Tag Lions/Tigers

Sabretooth (2002)

Sabretooth (2002)

Be prepared to be ripped apart!

Using fossilised DNA, a scientist resurrects one of nature’s most fearsome predators – the sabretooth tiger. But the test subject escapes during transportation and heads into the woods where a bunch of campers are spending the weekend.

 

It seems like an eternity since Sabretooth was released and during that time frame, I’ve just lost count of the sheer number of ‘monster on the loose’ films that have been made, mainly by the Sy-Fy Channel and The Asylum in which ever more ludicrous and contrived monsters run amok in fishing villages, small forest towns or jungles the world over. Back in 2002, Sabretooth almost seems like a forerunner to the mayhem that would ensue.

Before sharks that could walk and fly or humungous genetically-engineered snakes were used as military weapons, the idea of using a sabretooth tiger as the monster-of-the-week seems, well, a tad quaint. But cloning sabretooth tigers hasn’t been overdone like the idea of farming sharks for brain protein (even if the reasons for cloning the tiger here are far-fetched) so Sabretooth at least gives the illusion of presenting something different, even if it quickly resorts to the usual formula we’ve seen countless times.

Sabretooth’s problem isn’t that it’s formulaic – it is that its script is idiotic. Characters do things to be a convenience to the plot. Take for instance the opening scene in which a janitor goes inside the cage of a sabretooth tiger to clean the windows. I don’t really need to explain any further. Later in the film, the hunter character gives the female scientist a gun, despite knowing that she wants the tiger taken alive. When he takes the gun back a few minutes later to shoot the tiger, he finds that she has taken out the bullets. Well d’uh! There are a lot of unashamedly poor decisions made throughout the film which are all there for the sole purpose of giving the lazy script an easy ride.

The film may run like clockwork, with a list of characters you can arrange in ‘menu order’ at the start, but Sabretooth runs at a quick pace, getting right down to the action as soon as possible to avoid pointless exposition. The title monster isn’t very believable though I didn’t expect it to be anything less. The special effects are a mix between CGI and an animatronic head with the clear result that neither effect works very well. The CGI looks ropey and, whilst the animatronic head fairs a little better, it’s still not very effective overall. The tiger looks like it stumbled off the set off a cartoon, never mind onto an action-horror. The result of the bad combo of special effects is that the tiger changes shape in different scenes, depending on which effect is being used.

The cast is solid enough for this B-movie. David Keith (not to be confused with the black guy from The Thing and They Live, that’s Keith David!) makes a believable hunter, John Rhys-Davies lends his usual reliability to the film as the scientist and Jenna Gering provides the hotness factor as one of the campers. She does not get naked though which disappoints considerably given the amount of screen time her tight t-shirt receives. Also of note in the cast is Josh Holloway, who would shoot to fame shortly afterwards as Sawyer in Lost.

 

Sabretooth is enjoyable enough if you don’t take stuff like this seriously and some bad special effects aside, it’s about the best you could expect from such a film. There are worse ‘monster on the loose’ films out there and I’m sure there are a lot more to come.

 

 ★★★★☆☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

Attack of the Sabretooth (2005)

Attack of the Sabretooth (2005)

Extinct no more!

A rich tycoon has built a holiday park on a tropical island with one definitive hook – he has managed to create a pair of sabretooth tigers using DNA extracted from fossils. He invites an assortment of businessmen to the island in the hope that they will invest in his scheme and make him even richer. Also on the island are a group of wannabe frat students who are there on a scavenger hunt. It’s unfortunate for everyone there that the students decide to crash the security systems in order to break into one of the off-limit areas. Without anything keeping them locked away, the sabretooths are loose and on the hunt for food.

 

Jeez, where have you heard that little story before? I am guessing that Michael Crichton has taken these writer bums to court to sue for the most blatant plagiarism of Jurassic Park that you’re ever going to have the misfortune of watching. Although it shamelessly rips from the superior Spielberg classic (the businessman even calls his resort, Primal Park), Attack of the Sabretooth isn’t all that bad. You could do a lot worse (and believe me, I have) in this ‘monster on the loose’ genre. The film just about delivers what you’d expect – a reasonably high body count, a surprising amount of gore and plenty of sabretooth action. It just seems to take ages to get going before you actually get to any of the good bits.

I try to avoid blatant spoilers in my reviews but to highlight one of the problems with Attack of the Sabretooth, it’s necessary to go through the first ten minutes. So skip the next chapter if you must avoid what happens. Although I’m guessing if you’ve seen any of this sub-genre, you’ll guess what happens to the characters straight away.

