Kate Walker is driving along in the woods when she gets a flat tyre and a passer-by stops to help her. But he knocks her out with a shovel and abducts her. When she awakes, she finds herself trapped in a strange labyrinth with a handful of other abductees. Trying to make sense of the situation, they try to find way out but soon find themselves being hunted down by strange demon-like creatures amidst the booby-trapped maze.
‘Cube with monsters’ springs to mind when I look back on Carnivorous (not to be confused with the DMX killer snake feature which goes under the same name). It is a dismal creature feature which throws together a host of strangers in a labyrinth and unleashes a slew of CGI monsters upon them. And then repeats the same formula for the duration of its running time. Repetitive and monotonous in equal measure, it’s a wonder that this hasn’t become so form of prescription medicine for insomnia. I’m sure Carnivorous has good intentions and the plot is an intriguing twist on the usual ‘strangers-in-a-room’ story but the execution is woeful.
The alternative title, Hell’s Labyrinth, certainly means more than Carnivorous does. After all, the characters are trapped in a dingy labyrinth. Though where this dungeon is and just how the owner can get away with having a massive underground facility without anyone batting an eye lid remains to be seen (sarcasm aside, the labyrinth is revealed to be some sort of extra-dimensional sacrificial chamber – or at least I think…..yeah I didn’t really pay enough attention!). For some bizarre reason, the film opens with a scene inside the labyrinth featuring some other unlucky victims and proceeds to show off all of the goods straight away – the CGI monsters, the gore and the setting itself. Talk about giving the game away within the first few minutes – now there are no surprises left for the audience.
Shot almost entirely against green screens, I may have been a little more tolerant on this as a whole if they hadn’t decided to colour all of the CGI backgrounds with greys and browns, leading to the film looking really dark and dismal. Seriously, this is one of the most frustrating films to sit down and look at for ninety-minutes – there’s no life in the picture whatsoever and the background seems to go on forever in monotonous fashion. The cinematographer gets a lot wrong, failing to light the shots enough and lending the proceedings a constantly dim glow. It’s clearly attempting to be atmospheric but comes off as frustrating.
Whilst some of the Gothic architectural design to the labyrinth is amazing, you never once get the feeling that the characters are actually anywhere but inside a studio. Things aren’t helped by the positions they take in relation to their surroundings and each other, almost always standing side-by-side and giving no indication of depth to the sets. Anyone in the UK was ever seen or heard of the 80s TV show Knightmare will get the general idea of how this looks (I must stress that Knightmare looked fantastic for its day – but this isn’t 1987 and effects have gone backwards by the looks of it here) and at times it appears that they’re stuck inside a video game, rather than a labyrinth.
The creatures they encounter in the labyrinth are also CGI and whilst you’re never going to buy them as ‘being real’ at all, they at least show up regularly and do a bit of gory damage when they appear. It’s a pity that they look like rejected sprites from a 90s PC video game rather than anything modern. Matters aren’t helped by the cast who seem to be getting little direction as to where the post-production effects will be taking place in regards to their positions on the screen. They can’t act either, which is a big requirement of being an actor.
If you have a burning desire to see a bunch of one-note characters walk around in front of a green screen for eighty minutes, then be my guest and watch Carnivorous. George Lucas would be proud! It cost him $115m to do the same thing with Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace.