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Pterodactyl (2005)

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Starring Coolio, Cameron Daddo, Amy Sloan, Danna Lee

Directed by Mark L. Lester


48 hours after Pterodactyl debuted on the Sci-Fi Channel Hurricane Katrina ravaged the Gulf Coast, including my hometown of Long Beach, MS. 48 hours after that, the Sci-Fi Channel touts Pterodactyl as being their highest rated original movie ever. I’m not sure what my point is, but I cannot help but get a creepy feeling that this is no coincidence; one of those “wages of sin = death” dealies. I’m sure in the grand scheme of things that this movie and that catastrophic storm are completely unrelated, but the conspiracy theorist in me suspects that somehow, someway, there is a connection.

A hard luck college anthropologist and his would be girlfriend, a wannabe anthropologist herself, lead a tiny group of college misfits to a long dormant volcano in Northern Turkey to research…I forget what the original point of research was supposed to be but it had something to do with that volcano and the students were along in order to get extra credit. What matters is that they get there just in time to deal with some newly hatched pterodactyls. Why did pterodactyl eggs suddenly hatch, you ask? Well, you see, their eggs just sort of rolled out of the volcano at the very beginning of the film and began hatching. Rhyme and reason are irrelevant because this is a Sci-Fi Channel original movie and looking for rhyme and reason in a Sci-Fi Channel original movie is like looking for laughs in a Rob Schneider comedy; some will claim it exists but the rest of us know better by now.

Things go from dumb to dumber when it turns out that this Turkish volcano that the pterodactyls are nesting at, and where these stupid American academics are traveling to, also happens to be close to the Armenian border. I wasn’t aware that the United States was at war with the tiny nation of Armenia, but, according to this film, we definitely have some issues with them, at least their terrorist aspects, and I don’t think they were of the Islamic fundamentalist type either. Led by Sgt. Coolio, a crack team of cover US commandos/monster fodder is in hot pursuit of an evil Armenian terrorist, who in terms of rank villainy wouldn’t even make for a good henchman in a Golan-Globus action flick.

Before long, the college group is being attacked by both the pterodactyls and the terrorists, so the commandos step in to save them from both. In an amazing coincidence, it turns out that the professor’s would be girlfriend is the daughter of Sgt. Coolio’s Gulf War squad leader; small world, huh? And so when a pterodactyl whisks her off to the nest, they have to join forces to rescue her before pterodactyl hatchlings make a meal out of her. And they have to do so with the terrorist leader they’ve captured in tow and you know he won’t be up to any good.

As for the pterodactyls, I must confess I was surprised by the quality of the computer animation. It’s never completely realistic but after baring witness to the CGI abominations in Sci-Fi Channel originals like Snake King and Attack of the Sabretooth, the digital dactyls look quite impressive, at least about 75% of the time. The problem with the title creatures is the repetitive nature of their actions. The first time one swoops out of the sky and slices a guy in half causing a geyser of blood to erupt from the still standing half of his torso, it’s neat. The first time you see a pterodactyl swoop out of the sky and snatch someone up in its talons and fly off with them, it’s neat. Unfortunately, that’s about all they do and they do it repeatedly. Mostly though, they just fly around in circles and swoop out of the sky a lot. There’s only so many times you can watch a flock of pterodactyls dodging bullets and rockets before it grows especially tiresome.

To his credit, director Mark L. Lester knows how to keep things moving. While it does get a bit repetitive, one can never fully say Pterodactyl gets boring. Unlike countless other Sci-Fi Channel originals, Pterodactyl flows at a solid pace. A Hollywood veteran whose resume includes movies like Firestarter, Commando, Showdown in Little Tokyo, and Roller Boogie, Lester knows how to make a B-movie entertaining and he nearly pulls off a miracle – emphasis on nearly.

What ultimately sinks Pterodactyl are the characterizations. They’re either done too broadly to the point of bad parody, are totally one-dimensional, or simply inconsistent in how they’re portrayed. The worst in terms of bad stereotyping are the students along for the trip. You could best sum them up as conspiracy theorist nerd, the forty-year old virgin, Paris Hilton wannabe, and the one they didn’t bother establishing a personality for since she dies quickly anyway. These character types aren’t just bad, they’re insultingly unfunny. Whenever any of them opens their mouth – especially the conspiracy theorist nerd – it’s just plain brutal.

