Raptor Ranch (2013)
"They are very hungry."
A small Texas town becomes a walking buffet when the dinosaur creations of an eccentric rancher escape from their pens and begin to wreak havoc. Rumoured to be raising some kind of exotic emus, the scientist has been breeding raptors, which is unfortunate for the mixed group of people who happen to arrive at his ranch the moment all hell breaks loose.
Raptor Ranch. Rolls off the tongue, doesn’t it? Sounds like one of those blatantly-obvious film titles that sum up the entire film in two words, doesn’t it? Sounds like a goofy, fun time to spend ninety minutes, right? Well you’re spot on two out of the three. Ever since Snakes on a Plane launched a no-nonsense, no-frills title which sold itself to audiences before they found out more about the story, low budget filmmakers everywhere have opted to copy the style and tell it how it is with their films. After all, are you not the least bit curious as to what a raptor ranch may be?
I’m still not entirely sure I know what a raptor ranch is supposed to be after watching this. I didn’t even know what was happening to be honest. I must have drifted off at some point. How did the dinosaurs get there? Why was only one old guy keeping them captive in pens with all sorts of highly-expensive equipment and technology lying around? Who paid for him to do so? Doesn’t anyone ever bat an eyelid when they see him picking road kill off the kerb on a daily basis? Considering how grandiose the billion-dollar dinosaur set-up was in Jurassic Park, it’s impossible to believe that this one man could do the same job at a cut-price. Raptor Ranch starts off like any other Sy Fy Original or Asylum creature feature and I was already gunning for the remote control. But it starts to improve not too far in, steadily maintaining interest until it trails off towards the end. I think the problem was, goofy title aside (and even then it was renamed The Dinosaur Experiment in some countries), that the director wanted to turn this into a horror-comedy but didn’t have a clue how to do so. Sometimes the humour is too forced and in other scenes the humour is natural. It’s a very uneven experience to say the least.
It’s good to see the characters develop a little bit in a film like this. It was looking like Raptor Ranch would go down the usual creature feature route with the number of stereotypes and caricatures it was presenting to the audience but, once the cast starts to thin out a bit, a really strange thing happens – the characters begin to grow personalities! Yes, they start to become funnier, more manic and generally more likeable than they have any right to be. Low-rent action star Lorenzo Lamas gets top billing but he share no screen time with any of the other major characters and his brief scenes look to have been added at a later date to pad out the running time and add another name to the front cover. It’s up to buxom singer Jana Mashonee to fill out the film and she does so pretty well in her tank top. It’s not rocket science to see why she was cast so the film cuts to the chase pretty early and has her parading around in a pair of Daisy Dukes. She’s a lot better in the role than her sexualised appearance would suggest.
The usual dodgy low rent special effects come out to play, with lacklustre explosions and corny dinosaurs being the name of the game. A large portion of the film is set at night so the effects look better than they would usually do but when one specific shot of a dinosaur is re-used countless times, it’s hardly rocket science to work out that the budget wasn’t exactly generous. It’s when the day arrives that the special effects come off looking as bad as they actually are. There are some practical effects hidden amongst the computer stuff and they look great. I really wished filmmakers had more confidence in their creations nowadays as they add much-needed realism to an otherwise silly plot. The T-Rex model head looks particularly good given the obvious limitations with the budget. In fact, the T-Rex is given far more to do throughout the film compared to the raptors so Dinosaur Ranch would have sounded more appropriate.
If there is one irritating thing, it’s that the dinosaurs are shown from almost the first scene. It’s daft to give away everything in the opening reel but once the novelty of seeing the dinosaurs has worn off, what is left for audiences to look forward to? They get well fed throughout the film and attacks are generally well-spaced out. Raptor Ranch does get bloody too and the red stuff flows freely as the dinosaurs begin to snack on the cast. Hardly the most exciting and nerve-wracking tension but at least some of the attack scenes provide some cheap thrills.
Raptor Ranch was a little better than I expected it to be. In a raptor specific sub-genre of low budget dinosaur movies that includes Raptor Island, Planet Raptor, the Carnosaur films and Raptor, it’s got a few good things going for it. Hardly the worst genre effort out there but still needed a lot of work.
Director(s): Dan Bishop
Writer(s): Dan Bishop, Shlomo May-Zur
Actor(s): Lorenzo Lamas, Jana Mashonee, Donny Boaz, Cody Vaughan, Lexy Hulme, Marcus M. Mauldin, Declan Joyce, Carrie Newell
Duration: 90 mins