Syfy Channel Deliverance
Xtinction: Predator X (Alligator X) (2014) 8 out of 10 A disgraced scientist Jurassic Park’s a pliosaur with the help of two methed up rednecks which then terrorizes a local Louisiana swamp while his ex wife and sheriff love interest try to stop him.
The Good: Technically the synopsis above is a spoiler as the movie tries to hide the fact that the disgraced former scientist who was fired for trying to bring extinct animals back to life is behind the dinosaur roaming around the Louisiana swamp. Yeah, I thought it was Frenchy at the bait shop but the geneticist with a chip on his shoulder; you say? (There is another scene where they try to hide the identity of an evil turncoat henchmen but since there are so few people in the movie it is pointless as we have only one possibility left.)
So I bring up our baddy because Mark Sheppard really puts in an excellent performance. His evil guy is layered and crafty and unlike our good guys he seems to have something that makes you want to keep watching him. What is that called again? Oh yeah, charisma. And yet he outshined by his henchman. Ricky Wayne and Scott L Schwartz.
Lets back up a bit. Evil guy’s ex-wife (Elena Lyons) is back in town looking for her dad who is missing. She decides to take a couple out on a sunset cruise because her missing pappa needs the money and this will also give her a chance to look for him. One would expect that the couple (A marine and his very much out of his league fiance) and our female lead would ruin into our titular pliosaur and one or two tourists would be on the menu while our lady friend learns the truth about what is out here in the swamp.
But bless its heart, Xtinction: Predator X does nothing of the sort. Instead, our trio come across the two henchmen with the missing Ex wife’s pappy with a bag over his head. It is dark and honestly the scene looks more like something out of Mississippi Burning rather than a Syfy creature feature. The henchman cruelly feed pappy to the pliosaur as his daughter watches in horror.
Our trio is then captured by the henchman. The marine is fed to the alligators, the finance is gang raped and the ex wife is tied up and beaten and good lord what kind of movie is this.
So in the middles of this mediocre creature feature with stilted acting and a cartoon gator all of of sudden there are two villains from Far Cry 3 going all Deliverance on our cast raping and kidnapping and you name it. It is as if a much better movie found itself trapped in a mediocre Syfy film.
Ricky Wayne in particular gives a brilliant performance. In reality, all the bad guys (except the pliosaur) really step up top the plate. This Wrong Turn/ Hills Have Eyes mini movie is downright riveting and truly scary. I actually prefer creature features to backwoods torture porn, but this is so well done and unexpected I found it delightfully refreshing.
Much of the rest of the movie consists of ex-wife and the gang-raped finance (Lacey Minchew) running through the swamp together like Pam Grier and Margaret Markov in Black Mama White Mama. (Except they are both white, they are not handcuffed together and there is a giant pliosaur that is apparently still in the movie somewhere)
Our good guys however are awful. Lochlyn Munro is dull as dishwater and is written out of large chunks of his own movie. Elena Lyons’ character makes no sense and while she is legitimately pretty, she is out of her depth when the movie turns dark. Only Lacey Minchew as the gang rape victim seems to release what kind of movie this has morphed into.
Then there is the pliosaur. They are sauropterygian swimming reptiles and are not dinosaurs. I mean seriously movie, you had one chance to educate America, and you blew it. Also, pliosaur are living creatures and not cartoon monstrosities. which is, by all appearances, how the special effects team over at Rogue State handle it. There are decent effects until they show the actual pliosaur jumping over banks like some prehistoric Free Willy.
You know he found his brother’s dead body six hours ago, and she was kidnapped by rapists and watched her father be fed alive to alligators, but what the heck; time for some romantic banter.
You know I always complain you have a budget, some decent actors, and seem to know how to keep the camera in focus, why not make a good or at least interesting film? I often direct these complaints at the journeyman Syfy directors. Well, guess what? They did that this time, and almost everyone came to play.
The direction is actually decent; the screenplay writes some nice checks, and there is some very good acting. The make up effects on the girls in captivity are excellent as is the set design for the meth lab/ genetics center. Everything is wonderful except the two lead actors and the monster.
Strangely enough had the principal part of Xtinction: Predator X been good (The two lead actors, the monster) I would have found the steering into dark hillbilly gone wild torture porn to be a distasteful distraction. It is with some irony that the awfulness of the main components of the film makes the darker material work so well. Like a sweet dish with a salty surprise, the juxtaposition really makes the entire package stronger than its weakest parts.