Director: Bob Keen

UK - 1995

   Hoff! Hoff! Hoff! 


I actually rented Proteus from my local Blockbuster in an effort to find a Crazy Baby movie for our recent Crazy Baby month. However, Blockbuster was surprisingly lax in their Crazy Baby section; they didn’t even have Baby’s Day Out, for goodness’ sake. The closest I could find was a video box cover with a hatching egg on it. Hence, I was misled into renting a fairly standard "shapeshifting monster in an isolated place terrorizing people" movie.

Given the innate flexibility of shapeshifting monsters, and the kinds of effects that can be accomplished these days, how does there come to be a "standard" kind of movie? Pretty much the same way there is a standard "alien mind-controlling parasite infestation" movie: you have a progenitor which was pretty good, and then scads and scads of unimaginative imitators. In this case, given the messy, "Man, these Geri Halliwell GIFs turned out really bad."stretchy nature of the shapeshifting special effects, when we finally get around to them, I would expect the progenitor would be John Carpenter’s The Thing, the one with Kurt Russell in his bad-boy mode (round about his first Snake Plissken role) as a maverick Arctic scientist. That one also had Wilfred Brimley, doing the right thing to do and becoming a horrible shapeshifting monster (a prelude to his horrible accent-shifting role in Hard Target). Ah, the memories. Of course, what The Thing did what few other shapeshifting movies have bothered to do, and that’s put at least a bit of thought into the conservation of matter. If the Thing was in an approximately head-sized state, it couldn’t grow significantly without taking in more raw material. Which is not to say that it wasn’t physically strong, even when it was small. But that’s beside the point. If memory serves, this attention to physics may have broken down near the end there, but at that point, the climactic final act took precedence, so you can’t really fault them, there.

In any case, because of that, the term "shapeshifter movie" seems to involve lots of messiness, from absorbing innocent creatures into one’s own mass, to disgusting effects when it comes time to shift from one form to another. From The Thing to Phantoms to Biodome to Proteus, the horrible amorphous monsters always seem to some slimy and noisy, with inexplicable, ear-wrenching cries of pain/anger ("Hey, Buuuuuuddy!").

According to my film classes, the credits and opening sequences are usually a decent indication of what the rest of the movie is destined to be like. They should give some hint, some set-up, to what lies ahead. In a true work of art, they will set up the symbolism or the recurring theme. Here, of course, with our film du jour, we have the standard black screen with white credits… not a problem, really, but not spectacular. Sound effects show distant sirens, flashes of film show cigarette smoke… Bam! A hard punch to a jaw! Looks like they’re interrogating someone in a typically movie-brutal style, done in extreme close-up and only intermittent picture. Vicious and bloody; just like most interrogations. At least they’re not severing any fingers. "Charlie, they took my thumbs, Charlie!"

The interrogators ask the subject to go over the story one more time. Okay, it’s true, this is a common framing technique, common enough to be cliché. The best movies to use this tactic will use it at the beginning, so you know there’s a survivor to the events, and then go through the flashback story, and then pick up again so that you don’t know the end, and there’s still some tension. Given the expectations I have for this movie, I’m taking bets that the "framing" technique will never pay off, we’ll never find out who’s doing the interrogating, and it’ll basically be an awkward jump into the movie. Any takers? Anyone? No, I didn’t think so; you folks are savvy enough to find us, you’re savvy enough to know the bad movie form. Good job.

Okay, with the tension spoiled, we jump right into some exposition. Six people are boarding a sailboat while heavily-armed Asian-looking guards look on. There’s a bunch of dialogue here, but it’s garbled. I don’t know if it’s the copy I rented, or the movie in general, but there’s enough ambient noise, and the voice quality is such, that it all washes out. I could turn it up, theoretically, but I’mA demonstration of the aerodynamic structure of the "Presley Cut" unwilling to bother the neighbors just for the sake of expository dialogue that’s paced like 40’s-era banter. Let me sum up what little can be gleaned.

