COMPANY: The Asylum
RUNTIME: 85 mins
PLOT: When the U.S. Military re-opens the Philadelphia Experiment, a group of scientists get sent through time and trapped back in the prehistoric age, so a team of soldiers is sent to retrieve them but, as to be expected, not all survive. And to make matters worse, when they're able to get back to the Present, something prehistoric returns with them.
REVIEW: Ever since I can remember, I've loved dinosaurs – pretty much my favorite thing, ever. So whenever a movie comes out with dinosaurs in it, no matter how good or bad, I have to check it out. But when one of those movies is made by none other then my favorite low budget production company The Asylum...well...I get pretty excited to check the thing out, especially since the only other dinosaur flick by them that I've seen, I really enjoyed (The Land That Time Forgot – never did a review of that one, but I may next time I do a re-watch of it). So when I heard that they had another dinosaur movie out there titled 100 Million BC, and starred none other then Tremors famer Michael Gross, I knew I had to check it out for review.
This movie starts off with a couple of mountain climbers finding a previously-undiscovered cave where there are cave paintings of humans interacting with dinosaurs, along with messages written on the wall alongside them. We then cut to a team of military soldiers arriving at some building in Los Angeles. We can tell right away that pretty much all of these characters are only in the movie to raise the body count up because none of them save for maybe one or two have anything even resembling characterization given to them during the course of the movie and most only have two or three lines. The two that do get just a smidgen of characterization – the team leader and one other one – are among the first two to be killed off when they travel back in time, leaving us stuck with the far-less interesting bland cardboard-cutout soldier characters.
But I'm getting ahead of myself here. They get introduced to a military scientist played to perfection by Michael Gross of Tremors fame. Having played the character of Burt Gummer on Tremors and not really much else that I'm familiar with, I was really excited to hear he was in this movie, and he didn't disappoint. He played the role exactly as you would expect him to, and the character is one of the few fleshed-out characters in the movie. The only crappy thing about his role is that he wasn't given much to do other then stand around and talk. Even when they get to the past he mostly just stands there behind everyone while the other characters get in on the dinosaur action. Anyway, he briefs the soldiers on the situation: In the 1950's, they re-opened the top secret and legendary Philadelphia Experiment. Now on top of this being a dinosaur movie starring the actor of my favorite B-movie character, now they throw the Philadelphia Experiment into the blender as well! I'm a huge fan of the Philadelphia Experiment conspiracy and read up on anything that deals with it. This movie seems to be made up of all the things I love, so at this point I'm really digging it.
Burt Gummer...errr, sorry...Michael Gross's character goes on to explain that once again the experiment was a failure and resulted in the team of scientists working on it to disappear right before their eyes. They were never seen nor heard from again, so the project was once again shut down. That is, until the recent cave discovery shown in the intro, of which the messages written and paintings depicted on the wall were done by the scientists that went missing and was a message made by them. So now the military has re-opened the project once more in order to send a rescue team back into prehistoric times to find those missing people and bring them back home.
Upon arriving in prehistoric times via what seems like early unfinished Stargate effects, the military team (accompanied by Michael Gross) discover that - much like when the original Philadelphia Experiment happened and soldiers were fused to the bulkhead of the ship – one of their soldiers had been fused with a nearby tree. From there, things just go from bad to worse as they seem to run into danger almost right away and it hardly gives them more then two minutes at any given time to breathe. It actually got a bit annoying because I kind of wanted a few minutes for the characters to just relax a bit and get some characterization, but it was just one thing after another - deadly plants, a prehistoric crocodile, a pack of vicious raptors, killer pteranodons, and their biggest and most recurring problem: a Tyrannosaurus Rex, named Big Red due to his size and the dark blood-like color of his skin. If they're not being actively pursued by something, they're accidentally stumbling upon something else and each danger they come across shortens the size of their group more and more.
The biggest problem with all that, which bugged me even more then the consistency of the attacks, are the uneven effects. I don't mind bad CGI, and I don't mind bad puppetry, but for the love of God, just pick one and stick with it! As if it wasn't bad enough that the CGI was some of the worst I've ever seen (and disappointingly far below that of what I was expecting from The Asylum after seeing their low-budget version of The Land That Time Forgot), but they also used some of the worst dinosaur puppetry that I've ever seen (and that coming from a fan of the Carnosaur movies), and there seemed to be no rhyme or reason as to which effect was used at which time. Some shots were CGI, some were of puppets, and it went back forth at random. At least with the bad CGI shots, you can see the full animal; with the puppetry you only get to see super close-ups of part of its body, and only for about a split second before it cut away to the reactions of people around it – you don't even get a good look. They should have just picked one or the other instead of distractingly using both, and as much as I normally love practical effects over CGI, if this is how they're gonna be used then just give me the crappy CGI because at least it focuses on the creature for more then a second and we get a good view of the entire creature instead of just a close-up on its mouth or eye.
