Attack of the Sabertooth (DVD)

Attack of the Sabretooth DVDStarring Brian Wimmer, Stacy Haiduk, Nicholas Bell, Robert Carradine, Parry Shen, Natalie Avital, and Billy Aaron Brown

Directed by George Miller

Distributed by Lionsgate

Attack of the Sabretooth was directed by George Miller. No, not the George Miller that directed The Road Warrior; this is the George Miller that made The Aviator. No, not that Aviator; I’m talking about the one from 1985 that starred the late Christoper Reeve. He also directed the brutally unfunny Corbin Bernsen sperm bank comedy Frozen Assets, the exceptionally dopey Corbin Bernsen disaster thriller Tidal Wave: No Escape, and the dog befriends a dolphin kiddy flick Zeus & Roxanne, that substituted Steve Guttenberg for Corbin Bernsen. Now that I think about it, that’s what Zeus & Roxanne was lacking – multiple decapitations and disembowelment, preferably of Corbin Bernsen, but that’s another axe to grind another day.

The original title for Attack of the Sabretooth was going to be Night of the Sabretooth. I’m fairly certain the title was changed after someone actually watched the movie and astutely noted that everything takes place during daylight hours. Too say that Attack of the Sabretooth is a stupid movie would be quite the understatement. The film contains enough cheese to put someone lactose intolerant into a coma. Be warned: much of the film’s cheese is pure limburger.

Niles is a greedy yet hapless multimillionaire who has invested every penny he has into a combination tropical island resort/wildlife refuge that he’s banking on becoming one of the biggest tourist destinations ever because being he’s managed to bring back to life the long extinct sabretooth tiger using the same sort of genetic manipulation that was popularized in Jurassic Park. No T-Rex’s, no velociraptors, no goo-spitting dinosaurs – just sabretooth tigers. Is it just me or does the idea of gawking at tigers with tusks seem like a novel idea that’s novelty would quickly wear off rather quickly? Sabretooth tigers just haven’t captured the imagination quite like the dinosaurs have and I rather doubt they’d be nearly the draw that a true life Jurassic Park would be.

Nonetheless, the fumbling Niles has invited a bunch of other multimillionaires to the island for the big unveiling with hopes of getting them to become big money investors in the park that he hopes to franchise across the world. It seems the man has the riches to fund prehistoric genetic research but not enough to keep up the overhead costs of a dinky zoo. Go figure.

A sign outside the refuge reads PRIMAL PARK: GENETIC MIRACLES REASONABLY PRICED. Four things go through my mind upon seeing that sign:

Is Primal Park really the best name anyone could come up with?

Wouldn’t the advertising executive that came up with “Genetic Miracles Reasonably Priced” be fired immediately for devising such a horrible slogan that makes your sabretooth cat refuge sound like a discount freak show?

Is that line really an in-joke admitting the film’s own cheapness?

Couldn’t that tagline also be a metaphor for pretty much every Sci-Fi Channel original movie these days?

Oh, yeah, if you weren’t aware before then let it be known that this movie was originally produced for the Sci-Fi Channel. Explains a lot, don’t it?

One of the rich sycophants Niles has invited is his long time rival Grant, another millionaire who has always managed to one-up Niles. Grant (I don’t think any character in the film was ever given a last name) as played by Robert Carradine is a typical broad caricature of a greedy, egotistical corporate executive. It’s like Carradine is playing his Revenge of the Nerds’ Lewis character as if he went on to become a wealthy, self-centered prick. Niles and Grant behave around one another like Wall Street weasel versions of Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon’s Grumpy Old Men characters minus the entertainment value.

Oh, important safety tip for those out there that might one day find themselves working at a sabretooth tiger wildlife reserve: if you come across the gate to the sabretooth tiger pen open and the security guard is nowhere to be found, do not just walk in yelling out the guard’s name repeatedly because I assure you nothing good will come from it.

The sparse personnel at Primal Park attempt to recapture the toothy feline and get things under control while Niles stalls for time with the party guests. You keep waiting for the sabretooths to run wild at the party and slaughter all the guests but that must not have been in the budget.

