Monday, April 18, 2016

Past Misdeeds: Project: Metalbeast (1995)

Through the transformation of the glorious WTF-Films into the even more glorious Exploder Button and the ensuing server changes, some of my old columns for the site have gone the way of all things internet. I’m going to repost them here in irregular intervals in addition to my usual ramblings.

Please keep in mind these are the old posts without any re-writes or improvements. Furthermore, many of these pieces were written years ago, so if you feel offended or need to violently disagree with me in the comments, you can be pretty sure I won’t know why I wrote what I wrote anymore anyhow.

1974. In a stroke of tactical genius the guys who thought there was a military need for killer sharks would be proud of, one of the quintillion of US secret agencies decides to send some agents to Transylvania to get some werewolf blood as basis for the usual supersoldier serum.

Two men leave, one - a certain Butler (John Marzilli) - comes back, with the werewolf blood and a mean disposition. Scientific evaluation shows that it will take some time until the blood can be used to enhance American forces. Too much time if you ask Butler, who has apparently been searching for the blood all of his life and is now getting antsy. Even his boss Colonel Miller (Barry Bostwick) in his position as evil government guy doesn't think Butler should be this overzealous.

Butler doesn't care much, so he steals the blood, injects it into his own body, rapes a scientist (female) and kills another scientist (male), only to be shot with silver bullets and laid on ice by Miller.

I suppose Miller spends the next few years gloating evilly and talking to himself. Twenty years later, he takes control of a project lead by supposedly humanitarian minded Dr. De Carlo (Kim Delaney).

The good doctor is trying to perfect a new type of artificial skin made of metal, but can't get past the problem of her creation hardening too much. Gosh, it's as if she'd use metal for her artificial skin.

Miller pressures the scientist and her team into testing her skin on supposedly dead bodies. The first one will be Butler's. Miller plans on the dead guy becoming his unstoppable killing machine after being upgraded with some shiny metal skin. For some reason he thinks that Butler will suddenly become his best friend and do everything he says. As long as the man is still dead he is quite friendly, actually, not talking, growling or killing, but things change after the scientists remove the bullets. Butler comes back to life.

Well, is anyone actually surprised that Were-Butler still doesn't love Miller after twenty years on ice and does some rather nasty things, but is now much more difficult to kill on account of his sexy new skin?

Oh, this is an intensely silly film, full of stupid ideas and based on so much bad science it can interrupt even my bad movie calm.

The script seems to be based on the idea that human psychology is a mystery not made to be solved by mere mortal minds and therefore lets people act as nonsensical as it pleases. Take dear Colonel Miller, who really has no reason to believe that he will be able to control a werewolf with metal skin any better than a werewolf without one. It's not as if he had invented mind control or anything. I know, I know, he is supposed to be a Mad Evil Government Guy (a MEGG), but mad and evil aren't equivalent to stupid. Or take our dear heroine, a humanitarian not afraid of taking part in inhuman experiments as long as she can bitch about it.

At least we can learn some important lessons about military research installations here: there are no soldiers around in them, except for a general and a guy who side-lines as a scientist, and really, why would anyone have security protecting secret research?

As stupid as Project: Metalbeast is, as seriously the film seems to take itself, and it is the friction between the absurd and the deathly earnest that gives it its own brand of charm, somewhat reminiscent of the classic monster films of the 50s and 60s.

It is very much something my twelve-year old mind could have come up with, although my version would probably have included a scene with a motorcycle riding werewolf, and left out the bit with the self-made silver rockets for the RPG. "What's cooler than a werewolf?" "Oh, I know! A werewolf with a metal skin!!"

However, while the script doesn't seem clued in on its own stupidity, some of the actors - at least Delaney and the scenery-chewing Bostwick, probably also Musetta Vander as a tech girl for once living through a whole horror movie - seem to have quite a bit of fun making fun of their roles. I certainly won't blame them.
The most important thing about a monster movie is of course its monster. As a film made in 1995, Project: Metalbeast (and how awesome is that title, by the way?) doesn't use the bane of all monster movies known as CGI.

Instead, we get a perfectly adorable monster suit, although I must say that the golden colour its metal variation sports is a little ill advised, as is the spiky look of its hair which makes it look rather porcupine-like for a supposed werewolf. However, there's nothing wrong with a werecupine.

In a rare moment of genius someone, probably director Alessandro De Gaetano, thought it prudent to hire a real pro to get into the were-suit and so it is worn by everyone's favourite Jason Voorhees actor Kane Hodder. Not that he's all that impressive in the role, mind you - he is unfortunately not doing much that goes beyond the lingering massive shadow thing, and I doubt he does his growling himself.

Given how stupid it is, and that it is not necessarily the most original or exciting of films, I still find myself in a position to warmly recommend Project: Metalbeast. It pushes the buttons in the heart of a monster movie fan your usual SciFi Channel production just won't reach (I presume because those films just hate their own audience). It's a throwback, but a fun one.

No comments: