Carnosaur (review)

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Bad Egg

“Roger Corman Presents” Carnosaur. And that’s pretty much all you have to know. Made quickly and on the cheap to cash in on the Jurassic Park craze in 1993 and sent directly to video without its supper, this 1950s-style cautionary SF tale is just like Spielberg’s dino movie, only really sucky and so bad it’s funny.

Carnosaur is alleged to have actually had a screenplay, and we’re told it was adapted by director Adam Simon from a supposed novel by John Brosnan, but I have my doubts. The story has something to do with gene-altered chickens laying eggs that hatch rubbery-looking dinosaurs — perhaps having inherited the genes that produce rubbery chicken dinners, or the ones that are responsible for rubber chickens. Dr. Jane Tiptree (Diane Ladd: Primary Colors, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation) is your standard-issue mad scientist, tinkering with the cluckers’ DNA — the plan is to give the planet back to the dinosaurs, seeing as how we’re so thoughtlessly destroying it. Now, I’da thunk the dinosaurs had had their chance, and had failed the intelligence test by being unable to launch thermonukes against the big asteroid 65 million years ago, but what do I, a mere film critic, know about these things? Mad scientists have such an air of authority about them, and seem to know wherefrom they speak.
So, after a few bits with dopey security guards and chicken-delivery guys telling jokes and treating us to some generally awful acting, people start dying. Who are these people? I couldn’t say. Our introduction to “characters” consists of detailed captions that include a bunch of scientifically illiterate garbage about “infected cells” but which go by too fast to read anyway, so never mind. After shouting at one another for a while, these apparently random characters have a few more incomprehensible scenes and then die horribly and hilariously, attacked by dinosaurs that, when newly hatched, look like that sock puppet, and when fully grown (a few scenes later) look like those rubber toys small boys use to attack their little green army men. The dead people’s spilled guts look like the mess of electrical cords behind my computer, and the bloody gore looks like grape jam. Yum.

Oh, and there’s the traditional town drunk, “Doc” Smith (Raphael Sbarge: Message in a Bottle), and a granola hippie called Thrush (Jennifer Runyon) — probably named after the bird and not the hideous mouth fungus, but you never know. They run around desolate Southwestern desert locations that provide lots of space for rampaging rubber dinosaurs and probably didn’t require inconvenient film permits, and help pad out a slim story that, even at a running time of a mere 83 minutes, desperately needs it. Clint Howard (My Dog Skip, EDtv) wanders through for some reason or other, perhaps frantic for a paycheck, and eventually gets eaten. The rest of the other actors all sorta look familiar — you’ve probably seen them in a Preparation H commercial and frankly, there’s a reason why that’s where you usually find them.

Carnosaur is kinda like Night of the Lepus with chickensaurs instead of bunny wabbits, but don’t imagine that the prospect of genetic engineering is the only bugaboo here. Sure, Diane Ladd gets to intone bizarre, pseudophilosophic pronouncements like “What are we anyway except a set of instructions for the reproduction of the species?” — and cannon fodder for Roger Corman, she might have added — meant to have you scurrying for cover as the nightmarish hubris of science and scientists run amuck threatens us all. But no, that’s not the only New World Order paranoid fantasy piled on here — you’ll also find insidious FEMA conspiracies to declare nationwide martial law and damn tree-hugging environmentalists dictating policy to American business. But don’t worry: the New World Order is doomed, and it only has itself to blame. Haha!

“Production values,” you say? You can’t hear half of the movie, and you can’t see the other half. The events of the “plot” happen pretty much without context, but what the hell? It’s like that saying about happy families all being alike: Good movies are all good in the same way, but bad movies are each uniquely mysterious, unknowable, and godawful. Enjoy.

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