These six people, three couples, will comprise our leads. In any case, apparently four of them start off as idiots. Two, Mark (William Marsh) and Chrissie (Margot Steinberg), are wastes of space, being aggressively Neandrathal and unrealistically bubble-brained, respectively. I’m tempted to call them Idiot-Boy and Airhead for the rest of the review. They certainly earn their nicknames.

Paul (Robert Firth) and Linda (Toni Barry) seem to be the titular leaders of the little group, with Paul coming off as a grown-up trust-funder, and Linda being a woman who goes along with her man, even when he’s doing something monumentally stupid. I couldn’t get what she does for a living, but from her later actions, it seems almost like she’s a medical professional or a biologist or something, and she seems much too together to be sucked into Paul’s idiocy. But then again, I didn’t write the script, and if I had, I would probably have signed it Alan Smithee.

Our last couple is comprised of Alex (Craig Fairbrass), an Australian tough guy and sailor who has been hired to help sail Paul’s boat, I think. His girlfriend or wife is Rachel (Jennifer Calvert), who doesn’t come across as tough as Alex, but still seems quite capable of taking care of herself, moreso than Linda or Airhead. Especially Airhead.

As it turns out, everybody but Alex and Rachel has gotten involved in a deal running drugs for one of the Asian syndicates. I would assume a Triad group, as these thugs seem a little low-rent for a Yakuza operation. Their sailboat is loaded with what I think is heroin, judging by later events. In fact, Paul has lost a finger. Wow, I guess "they took my thumbs" is more appropriate than I had guessed. I’m very cloudy as to how that happened, either he pissed off a drug lord or a previous run went wrong. But apparently, Alex stepped in and saved Paul’s butt, so the other couples are all pissed at him. What? I’d think he’d be a good man to have in your corner, but then again, it’s not like he did it out of friendship, from the way he’s acting toward them. More a situation where he couldn’t stand by and let them be killed, even if he didn’t like them. Which makes sense, I guess, especially if they can sense his disdain of them, his moral and intellectual superiority. Of course, it isn’t hard to be intellectually superior to Idiot-Boy, which, I suppose, is why he lashes out at just about everyone. Oh, to have a chance to go into business, psychoanalyzing poorly drawn movie characters; I’d have The Eternal Practice, ever so profitable.

I said the muddled conversation was paced like a ‘40s bantering scene, meaning they trade quips and comments in a rapid-fire pace. The differences are that it’s hard to follow, both from volume and from diction and speed, and it’s not so much bantering as incessant bickering.

They cast off, and the titles resume. We have an animated "Proteus!" Finally, the title! More credits over black. Then we cut to a blue-filtered shot of the boat… exploding! No explanation, of course. No, that would be too easy. Instead, we’re left to wonder if our individual favorites survived. Did Gimpy Paul make it? Is Idiot-Boy dead? Alex is too tough to die, of course, but what about lovely Rachel?

Oh, and it turns out this whole mess is based on the novel Slimer. While it is slightly encouraging that this film is based on a novel, it’s less encouraging to know the name of that novel.

Back to the film. Such as it is.

Everyone has survived. Turns out the explosion is drug-related, but the person who set it off is just fine. God protects fools and little children. And ships named Enterprise, but the ship got blown up, and they don’t tell us the name of the dinghy they’re in, so I don’t think that applies. It seems all 600 kilos of dope went up in flames, except the few odd kilos that comprise our leads. You know, in this kind of situation, there’s supposed to be at least one person you would like to have survive. Considering he’s the only effective male in the group, it’s evident that Alex is being set up as the male lead, but he’s too hard-nosed and smug to like, the other men are despicable, and the women are either dumb as a box of sticks or fail to make any sort of an impression whatsoever. So we’re left rooting for the monster, when and if it shows itself.

