JUNE 11, 2008
You cannot imagine my surprise when, after viewing and enjoying the film Organizm (despite the stupid new title - it aired as Living Hell, which isn't much better but is at least spelled correctly), I looked at its IMDb page and discovered that it was a Sci-Fi original (or at least aired as a premiere – Anonymous, if you’re out there and want to correct me again on my ignorant knowledge of what films are Sci-Fi’s own and which are just picked up by then, please feel free). The effects weren’t all that great, but it was well written/acted/directed, and had a refreshing lack of idiotic teens going skinny dipping.
The first 45-50 minutes of the film are great. It’s like a long X-Files episode, only instead of Mulder and Scully investigating the shenanigans and goings on, the people who unleashed the monster in the first place are the ones dealing with it. We have the government base, the locals, some military hardasses (none too cartoonish though), all the ingredients one requires to deliver an effective monster movie.
Like I said, the effects aren’t that great at times, but they are minimal until the final 15 minutes anyway. Our monster is an ever-growing plant-like thing with tendrils that infect/devour our protagonists (think The Ruins, if you were smart enough to go see it), and director Richard Jeffries (no stranger to horror, having co-wrote the terrifying Chevy Chase film Man of the House) was wise to keep the close up tendril action shots to a minimum. There’s an awful explosion and a few badly composited helicopters* as well, but overall it’s not too bad compared to say, Lake Placid 2, in which not a single effects shot worked. I’d also like to defend the ridiculous blood splatter in the film’s opening flashback sequence – it’s a dream and thus the fake looking blood is probably intentional.
But no matter, it’s a very professional and fairly exciting monster movie, with a well-paced structure a la The Blob (remake). The outbreak is fast, and thus the film has more scope than I was expecting. I thought the whole movie would be set on the army base, but we go to a church, a school, parts of the town, etc., with the tendrils constantly catching up and devouring folks (once the outbreak occurs I don’t think we ever go more than 5 minutes without some sort of attack or “chase”).
However, the finale felt a bit weak compared to the rest. It involves our two heroes (including Erika Leerhsen, which is why I watched it in the first place) heading to the source of the monster outbreak and infecting it with poisonous blood. It’s not that it’s bad, but it felt like I had seen this type of scenario before, so combined with the weak effects, I began to lose interest. However, I was amused that the plot actually found a reason for Leerhsen to get covered in blood (it protects her), since she’s usually caked in the shit by the end of any horror movie she appears in anyway. Nice work.
I also discovered that I am way too determined to find all of the goddamn pigeons in GTAIV. One scene had a pigeon in the background, and I instinctively reached for my Liberty City map as soon as I heard the damn thing (I mark each one I kill on the map, so when I get to the point where I can’t find them on my own, I can go online and find the locations of the ones I missed without having to look in areas I already cleared). Damn you, sound effects editor Jonathan Coomes!!!
It’s also a beautiful transfer. I don’t know who did it, but they should be commended. It honestly looked like a Blu-Ray at times, with tiny details like Jonathan Schaech’s stubble looking crystal clear even in darker scenes. One of the best I have seen for a non-theatrical release.
Sadly there are no extras other than a bland commentary. It’s amusing to hear Schaech pointing out other movies that this one reminds him of (“Did you see The Mist?” “Did you see Cloverfield?”), to the point where the director gets mildly annoyed, but otherwise it’s the same old “Remember this day?” “Oh man, this day was bad, I was really sick.” “No you did great though” type of actor/director back and forth. There are a few interesting tidbits here and there, but unless you loved the movie you can probably do without it (especially when, again, the director wonders if anyone watches a commentary before they watch the movie. For the love of Christ, NO! STOP PONDERING IT!!!)
I can’t vouch for the Sci-Fi version that aired, but in a sea of DTV garbage, it definitely sticks out (that’s two in a row for Leerhsen after Wrong Turn 2). It’s reasonably intelligent, it’s professionally acted and directed, and has a woman carving letters into her terrified 8-year-old kid’s hands in the first two minutes. Not too shabby.
What say you?
*Oddly, earlier this morning I watched Escape From LA again, to prepare me for my upcoming Carpenter Q&A. That film has bar none the absolute worst computer effects, particularly the helicopters, in a theatrically released film, EVER.