Coolio, whose career has rapidly descended from “Gangsta’s Paradise” to B-movie hell, actually gives the film’s best performance, which should tell you an awful lot right there. Still, his dialogue consists of an often uneasy mix of tough talking military jargon and fast talking ghetto jive that makes me wonder if Coolio didn’t adlib it all right there on the spot. Between his dialogue in this flick and Dracula 3000, I’m really beginning to wonder if he’s being allowed to write his own material.

The rest of the commandos are almost all just cannon fodder with only one or two that standout from the rest, and not because they have distinct personalities, but because they just have a few more lines than the others that die off quicker.

Then there’s the professor, one of the most inconsistent characters I’ve seen in awhile. Upon first encountering the pterodactyls and having already lost students to them, he still insists on going to the volcano to find their nest because it’ll be an incredible find that will make him world famous and he’s tired of being a nobody in the world of anthropology. He shows little or no regard for the remaining members of his group or their well being, almost all of whom want to turn back and seek help. Later on, this same professor suddenly goes from selfish egotist to dashing romantic hero determined to rescue the woman he loves. I kept expecting, if nothing else, for him to make a noble sacrifice at the end in order to save her and atone for his mistakes, as is usually keeping with the laws of cinema. But no, he does no such thing. In fact, another character makes one of the most pointless self sacrifices I’ve ever seen in a movie, proving to be that much more pointless because it doesn’t work, leaving professor jerkface to step in and be the hero. Sorry, not buying it.

Also, I don’t know about you but I really have come to hate it when screenwriters get cute by naming characters in goofy B-movies like this after really talented genre people. In this case, characters have last names like Lovecraft, Heinlein, and Serling. If you’re making a movie this dopey then at least be honest about it and give characters last names like Wynorski, Boll, and Pyun.

And a shiny new nickel to anyone that can explain to me the last shot of the film. Was it supposed to set up a potential sequel based around an entirely different breed of dinosaur, an acknowledgement that pterodactyls aren’t that impressive compared to other dinosaurs, or just something completely nonsensical that the filmmaker thought would be a nifty way to wrap up the movie? Save your nickel because I’m voting for theory number three.


2 out of 5

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American Psycho Meets Creep – Strawberry Flavored Plastic Review

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Starring Aidan Bristow, Nicholas Urda, Andres Montejo

Directed by Colin Bemis


Recently I wrote up an article here on Dread Central which was basically an open letter to anyone who was listening called “I Miss Found Footage.” Well, it seems like someone WAS listening, as I was then sent the link to an all-new found footage film called Strawberry Flavored Plastic from first-time writer-director Colin Bemis.

The film follows the “still-at-large crimes of Noel, a repentant, classy and charming serial killer loose in the suburbs of New York.” Basically, you could think of the flick as American Psycho meets Mark Duplass and Partick Brice’s Creep. That, or you could think of it as “Man Bites Dog in color!” However you choose to label Colin Bemis’ psychological thriller, just make sure you check out the film once it hits in the future.

As I alluded to above, the film is basically a found footage version of American Psycho. But that said, the film sports a twist on the charming serial killer subgenre that I have yet to see play out in any of the above-mentioned classics. I’m not going to go into spoiler territory here, but I will say that the film introduces an element to the tale that spins it into much more of a character drama than a straight horror film. Not that there is anything wrong with that!

Truth be told, the film’s turn from serial killer flick into a layered character study might have been its kiss of death, but this slight genre switch is rendered a minor issue as the film’s central narcissistic antagonist is played by Aidan Bristow. Bristow is an actor you may not have heard of before this review, but you will hear his name more and more over the years to come, I promise. The guy gives (no pun intended) a killer performance as the film’s resident serial killer Noel Rose, and time after time surprised me with how chilling, charming, or downright vulnerable he chose to play any given scene.

Bristow’s performance is, in the end, the major element the film has going for it. But that said, as a fan of found footage, I was smiling ear to ear at first-time director Colin Bemis’ understanding of what makes a found footage suspense sequence work.

In Strawberry Flavored Plastic director Colin Bemis is confident and content to allow full emotional scenes to play out with the camera directed at nothing more than a character’s knees. Why is this so important? Because it keeps the reality of the film going. Too many found footage directors would focus on the actors’ faces during such emotional scenes – no matter how contrived the camera angle was. In this film, however, Bemis favors the reality that says, “If you were really in this emotional state and holding a camera, you would let it drop to your side.” I agree, and it is small touches like that which make the film feel authentic and thus – once the shite hits the fan – all the scarier.