A beaker? Why, this must be SCIENCE!We get our first unnecessary false-alarm in the form of a dead body. This tells us four things: 1) there’s someplace large enough to have security guards and near enough that a dead body in the water won’t decompose nor get nibbled away by the local life forms, 2) this person died, but didn’t get absorbed into the monster, and so will not appear in the movie, and 3) this Duncan Jarman, security officer, must have been the producer’s brother-in-law, because he got paid to float limply in the water. You know they have to cast someone in those roles, and the fact that they gave this ex-cannon fodder a name means that either they were padding the hell out of the flick or they were sucking up to the money guys.

Oh, and 4) these ugly, ugly people are the luckiest idiots in the universe. Blow up their dope smuggling boat, they’ll end up right next to a convenient offshore research platform. Well, perhaps lucky isn’t the right word in all circumstances, but they’ve got some kind of crazy mojo working, nonetheless.

Hey, I just noted in the IMDB that security corpse Duncan Jarman is played by Duncan Jarman. Don’t that beat the Dutch!

However, now we get the plot-building cutaway shots of a security guard, a black man, racing through the installation. It’s during these cutaways that we get our first view of Monstercam! Mind you, Monstercam isn’t much more than a fisheye lens with some additional distortion around the edges, and a color filter over the whole thing, but it’s a cheap effect, and it will do for the moment.

On a side note, Monstercam is green at first (science fiction’s standard default color for evil or alien things), and then partway through the movie, it changes to red. I thought for a short while that the Red Monstercam was the director’s way of hinting that there was another monster in the place, perhaps one at cross purposes with the first. Oooh, then we could have seen a double-shapeshifter battle, each using the plasticity of its body to fullest effect. Yeah, cool. But apparently, that kind of thing was too complex of a development for the creators of the movie. Monstercam is just Monstercam, regardless of the change in color filter. Just so you’re prepared.

The Moron Squad bumps up against a pylon, conveniently emblazoned with the words Brinkstone Corporation. All they have to do is climb up. Idiot-Boy, that repository of wit, that veritable Groucho in a ratty beard, exclaims "Don’t look at me, do I look like a damn lizard?"

Honest to God, my friends, that’s exactly what he says. No, I don’t know what it means, either.

Regardless, it’s Alex who knows everything, so he climbs up. It’s not like there’s much danger of him falling, since we know he pulls through and gets the crap beaten out of him, as this is all flashback. He reaches the top, and lowers an elevator car on a crane to pick up the others. This "getting aboard the rig" sequence is equivalent in perceived length to my public school education. Sure, you’ve got the occasional cut-away to Monstercam, but it’s hard to tell if that helps. It doesn’t speed up the pace at all, and just makes you wonder at the security guard’s stamina, as he’s been running away from that green-lensed camera for the entire time since the boat blew up.

Can someone tell my why monsters always seem to pause when they have their prey cornered? When the teenage girl stumbles in the woods or the space marine is trapped by a bulkhead, and the monster catches up, 99% of the time they will stop and rear up, gazing down at their target before they dive in for the kill. While some of these critters may either need or enjoy fear in their prey, you can’t expect me to believe that accounts for all of it. I mean, if you’re a voracious killingTHRILL as they HAVE LUNCH! machine, what benefit does it get you to do anything but swoop right in and get ‘em? That’s something Deep Blue Sea did pretty well; the sharks were more or less no-nonsense, once they had a bead on their prey. On one level, sure, it’s pretty-boy posing for the audience, but surely there’s another way to do it that keeps the essential nature of the predator in mind, isn’t there?

The Moron Squad’s emergency equipment includes common kitchen flashlights. Who knew they were so rugged? And at such a good value. I’ll look at ours with greater respect, now, knowing they won’t be knocked out of commission by explosions or sea water. In any case, they use these hardy flashlights to explore the offshore station. Their explorations are accompanied by threatening music, for no discernable reason. Really, it’s all "attack/pursuit" music, when all they’re doing is wandering around. Once again, a failed attempt by yet another B-movie creator to ratchet up the tension with his musical selection. It really doesn’t go over well. In any case, they eventually stumble across this really flimsy plastic door. The only real reason to be suspicious of the door is the ultra-high-tech locking mechanism. You know, palm print scanners, retinal scans, the works. Right? I mean, it’s a secret research laboratory, they wouldn’t let just anyone walk in, right? Right?