The writing may be too similar to Jurassic Park but at least that film had the sense to give the characters some ounce of intelligence. In this sort of straight-to-DVD flicks, you expect some stupidity but here the characters take it to the extreme. To kick these films off, you have to establish the threat of the monster which means some bum, janitor or various other throwaway characters are horribly killed and eaten before the titles hit. Here some dumb security guard sits on the safe side of the security fence, reading a porn magazine. He tears a page out, presumably to get better acquainted with it. But it blows away in the wind and lands on the dangerous side of the fence in the sabretooth enclosure. Not content with the porn he still has left, the guard unlocks the security gate and strolls inside the enclosure to find the page, which conveniently keeps blowing deeper into the jungle. Believe me – that must have to be some kick ass porn for him to be risking his life for one sheet. He leaves the door open and is promptly devoured a few minutes later. Surprisingly the tigers don’t escape at this point but the open gate attracts the attention of another employee who strolls into the enclosure to find the remains of the previous idiot. Needless to say he doesn’t make it back to the door, which is still unlocked. Then not content with killing off two stupid characters, another guard sees the open gate, walks into the enclosure and begins shouting for his missing friend. The guy might as well have been ringing a dinner bell! It’s this stupidity and poor writing that ruins the film and these three are not the only ones to fall victim to a lack of tissue between the ears.

The addition of the students was a bit pointless. They simply add a teen factor to the film and more bodies when I’m sure the more important roles could have been given a bit of fleshing out. Characters are totally stock throughout – the rich tycoon who refuses to believe anything is wrong because it will ruin him, the gothic chick, the jock, the Asian computer nerd, the token blonde, the token Native guards and a few other slime ball characters. Nicholas Bell is probably the pick of the cast, only because his British accent gives him a more sinister turn as the nasty boss. It’s nothing to write home about and neither are any of the other performances. I guess when you choose to star in these films, you know you’re second rate to the monster so there’s no passion to perform (it’s not like any of them did anything to convince me they can perform at the best of times).

It’s about time we got to the sabretooths though because they are the only reason people like me still tune in. Well I’ve seen better but I’ve seen worse. The CGI works best when it’s against a lighter background like the jungle as opposed to the dark confines of the corridors, which most of the final half is based in. The sabretooths get well fed which is always a good thing because it keeps the pace going and they have a nasty happen of tearing their victims to shreds. The gore quota is very high here with decapitations, maulings and remnants of intestines and severed heads being left. I was impressed for a low budget film. The sabretooth tigers get a decent amount of screen time for the last half of the film as they stalk their remaining victims around the corridors of the resort. I was hoping for the party of investors to be gate-crashed by the sabretooth tigers as it was a perfect recipe for some cheesy moments but that didn’t happen. But for anyone looking to get your teeth into some decent prehistoric carnage, these sabretooth tigers provide adequate bite.

 

Attack of the Sabretooth isn’t overly terrible given the rehashed material, the slap-dash writing, the budget and the fact it was a Sci-Fi Channel production (which is a kiss-of-death nowadays). I just hope someone remembered to pay royalties to Michael Crichton.

 

 ★★★★☆☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

Prey (2007)

Prey (2007)

Out here, you’re the endangered species…

A father takes his two kids and his new girlfriend on holiday to South Africa for a bonding and peacemaking session whilst he oversees the construction of a new damn. The girlfriend and the kids take an off-road safari tour with a guide, only to fall victim to a trio of very hungry man-eating lions.

 

Prey is a perfect example of how to grind together all of the killer animal clichés so much that the resulting powder just blows away in the wind. It’s a tedious eighty-two minutes of the same tired routine – a group trapped in jeep realise they need to leave the jeep for some reason and then promptly get chased by the lions back into the jeep. If it’s not one character needing the bathroom, it’s another one spotting the keys lying on the floor to running over and getting help from some local hunters. The problem is that the gaps between leaving the jeep seem to get longer and longer, meaning there’s nothing but a lot of sitting around watching the lions outside.

It’s a thin premise stretched out over the running time and padded out with lots of family drama. We’ve got a spoiled little brat and daddy’s new girlfriend – the two don’t see eye to eye and are constantly at each other’s throats. I’m sure a night in the middle of the plains of Africa will do the trick to bond them together come the end of the film. Hold the sick bag please. The lions hang around outside the jeep for most of the film, probably laughing in amusement at the characters constant whining and moaning to each other.

Peter Weller is criminally underused here. He’s always been a pretty solid actor but never seems to get anything other than cheap B-movies and even worse throwaway parts. I would have at least expected (and preferred) him to have been stuck in the jeep with the rest of the family. At least it would have given us some more macho action with him making gung-ho plans to save his family. Instead the female characters spend their time moaning to each other about how they hate each other and how they love their father/husband-to-be and the little boy just gives up and lays down out of the way. At no point do you ever think that they are in any danger and as soon as we meet some minor characters, you know they’re going to be the sacrificial lambs (the guide, the local hunters and that crazy lion guy who tracks the family down).

