For some reason, this low-budget (75K) monster-running-rampant-sometime-in-the-near-future opus has received more than the usual amount of criticism. It is an ALIEN rip-off, yes. There are a million of them out there, yes. And it's not a even a very good Alien rip-off, yes. But I still didn't find it as bad as some have made it out to be (or even as schlocky as the title suggests) and it has some good moments. Set in 1998, the opening scroll informs us that a nuclear exchange has taken place between superpowers and that the Earth is now a "blackened husk of a planet." Tiny groups of survivors live on the fringes of ruined cities and must constantly be on the lookout for mutants and other dangerous nomads. Five AWOL army soldiers; Blanca (Scream Queen Linnea Quigley), Jake (Richard Hawkins), Butch (Ken Abraham), Kate (Kim McKamy) and Jesse (Michael Aranda), are amongst the last survivors and the group must seek immediate shelter from an upcoming deadly acid rain storm. They pick the wrong building to duck into: a deserted scientific lab where doctors were experimenting with amino acids before the project backfired. But hey, at least there's electricity, food and most important of all: running water.
While Jesse, the brainy guy in the group who studied biochemistry before being drafted, tries to crack into the facilities computer, Linnea Quigley is busy doing the Linnea Quigley thing, which involves sniffing out a functioning shower to fulfill the film's T&A quotient. Seeing how the building has enough supplies to keep them going for awhile, the group ponders just laying low there for awhile. Not like they really have a choice either way because they're stuck until the rain stops. Jesse gets up one night to read one of the scientist's diaries, hears a noise, crawls through an air shaft and ends up coming face to face with a giant, tusked monster. Strangely, the monster doesn't rip him apart on the spot. In a scene directly ripping off the famous stomach-burster sequence from Alien, Jesse starts acting weird, cannot eat and then vomits up a black, tar-like substance, starts to mutate and then keels over dead. The surviving four can only help but wonder "Was it something we ate?" They'll have to worry about more than just that, as the acid-spewing lizard monster and a handful of large stuffed rats, which also infect those they bite and cause them to mutate and kill, creep back into the picture.
Considering the budget (75K) they had to work with and the time schedule for the production (12 days), this really could have been a lot worse than it is. Sure, the acting and dialogue are pretty bad at times, the storyline's nothing new, the photography's murky, there are tons of boring shots of the cast running down the same corridor over and over again and the big climactic scene is horribly paced and seems to last an eternity, but there's also some fun to be had here for B movie fans. One fun in-joke is when someone is going through computer files and sees a list of former employees who used to work in the lab, which includes the names Forrest Ackerman, Roger Corman, Charles Band (the uncredited executive producer), Deb Dion (Band's wife) and David McCabe (DeCoteau's alias when he made gay porn back in the early 80s). The best bit comes toward the end though, when our hero shoots some kind of chemical into the monster and an evil mutant animatronic baby - complete with unbelical cord - suddenly pops out of it! The Guy Moon score is great, as well. I'd rather watch this - with its serious, sincere approach to the material and hand-crafted special effects - any day of the week over what plays on the SyFy Channel on any given day.
The biggest drawing card (both then and now) is probably its star. Quigley (also the associate producer) gets to scream, run around a lot and fight several of the mutant monsters. I distinctly remember renting this on VHS as a kid and her soapy sex-in-the-shower scene was completely scrambled from being rewound and re-watched so many times. The scene is so good that it has even popped up numerous times as filler on both compilations (BIMBO MOVIE BASH, LINNEA QUIGLEY'S HORROR WORKOUT, etc.) and features (DeCoteau's awful THE KILLER EYE). Ken Abraham later found success working behind-the-camera on numerous television shows. He has spoken unfavorably about the B industry in interviews and said one of the bright spots as an actor was working with Quigley (the two also starred together in the comedy VICE ACADEMY and the erotic thriller DEADLY EMBRACE). Kim McKamy previously starred in DeCoteau's 1986 d-t-v hit DREAMANIAC, plus had lead roles in several other horror films before becoming popular 90s adult film actress Ashlyn Gere.
Issued on VHS by United, Urban Classics and Cult Video and on DVD through Full Moon. Fred Olen Ray remade it as HYBRID in 1996.