Okay, someone waves their hand over the lock and the door opens up. Boy, gotta love those strict security protocols. I’d hate to see the defenses on the armory on this station. You might have to actually push a button or turn a doorknob or something to get in.

Inside the secret lab, there are lots of clothes and things, like if the people inside had just vanished. Wait, I know this one. Look for crystals, powder that used to be the body’s basic elements, before all the water was removed. Then beam down to the planet, quick! No, wait, that’s a Star Trek episode. Back to the movie. The idiots appear to be idiot savants, as they start checking on the computers, and Linda recognizes the displays as analyses of DNA. She can tell human DNA from animal DNA on sight, as well. I wonder how that works. I also wonder what a talented research geneticist is doing smuggling drugs with her boyfriend.

There are hints of a squishy, disgusting little thing that could be the monster, but if Proteus: Filmed almost entirely on-location at the Fairview K-Martit is, it doesn’t make sense. What happened to the rest of it? What’s this little piece doing here? The hell? Okay, so I realize its purpose is to set up the audience for the traditional icky shapechanging sequences in the future, and also to allow a number of false scares (provided largely by Idiot-boy, of course), but that doesn’t make the hurt go away.

And wait, look… I guess they don’t have to find the armory, because they have lots of guns there in the lab. Big assault rifles, of various types. Someone tell me, is it at all likely that a large corporate security force would arm their men with such a wide variety of armament? I can understand people wanting to keep their own personal guns, but this is ridiculous. Remember this for when you are equipping your own mercenary task force: standardization of armament means maximum interchangeability of parts and ammo, which is particularly good for a long campaign, or a messy (but lucrative) job killing shapechanging monsters. Having twenty different types of guns is no good if you only have one clip of ammo for each gun.

Okay, let’s review. A large offshore rig outfitted to be a research laboratory, which just about any castaway drug dealers can climb aboard. A high-tech genetics lab with a joke of a security system allows just about any castaway drug dealers to review sensitive experimental lab results. And then doesn’t make much noise when Airhead wanders off, to the point that nobody notices she’s gone for a while. It turns out to be a really lame joke, something that might be a tension-breaker if there had been any real tension.

In all the monster movies, gooey = evil. This monster movie is no different, as the monster leaves goo all over the place. Has anybody ever stopped to think that humans are pretty gooey, in our own way? We leave hair and skin flakes wherever we go, we’ve got all this eye liquid, nose liquid, mouth liquid… of course, we’re used to it. But a species that was much more efficient with its fluids and outer coating would see us as the gooey monsters. Personally, I don’t see messiness as a particularly good survival trait, but it’s apparently scary, which is what matters. Ah, for the blessing of an intelligent monster movie… of which this is not one.

So what have we learned so far? Shapechanging monsters are messy, dumb luck will beat security technology every time, drug runners do not have to have the intelligence God gave a bag of hammers in order to get a job, and, as the next sequence shows, cheap Christmas tree lights really dress up a command center. I’m not saying they make it look like anything more than old electronics and Christmas tree lights, but it’s fun and colorful, and shows an impish playfulness that is so lacking in the other areas of the ship.

During dinner, Monstercam burns out a few lights. Shapechanging monsters need light even less than Crazy Babies. The castaways react to the lights bursting, and while Rachel gets points for being gun-ready, she’s still got the least believable reaction to an exploding light bulb I’ve ever had the misfortune to witness.

