With a clever pun served on a silver platter, Terrordactyl presents itself as a straight to video B-movie masterpiece ready to absorb two hours of your Saturday night. Hoping that prehistoric mayhem might be delivered with heaping extras of that same wit is a nice dream, but one that might not fully hatch.
Director: Don Bitters III, Geoff Reisner
Release Date: June 14, 2016
The title and artwork had me in their claws. Eat me up, Terrordactyl.
We begin in semi-vacant truck-stop as an unwitting trucker pulls up for his last rest stop shower or friendly road reach-around; sadly, we’ll never know, as he is the first (an surprisingly one of the few) victims of said “reptiles” of terror. Terrordactyl, you had me with stereotypical trucker gets out of truck finishing bottle of liquor only to reach into back pocket to pull out another bottle of liquor.
But how quickly you lost me. After the brief setup with the trucker and horror [sic] plotline established, we’re introduced to Lars (Christopher John Jennings) and Jonas (Jason Tobias), a would-be pair of lawn renaissance men, hard at work on a Friday. Lars is the driven [sic] boss and Jonas is the ogling the random beauty in a bikini while attempting to MacGuyver the lawn industry sidekick. Lars espouses hard, honest work, while Jonas longs for more than rakes and grass trimmings—clearly though, he’d mind neither grass, nor trim, a point he makes clear when emphasizing that they must get to a bar, after all, it’s what they do EVERY Friday. And good thing they do, because the bar introduces us to the second plot line, the improbable love interest, and the means to bringing our two plotlines together: Bartender Candice (Candice Nunes) to Jonas: Hey Jonas, did you know meteorites are worth big money? Jonas to Candice: No shit. Well shucks, let me find us some meteorites. Later toots. Jonas to Lars: hey Lars, let’s head off into the middle of the desert, drunk, in our pickup truck, and find some meteorites to earn us some true green!
It’s B-movie world, and improbably plot lines like this aren’t beyond acceptance; in fact, beautiful bartenders that actually reciprocate the intereste of their barfly clientele and absurd heroes quests are the stuff that fuel B-movies. So, when our intrepid [sic] heroes find meteorite-bearing craters and return to the city triumphantly, I’m onboard. When said meteorite is actually a terrordactyle egg, something our woeful heroes remain blissfully ignorant of for far too (and acceptably) long, I’m still riding bareback on terrordactyle glory. When the battle for humanity ensues, with “reptiles” tracking our heroes’ every move as if they’ve implanted GPS tracking devices on their persons, I take it as how the universe works: the bad guys (lizards) always know where you are and no matter how fast you run, they will walk (flutter) and still be your better in speed. This is how the world is!
The movie is clever, in its way. Scenes are shot in abandoned alleyways, in the early morning glow of golden hour light, or hidden away inside inconvievably empty skyscrapers, explaining the utter lack of human contact along the way, and probably how they managed to get this project completed on their budget. But the filmmakers’ creative maneuvers that allow their story to unfold in a coherent fashion also cost the film what should make it great: it’s B-movie staples and true B-movie status. If you explain away the army and any sort of logical manmade defenses against an army of space invading dinosaurs as the result of ‘smart people hiding,’ then surely you must supply ample amounts of dumb people to be readily dismembered. But when Candice proclaims that “thousands are dead” and we’ve only seen two, maybe three people die, we must call bullshit. Mrs. Doubtfire had a higher body count than this.
Then too, while budgeting prowess and creative filmmaking are strengths clearly on display, as tracking shots of empty skies allow for digitally inserted terrordactyls in abundance, missing is the tongue in cheek, clever, and funny dialogue that drives movies like this, movies in the post-Sharknado cinematic universe. If you are to truly create an irrational film, you can’t try to rationalize it within itself, and that’s what it feels like is happening for 95% of the movie. The dialogue is cliché in its everyday redundancy and logical (to the movie) progression. As a connossieur of terrible movies that are so bad they’re good, I expect zingers, intentional, or not. I got one that stuck with me. Absent, are the kneejerk reaction moments where I can’t believe they just went there and put that in a movie, direct-to-video or not. Perhaps it’s because the creative duo behind the film is just that, a duo: two men responsible for writing, directing, filming, and inserting the visual effects. Maybe they should have expanded their resources slightly: if two heads are better than one, than surely three are better than two?
As the epic [sic] battle wages (toils) on, a few pleasant surprises are indeed had, including Candice driving an American flag through the gut of one unsuspecting terrordactyle. But again, these moments are few and far between.
What is present are the tropes that I could do with out: a ‘mini-boss’ that just won’t die. A mega-boss that emerges from nowhere when the ‘mini-boss’ finally meets its maker. There’s the mentor figure. There’s the inane female best friend. And there are the purely awful local TV news figureheads. But what other films embrace and do better, Terrordactyls just does adequately.
Maybe I am being too harsh. Like I said, I like this sort of movie. This means I have high expectations, and I’ll admit again that my expectations were set high from the moment I saw the cover artwork and read the title. Dinosaurs versus idiots with machine guns! This movie is going to rule, I thought. Only, it doesn’t. Play to your strengths and know your audience: simple principles that a quick reevaluation of ample dialogue (seriously, this movie contains copious amounts—the cast of five-and-a-half find plenty of time to chitchat without a single gratuitous shower scene or hint of nudity).
Which brings me to another point: maybe Terrordactyl was missing its B-movie chutzbah because it’s a post-modern feminist vehicle posing as pure B-movie drivel! Hear me out internets. Lars and Jonas are merely plot devices for the true heroine to come to face her antagonists. After all, it is Candice that sets the plot in motion with her thorough knowledge of meteorites and all. Additionally, of our four non-mentor (or wise janitor for you Not Another Teen Movie school of thought readers) characters, she is the only one who knows how to handle a gun. Additionally, she does not have sex with anyone or bare her assets. She’s also the most level-headed character, and comes out on top of the world having written a book about the experience.
Viewing Terrordactyl from this perspective, Terrordactyl perhaps deserves a 70, only, it’s clearly not meant to be, so it gets a 45.
Pros: the CGI is impressive--they are nearly on the level with Jurassic World. Nearly. The cinematography, and I use the term only moderately loosely, is also not to be trifled with. I’m impressed when movies of this ilk begin to look this good.
Cons: you should probably be drinking if you want to laugh.
Line to look out for: “Let’s kick some past!”