With THE DINOSAUR PROJECT about to hit cinemas in the UK, we find that the genre of found-footage films is finally joining forces with dinosaurs. I love found footage films and boy do I love dinosaurs. In celebration of this magnificent event THN asked for a list of the greatest Dinosaur films ever made. There are two, JURASSIC PARK and THE LAND BEFORE TIME; maybe we could include KING KONG even though a mammal is the focus. Still, three films do not constitute a very interesting list. So instead I decided to write a worst of list. I soon found myself at the other end of the spectrum. How on evolution’s green Earth do I only choose 10?
Jurassic Park III
JURASSIC PARK III does tower over some of its dinosaur-themed buddies on this list, but it deserves a place here regardless. I’ve included it to show that even an entry into a popular franchise with millions of dollars behind it can still mess up the use of dinosaurs. Hobbled together using a recycled plot and scenes cut from previous films, JURASSIC PARK III made many mistakes. It decided to only kill people in the first half of the film, had a dream sequence where a dinosaur talks, includes yet another stupid child that doesn’t get eaten, and the film ends with Sam Neill negotiating with Velociraptors for the lives of the humans. The film also has the main characters constantly stalked by a Spinosaurus. I’m no expert, but I wouldn’t exactly think dinosaurs and stalking would go together. However, this creature constantly surprises our heroes. My favourite scene is when the young boy follows his father’s ringtone. He finds his father, but he doesn’t have his phone. You got it. The dinosaur ate the phone and even though the son could hear that, nobody hears the terrible lizard creep up behind them. Fortunately there is a human sized hole in the fence that blocks their escape and they are now safe. I mean, I’m sure that fence is built to contain the dinosaurs and withstand any force they may…NOPE! The Spinosaurus just bursts on through. Who wrote this crap?! Wait, who? ALEXANDER PAYNE? Academy Award winning writer of SIDEWAYS and THE DESCENDANTS? Oh dear!
Tammy and The T-Rex
This was a mid-1990s Frankenstein, filled with adult themes handled in an immature way. Denise Richards’ ex-boyfriend is an obsessive violent freak that has no regard for the law, to the point where he leaves Paul Walker in a safari park where he is savagely attacked by a lion. An evil scientist puts Walker’s brain in a robotic dinosaur. Walker escapes and kills out of anger before remembering his love for Richards. Yes, this is terrible, but due to some of its twists and turns, it’s just compelling. There’s the gay son of the sheriff who is ridiculed by the rest of the town’s police force. When the characters go to find Walker’s body to put the brain back in, they find it decayed and rotted, with maggots everywhere. As Walker and Richards consider an alternative body at the morgue, Richards checks out the cadavers’ penis size to see if she would approve. What the hell!?! The kills are often quite violent but are suddenly played for comedy. One scene has a man flattened and is later rolled up like a poster. It’s too dark for children, but too childish for you, kind of like Michael Jackson.
Coolio spent most his life living in a gangster’s paradise. He probably wishes he’d stayed there rather than go up against these flying dinos.
In PTERODACTYL I learned that these airborne lizards could slice people in half with their wings. This film isn’t all bad. There’s a particularly funny recreation of the jeep scene in JURASSIC PARK with a teacher yelling at one of his students “Shut up bitch! Stop screaming!” That’s the kind of talk we need in more of these monster movies. Coolio is fantastic in this film. Every line he delivers seems as though he is reading it in a room by himself, he fails to play off anybody else’s performance. Sometimes his reactions are simply confusing. “Calm down. I need you to be calm.” He says to a man that is of course completely calm. Despite its awfulness, it can also be a lot of fun given the right frame of mind; Drunk!
I decided I would only choose one Roger Corman film for this list; I cheated and chose a franchise. Get over it! First of all, check out that title. CARNOSAUR! If dinosaurs weren’t terrifying enough already just imagine a carnivorous one. CARNOSAUR involves the experimentation on chicken eggs eventually leading to chickens laying dinosaur eggs. We soon find that human females are also impregnated because of a virus or some crap. What could have been an awesome ALIEN with dinosaurs was never meant to be. Remember in TERMINATOR when Kyle Reese said the first Terminators were easy to tell apart from humans? These are the dinosaur equivalent. CARNOSAUR III: PRIMAL SPECIES has hilarious use of this series’ dino-vision, and often dinosaurs will appear out of nowhere for surprise kills. There’s another film called RAPTOR which is made up of footage from all three films, so if you really want to watch some rubbish and save time just view that instead.
The Land Before Time XI: Invasion Of The Tinysauruses
As one of the few humans to have sat through every one of THE LAND BEFORE TIME films, I can safely say this is the absolute worst. It’s even worse than THE LAND BEFORE TIME VII: THE STONE OF COLD FIRE and that had aliens in it. Oh yes! ALIENS! That was a double kick in the nuts for creationists everywhere. Look at the title for part XI. Tinysauruses! Need I say more? This story actually has miniature dinosaurs in it. And the word ‘Invasion’ usually has negative connotations. I believed these miniature dinosaurs would kill everything in sight by crawling into the larger dinosaurs mouths and eating them from the inside out. That doesn’t happen and there is no invasion to speak of. Remember that moment in THE LAND BEFORE TIME where Littlefoot confuses his shadow for his mum? Remember how much you cried and still do just thinking about it? Well this film will cure you of all emotions save for rage and hate. If you must check out a sequel try number 10. It has Kiefer Sutherland as Littlefoot’s dad and actually tries in terms of character and emotion.