I want to do a logic check with you, my friends. You’ve stumbled across a secret research installation, partly because of a freshly dead guard floating in the water. In the genetics lab, you discover empty suits of clothes just lying out, as if people have disappeared from within them, and enough armament to equip a small army. Someone leaves goo all over the control room, and during dinner, somethingSomething Ooky This Way Comes blows out a bunch of lights. What’s your natural reaction? You bunk down for the night in convenient staterooms, of course. This does give us the chance to see the couples alone, and reveals that the only competent drug dealer, Alex, isn’t really a drug dealer at all. Plus, Paul has a taste for heroin, and he’s lost his stash, so he has to go and look for it.

Admittedly, my experience with Horse is a bit lacking, but I don’t think they’ve really been behaving like junkies. Crackheads, sure, but isn’t H supposed to make you more passive when you’re on it, more twitchy when you’re not? You’d think these Hollywood types would have enough experience with the stuff to get the signs right, but apparently not.

Monstercam is very agitated, and when Paul (apparently re-growing his fingers) goes off to get his smack, he confronts the Monstercam, and is apparently carried along by it, his face distorting. Linda, the molecular biologist, who has been sensible (or as sensible as these people get) up until now, takes up Paul’s gun and goes searching for him, all alone, and nearly gets shot by Alex. Of course, Paul’s gun never did Paul any good, so you’d have to wonder why she thinks she’ll have any better luck. But that’s a B-movie for you.

They go looking for Paul, and instead find… a short gray-haired Russian guy (Nigel Pegram).

"Who the hell are you?" barks Alex.

"They call me Dr. Shelley. And you must leave the rig immediately."

Shelley, Shelley… Mary Shelley? Author of Frankenstein, the scientist who created the Monster? Hmm… Got to wonder if someone’s making a stab at literary allusions. Maybe they’re familiar with classic literature, but not so much the standards of the genre that they’re actually writing. Kind of myopic, that, but then again, what do you expect?

After tossing Alex around, which is kind of a tip that he’s really not what he seems, he begs them, "Please. Please. Leave." Then shuts the door. I like a guy of few words, particularly when he’s talking directly to the audience. No, wait, I guess that wasn’t his intention. Oh, well.

Naturally, Airhead and Idiot-boy want to leave, but that would sharply reduce the body count, and besides, if they were going to be scared off, it would have happened long before now.

The room, when they finally get in, is empty. There’s a wall of equations, and when Linda looks at them, they transmute to the words "Linda Help Me!" What’s up with that? Talosian mind games? Hypnotic suggestion? It’s not like this kind of effect is ever used again in the movie; it’s a throwaway attempt to lead us into something else. Why? What’s the purpose? More unfocusedness, like the rig-climbing sequence.

Turns out Idiot-boy is also a junkie (I know some people want to spell it "junky," but don’t spell the words "Trekky" or "roady;" I think a thing can be "junky," but a person is a "junkie"), and he also wants Paul’s stash. But we’re all distracted when Airhead sees someone pass by, and all she can do is chitter like a chimpanzee, much like Cleo in Cleopatra 2525. They finally figure out what Monkey-girl saw, and go chasing after Emo Phillips. "I was just wondering…" No, it’s not Emo, unless emo has an entire face made up of a fang-toothed maw. But no, it’s some woman with an Emo-style pageboy haircut (Jordan Page). Okay, okay, we got it. Shapeshifters. Right.

The Moron Squad questions her, and she freaks out. She starts speaking in tongues, doing that scary voice thing… "Red Jack! Red Jack! Soon all die!" Well, maybe I made up the Red Jack thing, but it’s the same deal. Much of her soliloquy is lost in the bad audio, and at this point in the movie, I couldn’t be bothered to turn it up to hear. Besides, if I did, I would have been deafened when she hopped up and went smashing through the glass door. What is it with all these movies, they go right from a very soft, nearly inaudible segment to something with deafening noise. We got that in our laserdisc of Harold and Maude, no less; if it can strike there, it can strike anywhere.

The winning line so far: "There’s something very weird going on here." No, really? What was your first clue? Personally, I’d go all the way back to the floating dead brother-in-law of the producer.