The few characters that are still alive by this point of the movie (among them of course is Michael Gross), get saved from the Mr. Dressup-reject pack of raptors by a ragtag group of cave-dwelling humans which, not surprisingly, turn out to be the survivors of the scientists stuck in the past – while it had been 50 years in our time, it's only been a few years for them. But a few years in a land as dangerous as this is far too long and it means there's only a few of them still alive. Among them is a scientist that turns out to be the older (but now much-younger) brother of Michael Gross' character, another scientist who likes to paint in his spare time (hence the cave drawings), and two girls that consist of a medic and a cook. After using spears and a make-shift bow-and-arrow set, they kill most of the raptors and drive away the rest, and bring the survivors of the rescue team back to their cave-home for the night, to rest up, eat, drink, and be merry.
Other then Michael Gross, I haven’t really cared about the other characters much since they're badly-written, badly-acted, and are around pretty much solely to be cannon fodder. Thankfully that changed with the introduction of these four new characters in almost every way – they're written really well, portrayed really well by the actors playing them, and each one gets a decent amount of proper characterization. There's even an oddly-emotional scene where Michael Gross is talking with the other scientist/painter guy under a star-filled prehistoric sky about how things 'back home' have changed and when the guy questions him on his family, Michael Gross has to break the news to him that things never really got good for them – his wife lived her life depressed at his mysterious disappearance and died a few years back from cancer, and his son grew up without any fatherly-guidance and thus was always into trouble with the law and grew up a delinquent. Quite heavy stuff for an Asylum film and it's stuff like that, that proves the scriptwriter had the chops to do excellent character-building scenes, so it's a mystery to me why only Michael Gross and these new four ended up getting any of that.
Anyway, the next morning everyone packs up and they all head back out to return to the portal entrance and get back home. What baffles me about this whole part of the movie, and doesn't make any sense that I can figure out, is that the trip back to the portal entrance took way longer. When they arrived it seemed to only take an hour at the most for them to get from there to the cave, but the trip back seems to be many hours, if not a couple of days worth of trekking. Not to mention the landscape looked completely different, almost as if they took a different route. But why take a different, much-longer route when you're in a hurry to get back and the other one would have you back in an hour, tops? It was another one of those script problems I didn't much care for and hampered my enjoyment a bit. Where it does match up with the first trek though, is that it's filled with non-stop danger with them running into one thing trying to kill them after another with nothing more then about 20 seconds of breathing space between. By the time they reach the portal entrance again, they've lost everyone who initially came with the rescue mission except one nameless soldier with zero personality (and sadly, that also includes Michael Gross' character, who sacrifices himself in order for the others to get back) so it's only the four people who had been stuck there to begin with that makes it back, and one other minor guy (who completely drops out of the movie shortly after returning to the Present Day). But of course they don't come alone, as the recurring Big Red chases them through the portal, and back into present-day Los Angeles, which leads into the final act of the movie.
This is a section of the movie that I both really love, and really dislike, but for different reasons. Much like in The Lost World: Jurassic Park, and unlike everyone else in the world it seems, I really enjoy seeing dinosaurs rampaging through a city. There's just something fun to me about seeing a prehistoric animal from millions of years ago wrecking havoc in present day, and in that regard this portion of the movie doesn't disappoint. It's a nice contrast to see the Rex causing destruction in an environment of metal and glass, in comparison to seeing it reigning over a green jungle like we saw previous, and there are some really tense chase scenes in this part of the movie.
What I don't like about it though, is that it goes on way too long. Taking up an entire half of the movie at 45 minutes. This should have just been a quick 15-20 minute climax and not an entire half of the movie. Especially since the whole 45 minutes is made up of them either chasing after the Rex or being chased by the Rex. Almost all on-foot. That's right, right in the middle of Los Angeles (though a very empty Los Angeles by the looks of it) and they need to either get to the Rex quickly or get away from it quickly, and instead of using vehicles they feel using their own legs is the best method of quick transportation. I actually started feeling really bored by the time the final few minutes came around because everything was just so damn repetitive by that point.
This one had all the ingredients within it to be an instant Asylum Classic – a really good basic story, lots of dinosaurs, the Philadelphia Experiment, Michael Gross, and plenty of good shots of a tough hot chick in a tight tank top. How could they possibly mess something up that consists of all those awesome things? Well, a lot of really bad acting, too many characters that you just don't care about, the worst and most inconsistent effects I've ever laid eyes on (even when going by The Asylum's low standards), a climax that overstays its welcome, and some glaring problems on a script level all contributed to lowering my enjoyment of it, which is a shame because it could easily have been so much better with just a little tinkering here and there.
4/10 rooms in the Psych Ward