Voyager”‘s Robert Beltran. The plot reads like someone combined the premise to the 1946 George Zucco schlockfest The Flying Serpent – in which a man sought vengeance by controlling the Aztec winged serpent god Quetzalcoatl, which was about the size of a large bird – with that of the 1982 cult classic Q, The Winged Serpent – in which a giant-sized Quetzalcoatl terrorized New York City – to produce an entirely new movie about a young man given an amulet that can call upon a dragon-sized Quetzacoatl which he uses to get revenge on those who have oppressed his people. Of course when it comes to giant monster wrangling things can sometimes get out of the control of the person that thinks they’re in control of the creature.

Last I’d heard about Cry of the Winged Serpent Jim Wynorski’s name was attached to direct. Instead a newcomer named Jamie Wagner is listed as the director. A trailer for Cry of the Winged Serpent is currently online at the American Film Market’s 2006 film listings website and it certainly looks like something right up Sci-Fi Channel’s alley right down to the iffy CGI used to bring the monster to life. Unless my eyes deceive me I’d swear I recognize some of the locales in the preview from Curse of the Komodo, A.I. Assault, and Komodo vs. Cobra. Almost makes me wonder if Jamie Wagner isn’t another new Jim Wynorski alias.

So what mythological monster shall Sci-Fi turn to next? I vote unicorns. A movie about an evil pissed-off unicorn that everyone sees and naturally assumes is some peaceful loving animal until it gets a running start and gores them to death with its horn. And, of course, the only way to kill the unicorn is to break its horn. The Sci-Fi Channel original movie GORE OF THE UNICORN … Get me Lorenzo Lamas’ agent on the telephone, stat!

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Jon Condit

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