Saturday, March 18, 2006

Review: Biohazard (1985)


At a secret research facility in the desert, some high-ranking U.S. Government officials have gathered for a demonstration of an incredible scientific breakthrough. Obnoxious scientist Dr. Williams has discovered that when Lisa Martyn, an aging psychic in a bad Barbara Eden wig, is hooked up to a fancy computer system, she can bring objects to Earth from another dimension. She gives a demonstration, materializing a little statue and inadvertently electrocuting some poor maintenance man who happened to be working on the computer system at the time.

Dr. Williams shows the Government reps a coffin-sized box that Lisa had materialized the day before. General Randolph orders the box to be tossed into the back of an army truck and taken elsewhere for analysis. Lisa protests, saying that she can sense a presence inside the box, but her warning falls on deaf ears. As the box is being driven out of the research base, a rather petite but nonetheless vicious and terrifying alien emerges from inside and unceremoniously dispatches the soldier who was guarding it.

The monster escapes into the desert, and though it violently murdered a man, General Randolph can barely work up the energy to do anything about it. Randolph sends a military scut-puppy named Carter after the highly radioactive and homicidal creature, and Lisa (who claims that it's just as scared of us as we are of it) tags along. First, though, the two of them stop off at Lisa's house to eat some stew and make out (?). Thankfully, their icky romantic interlude is interrupted by a phone call from Mike, one of the men who had been in charge of transporting the alien's box.

It seems that Mike stole a small canister from inside the box and took it to his house, but he began to worry when he noticed that the canister seemed to be growing. Carter and Lisa rush over to examine the strange alien device, which vaguely resembles the body of a Dirt Devil upright vacuum cleaner. They discover that the canister is radioactive, and Carter realizes that it isn't growing, but rather opening up! Being a thoughtful and cautious man by nature, Carter has the brilliant idea to take a hammer to the thing and try to beat it closed again.

Amazingly, Carter's plan doesn't work, and the can pops open, revealing a nasty little alien sock puppet. The puppet attacks Mike and nearly bites through his neck, but Carter, remembering that he's holding a hammer, jumps in and smashes it. The paramedics (well, two guys who can perform fake CPR) arrive to take care of Mike, and Carter and Lisa get down to the business of tracking the monster.

Meanwhile, said monster has been terrorizing the local population, killing off various hobos, rednecks, and other unsuspecting townsfolk. Lisa uses her amazing psychic powers to track the monster to a warehouse. When she and Carter arrive, they find another team of government agents there. This group is led by Reiger, Carter's nemesis. The two evidently fought together in Vietnam and have some serious issues to work through. They join forces to hunt down the alien and nearly give in to the temptation to shoot each other, but another alien puppet appears and kills Reiger before Carter has the chance.

The main alien pops up and Carter plugs it with numerous bullets, sending it flailing backwards into an electrical panel where it gets a major shock. Carter reports to Lisa that he succeeded in killing the thing, whereupon she admits that she herself is an alien, and the thing Carter killed was just a prototype soldier that her race was testing out on Earth. Lisa pulls off her skin and reveals her true form, which sort of resembles the baby from Eraserhead. "This can't be real," says Carter; then, in an avant-guarde turn, he mugs for the camera and makes a "cut" motion, demonstrating that, in fact, it's NOT real! It's just a shitty movie!


I'm starting to think that "Biohazard" isn't actually the title of this film, but rather a government warning label that was pasted on the front of the videotape box. This film is not safe for human consumption, and I fear that watching it may have permanently stunted my reproductive capabilities. If anybody knows of a class action lawsuit being filed against the producers of this toxic waste spill of a movie, please contact me as I would like to testify.

Biohazard comes to us from B-movie schlockmaster Fred Olen Ray (see Dark Universe, the Tomb). All the major hallmarks of a Ray production are evident: the hack actors, the painful script, the cheezy special effects. Ray wrote, produced, and directed Biohazard, so there's no escaping the blame this time.

As with Ray's other films, Biohazard is a virtual "perfect storm" of bad acting and bad material. In some movies those two factors will cancel each other out (as in films that knowingly go for the tongue-in-cheek effect), but in this case the one seems to highlight the other. You could have given this script to the Royal Shakespeare Company and they couldn't have saved it, and likewise, an actual quality script would have been completely wasted on this hopeless cast.

Unlike most movies, where the actors get paid for their work, I have a feeling that the actors in Biohazard may have paid to be allowed to act in it. Sort of like the film equivalent of those books where you pay them to publish your poetry. Judging from the credits, Ray heavily padded the cast with his family members, and the whole affair has the feel of an early rehearsal for a community theater production (think "Greater Tuna" meets Predator 2.)

Ray's son Christopher (who was about seven years old at the time) plays the Bio-monster, and one has to wonder if perhaps the terrifying alien would have been a little scarier had it not been portrayed by a hyperactive pre-teen. The thing looks like a four-foot-tall, drooling version of the Guyver, with goofy teeth. Possibly a step up from the Dark Universe alien, but not by much. And really, is it worth the money to buy your son a fancy alien costume when he's just going to grow out of it in six months?

One of the more frustrating things about Biohazard is the poor quality of the lighting and lack of color-correction on the day-for-night segments. It's something that I tend to take for granted in films, but it really does make a difference when you can't actually see ANYTHING that's happening in a given scene. Many horror films make use of darkness to heighten the scariness, but when it's this dark, it becomes more like an experimental film where you're just watching abstract little dots of light dance around in a black void.

The finale of this movie, in a word, sucks. I'll go along with Psychic Lisa being revealed as an undercover alien, but when Carter calls "cut" to end the film, I felt rather insulted. I know this is just Ray's way of telling us that he knows this is a stupid movie, but I think anyone who suffers through it at least deserves a more satisfying ending.

As the credits roll, we are treated to an outtakes reel. These are not just the funny outtakes, mind you - these are basically ALL of the outtakes. I think the credits sequence is actually longer than the movie. Actors are seen flubbing and/or forgetting lines over and over and over, but there's none of the laughter that typifies most outtake footage. The pained expressions on the actors' faces suggest that they they know the wasted film is coming out of their own paychecks.

Final Analysis

If you have plans to watch Biohazard, I recommend wearing one of those full-body protective suits they use at the CDC. The long-term effects on my health are as yet unknown, but I think I can safely blame any future medical problems on the 84 minutes I spent with this urinal-cake of a movie. I'll be forwarding my doctor's bills directly to Fred Olen Ray.


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