COMPANY: Fantastical Cinema
RUNTIME: 92 mins
PLOT: Terrorists infiltrate a research facility with the intent of stealing the top-secret Eden Formula, only to accidentally let loose a fully-grown cloned Tyrannosaurus Rex.
REVIEW: Anyone who knows me, or have been following my reviews here on this blog, should already understand that my all-time favorite low budget movie series is the Carnosaur trilogy. In 2001 there was a new movie made titled Raptor, which starred Eric Roberts and was almost entirely made up of stock footage from the three Carnosaur flicks (and badly, I might add), and thus it's often regarded as an unofficial Carnosaur 4 (there are actually some European countries that have it officially, although mistakenly, titled as Carnosaur 4). But for the longest time, I always thought that was it for the world of Carnosaur, and I've constantly been lobbying for a new Carnosaur flick, even if it's done for the SyFy Channel or some other such company.
So you can imagine my amazement when it was brought to my attention that there actually was another Carnosaur movie made in 2006 that completely escaped me! Well to be honest, it's not a real Carnosaur sequel, but much like 2001's Raptor, it was made up of mostly stock footage from the Carnosaur flicks and thus should be regarded as an unofficial sequel as much as Raptor is. So of course I wasted no time at all in tracking down a copy of The Eden Formula to munch down on and review. If Raptor is an unofficial Carnosaur 4, then in my eyes The Eden Formula should be considered an unofficial Carnosaur 5.
Since these kinds of movies are pretty much just made up of footage from other movies, they need to have some selling point to attract interested parties, and that's where the stunt casting comes in; Where Raptor had Eric Roberts, this one improves on that by including Tony Todd (Candyman, Final Destination), Dee Wallace (The Howling, E.T.), and Jeff Fahey (Manticore, Lost), and oddly enough the only one out of that trio who really came across as really all that bad, was Dee Wallace. Jeff Fahey didn't really have to show much emotion to show so that was fine, and Tony Todd just had fun with it all and hammed up his role like crazy (which isn't a bad thing since this is a B-Movie after all, so that just makes it more cheesy and thus more entertaining). He totally stole the show as the too-cool-for-school terrorist leader, while Jeff Fahey and Dee Wallace play the two people in charge of the research facility that's created this Eden formula. The rest of the supporting characters though are pretty brutal in the acting department, which consist mostly of a female cop, an overweight security guard, and then the other members of Tony Todd's terrorist group, whom launches an attack on that research facility with the intent of stealing the scientific breakthrough formula and, of course, inadvertently cause a fully-grown cloned Tyrannosaurus Rex to escape and start causing havoc around Los Angeles, in the gory buckets-of-blood way that only a Carnosaur T. Rex can.
What this movie also improved on from Raptor, other then the stunt casting, are the special effects – sure, it used almost as much stock footage from the Carnosaur trilogy as Raptor did, but it integrated that footage a bit more smoothly, and also managed to create new effects shots as well! Granted, the new practical Rex model doesn't really look like the Carnosaur Rex stock footage much (same basic design, but more thin and seems to be far more cheaply-made, and some shots make it look more like a 2-legged crocodile then it does the Carnosaur T. Rex), and the new CGI version that they use a few times does somewhat resemble the original design as well, but ultimately the body comes across as very disproportionate; the head is fine, but the rest is far too small for that head. In addition, some of the things they do with the CGI model isn't realistic and its just not faithful to the physics of what has been portrayed with the physical models previously (seriously, there is one scene where the CGI Rex is jumping and hoping around like a basketball-playing bunny rabbit), and the worst part about it all is that these new models aren’t even the same color as one another! The Rex footage from the Carnosaur movies have it as a dark brown color while the new, cheaper-looking, Rex model changes from all-green to green with some white, and the CGI model is all-white! It's like the dinosaur version of those old gimmicky Micro Machine car toys where they completely changed colors when you held them up in sunlight or submerged them in water. They do get props from me though for at least putting in the effort to have something more then just stock footage like Raptor did, even if the execution didn't turn out all that great. The thought and effort was clearly there, and that counts for something in my books.