Okay, so naturally, they go and violate the first rule of monster movie survival, which means they split up. Not only does Alex go off on his own, but Rachel, who has been fairly useless so far, despite some quality gun-posing, goes off after him. And for a special operative trying to be stealthy, shouting "Alex!" every ten feet kind of ruins the surprise factor.

We creep around the rig some more, and finally come back together, after some obligatory almost-got-‘em scenes. And then we meet up with the running security guard! He’s still running, still escaping from the Monstercam, apparently… he gets them all into the mess hall, and has them bracing for an attack from the front… but that’s not where the attack comes from! Nooooo! Rachel is down!

It just goes downhill from there, folks.

Let’s see. There are some lessons to be learned from the rest of the film. One is that even shapechangers are vulnerable to the lure of the smack needle. I didn’t know they had much in the way of veins to inject the junk into, but apparently it When Tea-Bagging Goes Horribly Wrongworks all the same. Also, death by absorption doesn’t keep a grizzled old scientist from tying up some loose ends via a videotaped confession. Similarly, being a research geneticist doesn’t keep you from being fooled by a shapechanger in the form of your boyfriend. Unfortunately, as the one was male, and the other is female, I’m suspicious of Hollywood sexism at work once again. Which is especially sad when you consider that a shapechanger could be any gender it wanted to be.

Well, actually, we do find it’s pretty crafty when it’s running around in the form of one of the party members. It also allows us the closest thing to cheesecake that this movie provides, and that’s still a pretty sad portion. I mean, she’s hot and all, but playing it all wrong. Well, what do you expect when the original beastie wasn’t human to begin with? And there are some other notes that are very interesting about the shifter: for one thing, it possesses the power to instantly dry-clean cloth after it absorbs the body within it. Seeing how gooey it was early on, you have to wonder why the clothes and such that it left behind weren’t all sopping and slime-covered. And also, you have to wonder why it doesn’t absorb the clothes. For that matter, when it manifests as other beings, it seems to manifest the clothing as well as the face and body. Is this entirely reasonable?

For that matter, we get back into the whole idea of consistency. When the thing takes people over, sometimes it seems very violent, other times very stealthy. Sometimes it reminds me of a low budged but immensely grosser version of The Hidden, while at other times it’s like a post-mortem absorption. Neither method seems to affect its ability to absorb the victim’s memories (oh, yes, it’s one of those creatures), so what’s the deal?

Liz over at And You Call Yourself A Scientist! will be pleased to know that the scientists here are motivated by understandable things: they’re being paid by a corporate magnate to find a cure for old age, and while the solution works, it has a tendency to get out of hand, as this whole movie shows. They’re in over their heads, but they weren’t exactly mad, just greedy. On the up side, that kind of research backfires, as it always does in cinematic realities. On the downside, the science is really, really bad. Also, Dr. Shelley is apparently a junkie as well, which has the rather neutrally-charged effect of showing that scientists can have non-science interests and backgrounds. I mean, if they found out that the creature is affected by heroin, they had to have some heroin on the rig, right? And if it were a science installation, that kind of follows that it would be a scientist with the habit, right?

Anyway. I’m kind of off-track now.

We also find out that Bob Keen enjoys a certain level of overkill; a shotgun blast sends the creature in human form sailing backward, in an almost Sam Raimi sort of way (I’m thinking of A Perfect Plan), which is always good. Of course, on a shapechanging monster, bullets don’t work. Bullets never work. Should I ever feel the desire to arm myself, I’m not going to bother with a gun. No, go straight for the high-capacity taser. Electricity is a broad-spectrum attack format, working against most biological forms as well as many mechanical attackers. However, there is evidence of come cybernetic creatures that simply feed on the power, so it’s probably not a good all-around protection device. Probably a taser with a flame-thrower backup. Flame seems to work on most, even those big chitinous aliens from… well, from Alien.

Wow, I’m off-track again. So soon?