On the dull side of the kitchen knife, the film does feel a bit long even given it’s short running time, and there doesn’t seem too much in the way of visceral horror to be found within. Again, graphic blood and gore aren’t a must in a fright flick, but a tad more of the old ultra-violence would have gone a long way in selling our main psychopath’s insanity and unpredictability. But all the same, the film does feature a rather shocking sequence where our main baddie performs a brutal home invasion/murder that puts this film firmly in the realm of horror. In fact, the particular POV home invasion scene I’m talking about holds about as much horror as you’ll ever wish to witness.

In the end, Colin Bemis’ Strawberry Flavored Plastic is a must-see for fans of found footage and serial killer studies such as American Pyscho, Creep, and Man Bites Dog. I recommend giving it a watch once it premieres. If only to be able to point to Aidan Bristow in the near future and tell all your friends that you watched (one of) his first movies.

Until then, check out the film’s trailer HERE, and follow the movie on Facebook.

  • Strawberry Flavored Plastic
3.5

Summary

Lead actor Aidan Bristow turns in a star-making performance in Colin Bemis’ Strawberry Flavored Plastic, a found footage film that plays out like Man Bites Dog in Color before introducing a new element to the charming-serial-killer subgenre and becoming more character study than a straight horror. Think American Psycho meets Creep.

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Who Goes There Podcast: Ep 148 – Inside (2017 Remake)

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We’ve all heard the old saying, “in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” Well, I’m here to tell you that’s only partially true. It seems there is a third certainty that had been omitted from the original quote, “It is certain, if you enjoy a movie, at some point someone will remake that movie.” Now is the time when one of my favorite movies gets reimagined, “for an American audience”.

In the late 2000’s an explosion of “French extreme” horror films was released. Martyrs and or High Tension can often be found on any number of lists of the “most fucked up horror movies ever”. Unfortunately, the vastly superior Inside is often forgotten (as well as Frontier(s), but that’s a whole ‘nother rant). Now, ten years after it’s initial release, Inside has been Americanized. Don’t worry, we watched it so you don’t have to. You’re welcome.

Mommy says you’re not dead. Is that true? It’s the Who Goes There Podcast episode 148!

If you like what you hear, please consider joining our Patreon subscribers. For less than the cost of a beer, you get bonus content, exclusive merchandise, special giveaways, and you get to help us continue doing what we love.

The Who Goes There Podcast is available to subscribe to on iTunes right here. Not an iTunes user? You can listen on our Dread Central page. Can’t get enough? We also do that social media shit. You’ll find us on FacebookTwitterInstagramTwitch, and YouTube.

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Totem Review – It’s Not Always A Bad Thing To Look Up From The Bottom Level, If You Like That View

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Starring Kerris Dorsey, James Tupper, Ahna O’Reilly

Directed by Marcel Sarmiento


Following the untimely death of a family’s matriarchal figure, a young woman finds out that managing to hold all of the pieces in place becomes increasingly more difficult when otherworldly infiltrators make their presence felt. We’re going to have to work our way up this Totem, as

17 year old Kellie is the leading lady of the home following the passing of her mother Lexy, and with a needy father and tiny tot of a baby sister, she still keeps things in working order, regardless of the rather large hole that’s been left in the dynamic due to the death. Kellie’s dad after a while decides to ask his lady-friend to move in with the family, so that everyone can move onto a more peaceful existence…yeah, because those types of instances always seem to work seamlessly. As fate would have it, Kellie’s sense of pride is now taking a beating with the new woman in the mix, and her little sister’s new “visitor” is even more disturbed by this intruder – only question is, exactly who is this supernatural pal of sorts? Is it the spirit of their dead mother standing by to keep watch over the family, or is it something that’s found its way to this group, and has much more evil intentions at hand?

What works here is the context of something innately malicious that has found its way into the home – there are only a couple moments that come off as unsettling, but the notion of having to weave through more than half the film acting as a sullen-teen drama is rather painful. The presentation of the “broken family” is one that’s been done to death, and with better results overall, and that’s not to say that the movie is a complete loss, it just takes far too much weeding through at times stale performances and even more stagnant pacing to get to a moderately decent late-stage conclusion to the film. Under the direction of Marcel Sarmiento (Deadgirl), I’d truly hoped for something a bit more along the lines of a disturbing project such as that one, but the only thing disturbing was the time I’d invested in checking this one out. My best advice is to tune into the Lifetime channel if you want a sulky teen-melodrama with a tinge of horror, or you could simply jump into this one and work your way up…but it’s a LONG way to the top.

  • Film
2.0

Summary

Sulky, moody, and ridden with teen-angst buried in the middle of a supernatural mystery – SOUNDS like a decent premise, doesn’t it?

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