Review by: Dave Wain
Stars: Jana Mashonee, Lorenzo Lamas, Cole Brown, Donny Boaz
Written by: Dan Bishop, Shlomo May-Zur
UK Certification: 15
UK RRP: £9.99
UK DVD Region: 2
Runtime: 90 minutes
Directed by: Michael Beberashvili, Dan Bishop
UK Release Date: 21st April 2014
Distributor: Spirit Entertainment
As the saying goes – “curiosity killed the cat”. There’s a similar one to that, an ancient Chinese proverb in fact that translates into something like “low budget creature features scarred the UKHS reviewer for life” – I forget it exactly, but that’s fairly close. When you finally escape from that momentous era of your life when childish naivety overrides all feelings of common sense, things do get a little pedestrian. There was nothing like wandering into a video store and picking movies based on their cover alone. Sadly, as you get older you realise the stupidity of this – or so I thought, “There’s a dinosaur! It’s eating a SCHOOL BUS! I need to see this movie!!”… and so begins the trauma of Raptor Ranch.
With a budget of allegedly $3.5 million (they must have catered with expensive doughnuts), and with the shooting locations of St. Petersburg(!), Texas and Los Angeles, Raptor Ranch certainly has a fascinating, erm… ‘vibe’ to it. It also appears to have been in gestation for quite some time, although details are a little sketchy. The project was first announced almost ten years ago, with seemingly the finished product all done and ready to air on the SyFy channel according to a piece on Dread Central from January 2009. Several years passed and then a late December 2012 date was given for the US, but that didn’t materialise – and nothing has since as it remains unreleased over there. We ‘lucky’ Brits however get to experience this movie this very week as it makes its UK home entertainment debut.
Wanna hear about the movie? Are you sure? We’re treated to a totally insane variation of characters, from our heroine – Abbi Whitecloud (Mashonee), a descendant from the American Indian who is prone to removing her jacket in slow motion while drooling toothless hicks look on. At the gas station / café she works at she wears hot pants, white ankle socks and red sparkly ‘dorothy’ shoes – seemingly at the behest of her boss. Making her way to the forecourt to fill up a truck with fuel is met with a line of old, leering men peering out from the window at her – it’s a bit gross, and firmly stuck in another era. Elsewhere there’s also a high school jock, Lucas (Donny Boaz – he’s 33!) who insists in turning up at school in assorted skiwear while he drives a car full of junk and drinks out of a breast shaped mug. The reason for this is unclear other than the writers felt it necessary to pluck a character from a John Hughes movie and that they seem to think it’s 1986. Although from the time this movie has spent in pre-release purgatory that may well be the case.
We also have Special Agent Logan (Lorenzo Lamas) who has been assigned to investigate some mysterious creature attacks in the area, so from time to time he crops up with his partner to say “something’s not right…”. Added to that is the camp, burly figure of Little Willie (Marcus M. Mauldin), dressed in a purple suit and fedora who comes across like a strange fusion of Little Richard and Barry White. His tour bus has broken down so he needs somewhere to get it fixed as well as spend the night.
Oh – there’s dinosaurs in this thing as well. I guess I should mention that, but with the staggeringly cartoonish characters that populate the film, I spent the first half of the movie with my jaw on the floor and forgot the actual premise of the film. Raptor Ranch really does have to be seen to be believed. As I’ve alluded to before in this review, it features some staggeringly dated scenes that seem to have been unearthed in an archaeological dig into cinemas most shamelessly cringe-worthy scenarios. Many of the actors in this are so so bad, but then the script and the direction aren’t exactly geared to utilise their finer points.
Oddly enough, these negative aspects really do detract from the best part – the raptors. Seriously! The thing that I pretty much disregarded prior to the film as likely to be uniformly bad, is actually admirably well executed thanks to minimal digital work and primarily practical effects. All of which wants to make me smash my head against the DVD case repeatedly in frustration with the knowledge that had the writers not created such woeful characters, this would have been a worthy creature feature. As it is, it’s just fit for mocking and staring at in open-mouthed disbelief.
2 out of 10