Adventures In Dinosaur City
I don’t see why it’s so hard to make a bloody dinosaur film. We all know what they are, we don’t need an explanation. No explanation would be better than some of the nonsense we get. In ADVENTURES IN DINOSAUR CITY a group of teenagers that are far too old to be this obsessed over a cartoon are sucked into their favourite animated show. It’s filled with walking, talking dinosaurs that try and do some kung-fu but they find themselves restricted by their rubber suits. This is a film that just seems to have been vomited out. For example, the main villain Mr. Big always wears a hood to, I assume, hide his identity. Nope! Halfway through it just cuts to him and he is no longer wearing the hood. Why? I can’t answer that. I would hazard a guess that they hadn’t yet finished the rubber suit when they started filming. Stupid, heartless, and utterly ridiculous.
Barney’s Great Adventure
If Barney truly were a dinosaur of my imagination, he would have eaten all those precocious children and used the deaf kid’s intestines as dental floss. What the hell kind of dinosaur is Barney supposed to be anyway? I always assumed he was a Tyrannosaurus, so why isn’t he eating these kids? We warn children about the dangers of alcohol, strip clubs, and strangers in trench coats but encourage them to approach carnivorous lizards. The film begins with a song that contains the lyric “If Barney the dinosaur, comes knocking on your front door, just go and play with him…” Luckily the internet wasn’t as big in 1998 as it is today so sexual predators failed to get organised and produce their own Barney suits. It isn’t long before Barney leads the children into a barn away from adult supervision. Hold on! That’s Trevor Morgan from JURASSIC PARK III. No wonder he was such an idiot in that film. He thinks all dinosaurs are cuddly. That’s how damaging this film is, Morgan even tries to tell his grandparents about the dinosaur that leads children away but they just shrug it off. I’m not even going to discuss Barney’s friend BJ. Do yourself a favour and show your toddlers JURASSIC PARK.
PREHYSTERIA! starts as it means to go on. Shoddily! It begins in a studio supposed to represent the jungles of South America. I know this because there’s a group of guys that wear sombreros and shout “Vamanos” and “Andale”. This prologue scene which is supposed to set up the plot is confusingly intercut with the introduction to our main characters. It makes no damn sense; show the prologue, introduce the characters, and THEN have a scene that connects the two. We see a family come into possession of some miniature dinosaur eggs, the eggs hatch and we are confronted with five mini-dinos. The film tries to cover its arse by having only the dumbest character in the film mention how they look like toys. “Well I don’t want to be like him,” the audience cries “I think they look real.” The film has a number of awkward editing/pauses that are positively frightening. In one of these, the antagonist bullies the love interest into a backroom. The camera pans back as the villain threatens “You’re not going anywhere!” Now, there is a scene that immediately follows this, but rather than show it straightaway it decides to cut away to the family, leaving us with the impression our heroine is being sexually assaulted. When adding a father with the most bizarre anger management issues and two typical 90’s kids, this is one terrible film.
I don’t know where to begin with this absolute turd. Anyone who announces ‘Worst Film EVER!’ without having seen this has no idea what they’re talking about. It takes my number one spot for obtaining a number of records. At the time it was the highest budgeted direct-to-video release of all time with a whopping $35 million. Whoopi Goldberg demanded $7 million to stay with the project as she really wanted no part of it. It was also the first direct-to-video movie to be nominated for a Razzie. The film begins with an opening scroll that declares “Once upon a time, in the future…” Right there and then I wanted to legally change somebody’s name to THEODORE REX so I could punch them in the face. And this was before this little gem “At midnight tomorrow…” Wait! Midnight tomorrow is the future? The monkeys that wrote this then go on to spoil the plot. It reveals who the villain is before the film does (it’s supposed to be a secret) and also reveals his plan. We are then thrust into a world where dinosaurs and humans live together. Theodore Rex is a police officer that wants his first major case after a DINOcide. The film will constantly leave you with a confused expression on your face as it tries its hardest for terrible jokes and scenes which make no sense. I now realise that the makers of this film inserted the opening scroll hoping you would turn the film off at that point.
TYRANNOSAUR is on this list for the simple fact that there is not one flipping dinosaur in the damn film. I don’t care if it’s filled with memorable and powerful performances, strong writing, and grim but hypnotic visuals. If I want to watch men beat women I’ll pop round Chris Brown’s house. This was the greatest cinematic disappointment since Gus Van Sant’s ELEPHANT. The kids I took to see that will never be the same again…
So will THE DINOSAUR PROJECT evade future insertion on this list? Let’s hope so. At the very least I hope this list lowers your expectations. The found footage genre breathed new life into Superheroes with CHRONICLE, teen sex comedies with PROJECT X, and exorcism films with THE LAST EXORCISM; although THE DEVIL INSIDE took that genre out back and molested it to death. Please be good THE DINSOAUR PROJECT.
THE DINOSAUR PROJECT is released 10th August 2012. Until then, enjoy some clips by clicking here or a trailer by clicking here. And just for fun, here’s my favourite scene from the comedy classic JURASSIC PARK III.