Lost Treasure of the Grand Canyon (2009)
Reviewed by The Foywonder
Starring Shannen Doherty, Michael Shanks, Duncan Fraser, JR Bourne, Toby Brener, Byron Chief-Moon
Directed by Farhad Mann
Lost Treasure of the Grand Canyon is at its core a period setting adventure film with Smithsonian Institute researchers discovering the last remnants of Aztec society alive and well living within the darkest (and sometimes surprisingly sunny) reaches of the Grand Canyon. More like a lame Edgar Rice Burroughs wannabe produced for the Hallmark Channel than your typical Sci-Fi Channel movie, because this is a Sci-Fi Channel movie a monster that rips hearts out has been included to justify the film's Sci-Fi Channel original movie status.
That monster is Quetzalcoatl. Though this Quetzalcoatl hardly looks like the "plumed serpent" of Aztec lore - more a hybrid of a dragon and a gargoyle. This is not your great, great, great, great, great, great, great Aztec grandfather's Quetzalcoatl. This is a monster that belongs in a completely different movie or, preferably, considering the cartoony quality of the computer animation, a video game cut scene. Nothing beats having a winged monster that spends the majority of its time prowling caves walking on two legs like a minotaur.
This Quetzalcoatl also has a nasty habit of puking slime on its victims before killing them. Sort of like a "Boomer" from the game Left 4 Dead, only a horde of Aztecs then did not immediately descend upon the slimed. Had they done so there would have at least been something that held my attention if ever so briefly.
Set in the 19th century, Shannen Doherty - yes, it has come to this for her - stars as the daughter of a researcher who went missing exploring remote caves within the Grand Canyon. She, along with another group of researchers led by "Stargate SG-1"'s Michael Shanks, venture off in search of the lost explorers. This will involve unfathomable amounts of cave walking, surviving booby traps galore, more cave walking, and, eventually, encountering a lost civilization, leading to yet more cave walking.
Best moment of the movie is when one of the researchers comments that they think they're the first people to set foot within these caves in hundreds of years despite these caves be adorned with lit torches. So like, uh, do they think the bats discovered fire and learned out hot make torches or what?
They'll find the last remnants of Aztec society: some that look the proper ethnicity, some the whitest Aztecs ever seen, some looking all buff like Aztec "American Gladiators", and some wearing flip flops. They fled the destruction of their society at the hands of Spanish Conquistadors, set up new quarters inside secret chambers within the Grand Canyon of Arizona, and continue to do what the screenwriter believes Aztecs did best: human sacrifice. Their living monster god, Quetzalcoatl, is particularly fond of human hearts and you better give him his bloody tribute on time or else face his slime-spitting wrath.
I DVR'd Lost Treasure of the Grand Canyon when it first premiered on the Sci-Fi Channel at the end of last year but did not get around to actually watching it until a couple of weeks later. The phrase "bored stupor" came to mind as I did watch this numbingly predictable tale. I know I'm not alone; both Doherty and Shanks looked and sounded bored out of their minds too. The last time Michael Shanks turned up in a Sci-Fi Channel original movie he told people at a fandom convention that he only did it to get a new work visa. Was it time to get it renewed again?
Nothing interesting happens. I'm sure the argument could be made that, yes, things do actually happen in this film. Technically, yes, stuff does happen. But let me assure you that nothing of interest happens. A low budget, low energy, paint-by-numbers production, what we have here is one of those Sci-Fi Channel original movies that feels as if it exists for the sole purpose of filling a timeslot and not as a movie that's really meant to be enjoyed by viewers. What I mean by that is everyone involved collected a paycheck and did their job but nobody on either side of the camera appeared to be showing even a smidgen of heart or enthusiasm. Had it been produced half a century ago, today Lost Treasure of the Grand Canyon would probably be available in cheap public domain box sets alongside The Incredible Petrified World and other such stultifying cinematic snoozers.
Useless trivia time: Lost Treasure of the Grand Canyon was directed by Farhad Mann. Does than name mean anything to you? How about Lawnmower Man 2? Yep. He directed it. And before that he helmed Return to Two Moon Junction. So, on the one hand, kudos for getting Melinda Clarke considerably naked even if it was in a lame sequel like Return to Two Moon Junction. On the other hand, major negatives for having directed one of the worst sequels of all time with Lawnmower Man 2: Jobe's War/Beyond Cyberspace/Max Headroom Goes Bananas. I'm afraid I have to put another black mark in the negative column for this film as well.
1 out of 5
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