Amongst the park personnel is former Superboy hotty Stacy Haiduk ,whose career never really took off like some people probably thought it would; a brief stint on “SeaQuest DSV” is pretty much her career highlight, and believe me, the words “SeaQuest DSV” and “career highlight” should never be used in the same sentence. Heck, she isn’t even the film’s lead security guard hero. Nope, she’s the lead security guard hero’s horny co-worker girlfriend. I barely remember anything about the lead security guard hero at all except that he was boring, chased after genetically engineered sabretooth cats with little more than a flashlight at times, oh, and he’s clearly seen Halloween 2 based on how he attempts to dispatch some sabretooths at one point.

Meanwhile, a merry band of typical B-movie college kids have arrived at the resort for a scavenger hunt that will determine whether or not they get accepted into the fraternity/sorority they’re pledging. They trespass into the Primal Park command center and damn near loot the place, even causing the electrical system to go down so that the tigers can escape.

These characters do have names but those names are not important because they are only identifiable by their archetypes. We have an Asian computer geek, a vacuous blonde, a surly goth chick, a dumb jock, and a token black girl. Every last one of them deserved to die and the fact that all of them did not both saddens and disgusts me. Too stupid too live, too annoying too live – just like the idiots in House of the Dead, I would accept nothing short of graphic mutilations as their fate. Sure, we got a few of those but the body count should have been higher. It should have been complete.

On the plus side, we are treated to some wonderful banter between some of these morons that sounds as if it was written by a screenwriter that obviously has no idea how young people (or any people for that matter) talk. Here’s a sample from a spat between the surly goth chick and the dumb jock:

“You are living proof that the human race is evolving… backwards.”
“Your attitude sucks, goth girl. You know that?”
“Read my lips, beefcake; a goth’s attitude is supposed to suck.”

“A goth’s attitude is supposed to suck?” Dammit, I want that printed on a T-shirt and sold at Hot Topics everywhere. It’ll be the greatest thing to happen to goth chick apparel since Emily the Strange.

Once the B-movie teenage wastrel all-stars invade Primal Park, the movie basically plays out like this: sabretooth tigers already loose kill people, get recaptured, then all the sabretooths get loose again, kill more people, and then the people not already dead band together to kill them. And let’s not forget the Robert Carradine character is secretly plotting to steal all of Niles’ scientific data for genetically engineering sabretooth tigers.

Oh, and the sabretooth cats also see the world in what I can only best describe as psychedelic orange Jell-O vision.

I warned you that this was a Sci-Fi Channel original and that means the special effects are subpar for the course. Of course, that’s also because a lot of the CGI was recycled from the original Sabretooth (the David Keith/Vanessa Angel crapfest that this film is a pseudo sequel to) in what was surely a cost cutting move. We’re told the sabretooth cats are 600 pounds but the computer animators must not have been told this fact since all appear to be the size of a big cougar with the exception of the enormous mongoloid sabretooth tiger; a sabretooth for which the genetic engineering process didn’t quite take causing its back legs to be useless leaving it to crawl around with its front legs like a walrus on its flippers. Seeing this ludicrous but at least imaginative oddity left me longing for a big, killer walrus movie. Come on, Sci-Fi Channel; bring it on! Walrus: Tusks of Terror! I demand it!

Repulsively dumb characters, insipid dialogue, surprisingly gory death scenes, not so surprisingly terrible special effects, but at least it moves at a reasonably brisk pace and has a few mildly entertaining moments. The ending even leaves things open for yet another sequel, and if that sequel ends anything like this one then the computer effects are going to reach Commodore 64 quality before it’s all said and done. And if they continue along the path of Star Wars-esque titles then the next one will be Revenge of the Sabretooth, preferably with a half cyborg sabretooth tiger.

Nah, screw the sabretooth tiger! All I want is my killer walrus flick – Walrus: Blubber of Destruction!

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2 out of 5

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Jon Condit

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