The good thing about the film is the use of real lions. I’m hazarding a guess that lions aren’t the easiest things to work the camera just how you want them to so it’s a credit to the behind-the-scenes team of trainers and handlers that the lions behave as well as they do most of the time. I certainly wouldn’t want to be one of the numerous stunt guys who find themselves being mauled and mangled. There’s some brief shots of CGI when the script necessitates (you can’t blow up real lions now can you?) and I’m sure I saw an odd puppet head for close-ups but the majority of screen time is given to the real deals. And they get wild at times, ripping apart numerous fodder characters in sublimely gory detail. I’d like to see more killer lion flicks if they can chew their food up with this much mess and devastation! Unfortunately it’s nowhere near enough violence to save this sorry mess of a film. Watching lions on The Discovery Channel was never as dull as this. At least they cut their footage down to show the highlights, not the entire stalk-and-kill routine.

 

Prey is a very slow, dull and pretty pointless thriller. I can’t call it horror because it’s not scary enough, nor do generic thrillers contain killer lions. Maybe I’ll just call it a poor film.

 

 ★★★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

Maneater (2007)

Maneater (2007)

How do you hunt the predator when you are the prey?

A Bengal tiger escapes from a traveling carnival and finds it’s way into the woods outside a small town where it soon stakes it’s territory and begins hunting and killing any people who happen to stray into the woods. It’s up to the local sheriff to find and kill the tiger but how do you take down a six-hundred pound killing machine?

 

Whilst finishing my monthly trawl through the newest releases over at Amazon, I came across a series of films featuring one of my favourite horror sub-genres – that of animals killing people! The ‘Maneater’ series made for The Sci-Fi Channel has featured plenty of clichés in the form of Shark Swarm (predictably dull killer shark flick) and Croc (absolutely dire killer crocodile flick) and they’ve also given the killer treatment to spiders, squid, ants and, unusually enough, monkeys (don’t worry I’ve got all of them on order). Maneater was the third film made in the series and it’s the best one I’ve seen yet. There are not an awful lot of tigers-run-amok films (well not compared to killer shark films anyway) so it’s not like you’ll have seen it all before. Actually you will have seen it all before as it follows the ‘killer animal on the loose in remote community’ formula to the latter. But that doesn’t mean to say it does a bad job.

The good thing about picking a ‘relatively’ normal animal to turn into a killer is evident. I say ‘relatively’ normal because tigers can be trained to respond to situations (within reason) whereas squids or sharks – let me see you try and get them to do circus tricks. The tiger they use here is mostly real, save for an odd CGI shot when needed. The real tiger gives it that added element of danger and unpredictability especially during the scenes where it stalks it’s victims through the deserted streets. On the flip side, it means that you don’t get to see a lot of people being savaged by it and most of the deaths happen off-screen so those expecting the scary-looking thing on the front cover to maul away on some rednecks are going to be disappointed. For safety reasons, filming a real tiger attacking an actor isn’t the best idea in the world. You do get to see the tiger’s handiwork in all of its glory with plenty of blood and limbs being left at the scene. It’s just the initial attacks that are confined to your imagination. There are plenty of attacks throughout the film and a great job is done to turn the tiger into a real threat.

Gary Busey looks really desperate for work in this. I’m not criticising his performance as he’s one of the best things of the film, it’s just that he could quite easily command better roles. I mean who hasn’t seen Lethal Weapon or Under Siege and thought Busey was a bad ass psycho in both films? He’s really good here as the sheriff and he still maintains that psychotic glint in his eye – this is a sheriff who is about two donuts away from snapping and killing everyone in sight.

Ian D. Clark portrays the English game hunter and, whilst his mannerisms and uber-posh accent ticked me off to no end (no one wears those pith helmets anymore, do they?) he still brings an ounce of dignity to the proceedings. His attitude towards the tiger and the respect he shows it is one of the reasons why the tiger works so well. Like the shark in Jaws for instance, the script does a good job of having the characters all show some level of respect and acknowledge at the damage and skill that their beast can do. Even if it’s not on the screen, the other characters are still building it up as a serious threat.

If you’ve seen one of these ‘killer animal on the loose in remote community’ films than unfortunately you’ve seen them all and this one is no exception. The animal involved kills some people. The sheriff doesn’t know what is going on at first until they realise what they’re up against. Authority figure in town/community doesn’t believe him and refuses to let the local festival/special event be disrupted by a load of nonsense about some killer animal roaming the area. An expert on the animal is called in or turns up. Said expert joins forces with the sheriff. Etc, etc. It’s standard fare and Maneater doesn’t do a lot to sway from the formula. A load of random characters are introduced for a few minutes prior to being chowed down. You’ve got joggers. You’ve got hunters. You’ve got police deputies. You’ve got soldiers. They’re all here to up the body count. The film is pretty well paced so there’s never an overly dull moment and thanks to the wonders of using a real tiger, there is quite a lot of tension in some of the scenes of the group in the forest trying to find it.

 

Maneater is proof that “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” It follows its rigid formula to the letter and manages to throw a few nice moments here and there to turn itself into a solid, if unremarkable, film.

 

 ★★★★★☆☆☆☆☆