Here’s a tip for all you wanna-be mad scientists: if you have to force a lab animal to take a modification that could allow it to turn on its captors and eliminate them, try to pick something small and relatively timid, like a mouse, rabbit, or guinea pig. That’s why they’re called guinea pigs, right? Don’t do it on a Great White Shark, even if you can keep one alive in captivity (which, as we all know from Jaws III in 3D, you can’t). For one thing, it’s hard to overcome a billion or so years of genetic predatory instinct. And how many scientists have to die from shark-related causes before you see the dangers of mucking around too heavily with the great beasts of the deep blue sea?

Further note, something I didn’t notice until close to the end: you have to be an idiot of you arm your guards on a scientific offshore rig with grenades. I’m not kidding, they have grenades. Not only did they raid the "odds and ends" bin at the gun store to get their rifles, but apparently there was a special on grenades, as well. "Sure, that’ll come in handy on an isolated ocean platform, on an almost daily basis. Put a crate of them on the truck."

The ending really disintegrates. Blocking becomes muddy, as you can’t figure out how characters got from one side of the set to the other during the action, and things that were little threat a few minutes ago are apparently no problem now, and visa versa. There are a few gems of dialogue (see Precious Moments), and a halfway decent fight scene with some thugs and Alex, plus some more slaughterLooking for action? Look somewhere else by the hands (tentacles?) of the shapeshifter, complete with geysering blood and fakey shadow effects, since they were saving the effects budget for the final fight, but by and large, it’s a mess. And even though the beastie is supposed to absorb survival traits, such as memories and knowledge, it still never seems to recognize the existence of the self-destruct mechanism. Yes, there’s a self-destruct mechanism; you can’t build a secret scientific emplacement without one. It’s in the building codes, you know, as well as the union rules.

The final fight isn’t all that bad. True, there’s perhaps way too much oozing as the beastie changes, and you can only see a piece of it at a time, but the result is scary in its way, and were it fully realized, it certainly would be something I’d want to avoid in a dark alley. Of course, then they have to go and ruin it with a bunch of pointless running and leaping and with the fire and the biting and kicking and, ooh, Deannn… sorry, had a Jerry Lewis moment.

When the end comes, it comes not soon enough, and there is no return to the framing sequence, so I guess it wasn’t really a framing sequence, now, was it? Anyone who actually took my bet owes me money. You should have known better!

Upon reflection, was it a good shapeshifter movie or a bad one? Well, it was a bad movie in general, but that doesn’t have much bearing on the question. I’d have to say that as a shapeshifter movie, it didn’t stick to any rules about its monster: sometimes it was gooey in one way, sometimes slimy in another, sometimes blue, sometimes green, sometimes red; they really didn’t put much thought into it, and that hurts the total effect.

On the other hand, they did have a relatively new premise, the scientific invention and justification for it. While the science itself was ludicrous, the philosophical discussion of it (the best definition for it I can think of) was interesting: discussing how it would absorb survival characteristics was interesting, even if the mechanism described is pretty much unworkable. So it had at least a couple of points in its favor. Is that enough to recommend it?


It’s not the worst movie I’ve ever seen, and it’s not quite bad enough to earn a Flair, in my personal, rather jaded opinion, but it’s certainly not good.



These are the times of which to cherish...


- Our hero and heroine (as opposed to heroin), who were dumb as a basket of rocks in their own way, but were still rocket scientists in comparison to their compatriots.

- The exchange in the bowels of the rig, when feeling the beastie:
        Reassuring Alex: "Look, Linda, why don’t you just stay here.
        Honest Linda: "Because I’m scared sh*tless! I’m coming with you."

- The exchange between Alex and the beastie on the deck, near the end.
        Smug Creepy-Crawlie: "…An entirely new form of life, a superior form of life."
        Blunt Alex: "Superior? You’re a f*cking fish with a drug habit."

- The countdown computer voice was polite enough to say "Goodbye" instead of "One." It’s sad when machines have better manners than organics.


-- Copyright © 2000 by E. Mark Mitchell


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