The final aspect that I felt The Eden Formula did better then Raptor is the story. Raptor was pretty much just a re-telling of the first Carnosaur movie, where-as this one actually had a unique plot not yet done previously in the series, with some genuinely surprising twists thrown in here and there. In-part, it's the plot I mentioned in my Carnosaur 3 review as having thought and hoped that Carnosaur 3 was going to do (and it ended up not). Granted, it didn't do it to the degree I would have liked, but at least it's a really nice step in that direction. If you remember from that review, I initially expected Carnosaur 3 to have the dinosaurs rampaging through the city but instead we just got them stalking a warehouse and then trapped on a transport boat out in the ocean. Well this movie does indeed have a dinosaur rampaging through a city for a large portion of the movie, though it only has the one dinosaur instead of a group of dinosaurs like Carnosaur 3 had.
And that brings me to the main thing this movie lacks IMO - the dinosaurs. Sure, we get lots of really good stuff with the Rex, but with this being the first Carnosaur-esque movie to have only the one dinosaur, you kind of feel a void left behind by not including a pack of vicious intelligent Raptors alongside the Rex. Especially with the 'Loose in the city' plot, it would have been awesome to see a pack of Raptors darting about the streets with one or two scenes of them possibly getting into a house or apartment complex or something. Just seemed like a bit of a missed opportunity, especially considering that half of the movie takes place inside of the research facility as Dee Wallace and Jeff Fahey try to escape from Tony Todd and his terrorists. That could have been the perfect opportunity to use some stock footage from Carnosaur 2 and 3 of the Raptors, having those things chase both groups of people through the facility. It at least would have made the scenes taking place in that facility more interesting while the Rex is away munching on people throughout the city.
Another aspect that bugged me a bit, which is something I also had a problem with in the similar-themed movie 100 Million B.C., and that is that despite a fully-grown giant Tyrannosaurus Rex rampaging through the middle of Los freakin' Angeles, nobody at all seems to even notice except the occasional random person that gets eaten; these streets in this movie are more lonely and deserted then those of Silent Hill. So much for Los Angeles having a bustling night life. Hell, not even the main characters themselves seem to be too concerned about the escaped Rex for the majority of the movie.
To top it all off, for the first time in the Carnosaur series (both official and unofficial entries included), the dinosaur does not make the same kinds of noises that it did in every previous movie. One of the things I loved about Carnosaur 1-3 and even Raptor, is that the dinosaurs had some really awesome-sounding vocal noises, but for this one they go with an entirely new soundboard, which isn't nearly as effective or memorable as the dinosaur sounds they used for all the other movies.
The movie on a whole really is not very good, and I probably would never recommend it to anyone. However, for someone who was starving for a new Carnosaur outing, this wasn't nearly as bad as it could have been (i.e. It isn't Raptor). Sure, the final 'polished' product is a pretty uneven mess that can get a bit boring when the dinosaur isn't on-screen, but there was at least some genuine effort attempted with it (even if it did fall a bit short), and there's always Tony Todd's cheesefest performance and some great gooey gore at the hands...err, jaws...of the escaped Rex to keep you riveted to the screen, plus there are some laugh-out loud lines of dialog to entertain you along the way (“I think we're gonna need a bigger bucket.”, “Ok, so in hindsight maybe creating a giant T. Rex wasn't the best of ideas.”).
If it was just Carnosaur 1-3 and then this, I probably wouldn't be nearly so kind to it. However, since its following on the heels of Raptor while trying to accomplish the same thing, I'm just happy that it's at least much more enjoyable then that one was. Until the next movie comes along that decides to use stock footage from the Carnosaur movies, this one will tide me over quite well for now.
5/10 rooms in the Psych Ward