Welcome to Cult Corner where we dive through the bargain bins to determine if a movie is trash or treasure. Today’s pick…Adam Simon’s Carnosaur.
To understand Carnosaur, you need to first understand the idea of the “mockbuster.” A “mockbuster” references efforts by a film company to make their own, low budget version of an upcoming highly anticipated title. Mockbusters are usually rushed into production and put out maybe a month or two before the more high profile title hits theaters. Recently, The Asylum has become famous for this with such knockoffs as Transmorphers and The Day the Earth Stopped. But The Asylum is far from the first to attempt this business model. Roger Corman has been doing it for years. And Carnosaur is a perfect example of this kind of filmmaking, as it was done in an attempt to cash in on the upcoming Jurassic Park (in much the same way that I’m currently writing this review to tie in with the upcoming Jurassic World).
However, the main difference between the movies that Corman produced and a lot of the other “mockbusters” out there is that his tend to have their own identity outside of the film they’re drawing inspiration from, which give them more lasting power. Carnosaur has a few ties to Jurassic Park in that it’s about dinosaurs, stars Diane Ladd (mother to Laura Dern, from Jurassic Park), and features a direct reference in which a character says, “it’d make a great theme park,” at the idea of dinosaurs running around. Outside of that, the films are wildly different. Carnosaur is a mad scientist story featuring dinosaur,s that were created by studying chicken DNA, terrorizing the countryside and killing everything they come across. It’s a low budget B-movie and certainly feels it. But, honestly, I’d compare it more to Tremors than the aforementioned Spielberg film.
The casting is pretty solid all-around and I can’t think of any particularly bad spots. This wasn’t about to win any Oscars, but for a low budget monster movie the characters are likable and entertaining to watch. There’s quite a few people here that chew the scenery more than the dinosaurs, but that only serves to make it more fun. Diane Ladd is the highlight, as she plays the mad scientist in question that creates the prehistoric beasts. Towards the end she begins to wax poetic and monologue about the greatness of Earth and the horrid nature of mankind. Her character is totally ridiculous, but she pulls it off.
Unlike Jurassic Park, instead of seeing a multitude of different species, we’re really only treated to two here, Raptors and a T-Rex. If you’re going to pick only two, those are definitely the ones to go for though, so it works. They’re all accomplished through the use of practical effects, mainly animatronic puppets. Of course, they never look particularly convincing. I realize we’re spoiled by how good the dinos in Jurassic Park look, but these are just hilariously bad. They’re awkward and weird; not intimidating in the least. In fact the most effective scenes involving dinosaurs are the early deaths that only have quick glimpses and shots of blood flying. The worst offender here is the T-Rex, with the biggest problem being that it doesn’t really have any weight to it. It feels almost like a children’s toy that was green screen’d in. The sound design might be a part of the issue here, since its’ roar noticeably doesn’t have any bass to it. It just sounds like another Raptor.
In spite of badly executed dinosaur effects, the death scenes are still pretty great. Carnosaur is fairly gory and really doesn’t shy away from killing off anyone and everyone. I was actually quite surprised by some of the deaths. They go through the trouble of introducing characters and setting them up only to have them torn apart by a Raptor almost immediately, which caught me off guard. On top of that there are plenty of autopsy scenes, which always adds some blood without constantly killing people off. The gore effects are luckily done much more effectively than the dinosaurs themselves. Though there is still the problem of seeing people wrestling with what looks like a foam muppet. Towards the latter half, the movie really just goes off the deep end and begins to feature women giving birth to dinosaurs, which makes for some seriously gross moments. Nature finds a way, I guess.
Adam Simon does his thing in the director’s chair, and for the most part, he does a decent job. The editing gets a bit choppy on certain occasions and as I mentioned before, the T-Rex has absolutely no weight to it. Even with the worst special effects on the planet this could have been fixed through the right camera angles and sound design, but it’s a persistent issue in the climax of this film. He wrote the movie as well as directing and I’d say he’s probably more suited to writing. The script isn’t brilliant, but it does know exactly what it needs to be and contains the right amount of cheese with just enough heart and a quick enough pace to really make for something fun.
Overall, Carnosaur is a good time. It’s not a total Jurassic Park knockoff, even though it was released mere weeks before in an obvious cash grab. It’s an old school sci-fi monster movie with plenty of bloodshed and some bizarre moments. Diane Ladd is entertaining as all hell and for a B-movie the cast does a good job. You won’t be moved at the pure spectacle of seeing dinosaurs on screen, but you’ll certainly be entertained.
Here at Cult Corner we cover the weird and obscure. Given the low budget that these movies often have we feel the need to recognize that entertainment value and quality aren’t always synonymous. That’s why we have opted for the “trash or treasure” approach in lieu of a typical rating system. After all, Troll 2 is incredibly entertaining but it’s no 8 out of 10.