Thursday, November 19, 2009

Metamorphosis (1989)

...aka: DNA formula letale
...aka: Lizard
...aka: Reanimator 2
...aka: Regenerator

Directed by:
George Eastman

With his funding falling through and a promising research project about to be prematurely cancelled, Virginia University geneticist Dr. Peter Houseman (Gene Le Brock) decides to rush through his experiments before his superiors decide to pull the plug. He first tries out his serum (which is supposed to increase cell regeneration to the point where aging is halted) on a baboon, but it dies. Then for some reason that puts into question just how bright Dr. Houseman may actually be, he decides to play guinea pig by strapping himself to a chair and getting the serum shot via syringe directly into his brain through his eyeball (!) He emerges temporarily unscatched and has a brief chance to bask in an increased sex drive and higher energy levels before the obligatory bad stuff starts happening. A sexy blonde student tries to tempt him, but he's more interested in romance with single mom Sally (Catherine Baranov), an auditor sent to check up on how Peter has been spending his grant money.

Right after getting involved with Sally, Peter's nastier side starts to emerge. He starts frequently losing his temper, showing signs of super-human strength and suffering from blackouts and bouts of temporary amnesia. During a trip to the zoo, the animals seem to freak out at his mere presence. He's haunted by visions of going to a whorehouse and knocking around a prostitute (Laura Gemser), then realizes he actually did attack her. Peter disappears into the woods for an entire week, but reemerges a week later looking like hell and claiming he's dying. His assistant, Willy Carson (David Wicker), Catherine and some colleagues attempt to help, but it's too late. Peter keeps rapidly aging until he's a wrinkled, bald old man. And from there, instead of just withering away to a pile of bones, he slowly regresses into some prehistoric lifeform just in time for a mild holiday rampage about town.

Writer/director Eastman, best known as an actor (and for his starring role in the 1980 gore-fest THE GRIM REAPER), shot this one for the Italian production company Filmirage, who were also responsible other 80s/90s video favorites as MONSTER HUNTER (1981), GHOST HOUSE (1987), STAGE FRIGHT (1987), WITCHERY (1988) and the legendary TROLL 2 (1990). It was filmed in America with English-speaking actors (of varying degrees of talent), is poorly lit and amounts to little more than a lesser retread of Cronenberg's version of THE FLY (1986), but is still mildly watchable. The premise itself (far-fetched as it is) isn't bad, there's reasonable pacing (at least for the first hour) and some of the make-up effects are OK. However, it also has one of those drawn-out finales - of monster-doc pursuing Catherine and her thoroughly irritating son Tommy (Jason Arnold) through the lab - that never seems to end. And when this finally does present the fully-formed regressed state of Dr. Houseman, hopefully you don't have a mouth full of soda or you might spit it out all your TV screen when you burst out laughing.

Lead actor Le Brock and Stephen Brown (who plays a aged professor here), also starred in the Filmirage production LA CASA 5 / BEYOND THE DARKNESS (1990). Gemser gets a credit for costume design. Here in America, it was originally released to VHS by Imperial Entertainment in 1990 and is now a common fixture on those Mill Creek bargain sets (the copy I viewed is from "50 Chilling Classics"). In Spain it was released as a sequel to RE-ANIMATOR.


1 comment:

CavedogRob said...

Whew! i thought at first this might be a horror version of a Kafka story! Lol!

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