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Deadly Species (2002)

Starring Pete Penuel, Brian Minyard, Allison Anders, and Britt George

Directed by Daniel Springen


“Things have been kind of slow.”

That particular line of dialogue is uttered at around the one-hour mark of Deadly Species and I assure you that truer words have never been spoken.

Deadly Species is the most aggravating kind of B-movie because it has a premise that could have been made into an entertaining film, yet the filmmakers fail to capitalize on it until the last 10 minutes when the film finally gets somewhere interesting only to put everything into fast forward before abruptly pulling the plug.

A wealthy big game hunter and obnoxious playboy – his resemblance to radio shock jock Mancow is both uncanny and frightening – wants to fund an expedition deep into the nether-regions of the Florida Everglades to search for the remnants of a legendary Indian tribe called the Calusa. At least that’s what he wants everyone to think. He hires a local anthropology professor, a hard up for cash expert on the Calusa, to help lead the group into the vast swamplands. The group itself consists of the big game hunter, the professor, his wife, and several of the professor’s nubile students. Hey, aren’t all anthropology students nubile?

The inclusion of these young, good-looking students should tell you right away what direction this movie is headed in.

So after most of the female characters get in their required nude scenes, the group gathers together and ventures out into the most dangerous and unexplored region of the Everglades. They are being watch the whole time by something from afar. The group comes across the deserted campsite of a previous expedition leading to the discovery of the dismembered remains of that camp’s occupants. It also starts becoming apparent to everyone except the idiot characters in this movie that the game hunter knows something he’s not telling them. The merry band of morons come to the conclusion that they were torn apart by wild animals so they’ll need to be extra cautious from here on out. No sooner do they agree upon this, one of the perky, nubile, female students wanders off to a nearby stream so that she can strip naked and take a bath. Would it shock you to know that something kills her?

The professor’s wife discovers a journal that was kept by one of the deceased explorers revealing that their benefactor also funded that last trip and that it isn’t the Calusa he’s really interested in but the mythical Fountain of Youth, which he believes to be out here somewhere. She shows this to her hubby and he confronts the wealthy game hunter, who informs them that he duped them into coming and there’s an even bigger problem now for them to deal with. You see there’s this race of hideous, mutant hellbeasts that guard the Fountain of Youth. The monsters killed the last group of explorers he sent in and now they’re being picked off one by one.

Actually, to be more specific, they’re being picked off one by one off camera. Why, I don’t know, but pretty much every monster attack scene occurs off-screen. All you see is a blurry, split second attack before cutting away. I just don’t get what the filmmaker was going for. It plays out like a slasher film complete with gore and gratuitous nudity but when it comes to the actual selling point of the movie, monsters killing people, it suddenly decides to take a less is more attitude.

So basically the game hunter continues to be a real prick forces everyone to press on so that they can begin getting killed off one at a time. It turns out there are several of these creatures but they still prefer to hide in the bushes and kill people one at a time rather than swarm in all at once and be done with it.

To summarize the plot so far, boring idiots and naked women in the Florida Everglades looking for the Fountain of Youth that’s protected by vicious monsters that you barely see and kill people off camera. Oh, and then there’s the bit with the professor getting infected with monster blood and water from the Fountain of Youth is the only cure.

When the monsters, the Fountain of Youth, and the Calusa tribe legends all come together in the film’s final few moments you come to realize that this could have been a decent movie if it hadn’t tossed its imagination out the window in favor of doing a boring, overly talky remake of Congo with 1/100th the budget and three times the mediocrity. Even worse, the movie dares to tease a sequel which from what they’re teasing would just be the same exact movie all over again only with the explorers going in armed this time. As if the world is in need of yet another Predator knock-off.

My favorite scene, the one that pretty much sums up the mentality of the film and reason for its failing, has one of the students on watch keeping an eye on the motion sensors while the remaining members sleep. In steps his girlfriend and instead of watching the monitor that is keeping them alive, they instead decide to have sex right there on the ground. Yeah, wouldn’t want to let a little thing like being in a life or death situation in a hostile environment interfere with someone having time for a quickie. What makes this scene all the more eye rolling is that they never actually have sex or even remove any clothes. They just roll around on the ground and make-out in slow motion for what seems like forever.

Have I fully stressed how virtually nothing of interest happens for the first hour and fifteen minutes? We mainly get two things: people fumbling about the jungle and talking, lots and lots of talking. Now talking isn’t necessarily a bad thing but when the talking goes on and on, the dialogue is this uninteresting and the delivery this subpar, then it’s time to make use of the fast forward button. Far too many of these scenes weighted down with heavy amounts of exposition feature long pauses in between lines. Somebody will say something and then there will be like ten to fifteen seconds before somebody else says something. Did the director think he was filming a Pinter play or was this done to stretch the material out even further to fill the runtime?

And how about that terrible title? Deadly Species? That ranks right up there with such other awful generic titles as Alien Predator and Karate Cop. The concept that gets completely wasted by this total dead zone of a film is the stuff that old-fashioned b-movies were made of so why not play up that in the title. Why not call it It Came From The Everglades or Swamp of the Immortal Monster? Neither of those is great but they’re certainly better than the unimaginative Deadly Species title. Oh, that’s right. I forgot that this movie doesn’t have any imagination or ambition outside of its basic premise. Come to think of it, probably for the best that a decent title didn’t get wasted on such a nothing film.

“It never happened but it would have made one hell of a story.”

That line is uttered by one of the survivors at then end of the film. He’s right. Too bad the movie didn’t tell it.

1 ½ out of 5 Mugs

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Jon Condit