Saturday, August 05, 2006

pounding nails into the coffin that contains 90's horror - Project: Metalbeast (1995) Prism Pictures

Snakes on a Plane? 'Snakes on the Brain' the music video is getting talked about right now. Also, check out the high-resolution quicktime versions.

nails into the coffin...

Everything is coming out on DVD these days, right? Wrong! While there is no telling what obscure 70's or 80's gem will be the next to get the full treatment with a special edition DVD (you know, interviews with the surprised directors and stars who can't even remember the movie), there ain't nobody putting out DVDs of the 90's crap that killed horror dead. Nobody wants to see this stuff and it's legacy only lives on in the form of sci-fi channel made for TV garbage. I take that back, something like The Cave (2005) might be in vein of this movie, Project: Metalbeast, but I don't think anyone actually went to see the cave. Everything that is hip now is 70's or 80's based. The stuff that's a little less hip (and started to garner negative reviews) is late 90's Sixth Sense-based or a copy of turn of millennium Japanese stuff. 1995 and its legacy? That was not a good year for horror and it won't be remembered.

Two names you will recognize in the Project: Metalbeast credits. The first is Kane Hodder as the Metalbeast and stunt coordinator. The 2nd is special FX man John Carl Buechler who does deliver one excellent effect in this movie when the creature is shown in a half transformed state, split down the middle. Half of the face is human and half is wolf. Buechler's other Metalbeast FX are ok, but he has much more impressive stuff on his resume: Ghoulies, From Beyond, Nightmare 4, Bride of Re-Animator, Troll, and Cellar Dweller - the last 2 of which he also directed. Buechler did not direct this movie, it is directed by one Alessandro De Gaetano, of which little is know.

Project: Metalbeast is thinly strung together story-wise in order to incorporate a handful of action scenes, a hero, a villain, and of course to explain the reason for the creation of a werewolf with metal skin. The backstory is not adequate (although it is given a fifteen minute plus intro) and the actions and motives of the villain are not consistent and can be even contradictory. He fears that the Metalbeast will remember his human past, then why did he jog it's memory. He enjoys the beast's suffering, then why does he order it be given painkillers. He wants this beast created, then why does he arm himself with silver bullets to do it in? Sure, one can say that motives change over time, but all development in this movie is far to sudden and if you dare to put together all the elements of this man's 30 year master plan, you'll get a big question mark.

For a deep, deep, look into the meaning of Project: Metalbeast we must look at ethics and the medical profession, but more specifically we can explore a new philosophy espoused by the female lead. The traditional view is that life leaves the body at death, but as her cadaver (the man who becomes Metalbeast) begins to show signs of life and consciousness, she wonders weather life lies dormant in the body after death and can then reclaim itself at a future time. Of course, we know more than her and are aware that this man has been cryogenically frozen and was always destined by the powers that be to be reanimated. It is the removal of three silver bullets from his chest, that which made his werewolf self dormant, along with the routine unfreezing, that allows for the showing of his vital signs. The new philosophy presented by the Metalbeast writers is not supported by the plot.

The writing does support a development that may be a first for films in the genre. Early scenes in the movie show Barry Bostwick examining, under a magnifying glass, the dates on a collection of coins. One later realizes the significance of this action, as he is ascertaining as to whether or not the coins are made of silver, suitable for silver bullets. Of course silver bullets are routinely constructed in werewolf movies, but in this movie the premise is taken to the next level with the on-screen molding of silver bazooka shells. Use of these shells is unfortunately not consistent, as one penetrates the Metalbeast's leg as an arrow would, while another shot that hits dead-on, explodes - liquefying the Metalbeast. The final image before the credits role is intended to be haunting, as a scrap of the Metalbeast's skin, by itself on the laboratory floor, begins to pulsate with the apparent life-force from within. The life-force has clearly chosen to assert itself at this point, but who is left to watch it do so?

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