Carnosaur has problems, but the biggest in my opinion is that it feels like two very different horror movies were stitched together. The first is a giant monster movie about killer dinosaurs roaming around the American Southwest and preying on a small town already plagued by hippies and boredom. The second is a body horror plague film about a mutating virus created by a genocidal doctor that forces women into a fatal pregnancy which will ultimately kill off the entire species.
Of the two, I want to like the monster movie more, though it suffers from the incredibly small budget and silly effects that would make Ray Harryhausen vomit with rage. Still, it has Doc, an alcoholic and self-loathing former physician turned night guard who just wants the world to leave him in his gutter. Doc is the best part of the film, the ultimate loser whose pathetic antics are still highly watchable. I felt sorry for him and cheered when he got something right and did his best to save what is ultimately an unwinnable situation. This side of the film also feels like various animal attack and giant monster movies at times, like Night of the Lepus, The Killer Shrews, The Valley of Gwangi, and so on. Notice that none of these are very good…
And then there is the plague movie, Outbreak gone horribly, horribly wrong. Here corporate hoods argue with each other over government bureaucracy, and a militarized FEMA dons outfits like the mutants in Rats: Night of Terror so they can then go crazy with M-16s and flamethrowers. For the most part, men feel ill and women die giving birth to eggs with tiny lizards inside, though at least once there is a rip-off chest burster moment similar to Alien. This makes absolutely no sense whatsoever within the context of the movie and is some kind of aberration entirely separate and saved purely for the big villain (not the big bad guy, because I guess that would be the dinosaur). Ultimately the military decides to kill everyone and massively change the population through artificial wombs and further genetic engineering. Also, there is blueberry pie coated with goat embryonic fluid. And some nasty chicken eggs.
I came for the dinosaurs, so I must admit that it was unlikely the other side of things would win me over. I am much more interested in seeing Clint Howard get his head ripped off, and the dino-attacks were lovably gory. People don’t just die, they get torn apart, their guts yanked out and fed upon while still breathing. Apparently baby dinosaurs like to eat the eyes of their victims before they slip into unconsciousness. Who knew? The downside to all of this though is that the dinosaur models are simply awful. They were rushed in design, there was little budget for them, and most of the suggestions from paleontologists were basically ignored or came in too late to be of use. It shows. Most of the best stuff is done with a puppet or a miniature, and there is a lot of time spent with the critters in darkness. Unfortunately it wasn’t enough, and we get to see just how bad things are more than once.
But despite this, I still got to see a dinosaur fight a Bobcat skid loader. That sated my inner six-year-old.
Also, this movie is really dark. Not just due to lighting (though much of it does occur at night), but in tone. Humanity loses in this movie, all because of one sicko scientist who figures Earth would be better off without us. And while the hero succeeds in obtaining the progenitor virus, he still ends in miserable failure. Everybody dies. The slate gets wiped clean. The End, right?
Wrong. They made a sequel. Hell, they made a series.