Monday, September 30, 2019

"Quite the Dick, Aren't You?" - Metamorphosis: The Alien Factor (1990) - Film # 154

After viewing Ted A. Bohus's special effects work in Mindkiller (1987), let us move on to a film produced by Mr. Bohus as a follow-up to The Deadly Spawn (1983), Metamorphosis: The Alien Factor (1990) (no relation to George Eastman's Metamorphosis, also released in 1990).

Some of your universe's critics are typically blind to the quality of this film. Reviewer vyl writes, "This movie is crap. How else can I put it? Its... beyond bad? This movie is the ultimate badness. It has all the elements of a sub-B-grade movie." Reviewer phantasmda writes, under the ridiculously hyperbolic title "Definitely the worst film ever made," "I can't say I have ever seen a horror movie quite this bad and I consider myself a fairly tolerant person. Some films are so poor that they become laughably enjoyable or mildly entertaining and then there's this, which is just downright painful." And reviewer papadeltazulu writes, "It really is an awful film, I borrowed this from a friend who told me how bad it was, so I thought I'd see for myself, hoping it was one of those so bad it's good flicks. Nope, it's just so bad it's really bad and I felt ripped off despite the fact I watched it for free."

Please read on to learn the truth...

The film begins at a high-tech company called Talos, where a lonely security guard watches a video feed. A computer tells him to investigate part of the building, so he walks through a series of high-tech corridors until he finds the anomaly: a door automatically opening and closing, with a puddle of blood in front. Instead of calling for help, the guard loiters around the malfunctioning door—until a bloody man accosts him, then dies.

Even now, the guard does not call for help; rather, he pulls out a flashlight and a handgun and enters the mysterious room. Of course, this strategy proves ineffective, and the guard is killed by what appear to be bloody tentacles.

Additional characters are then introduced in their suburban home. Young adults Sherry and Brian are making out on the couch, an activity that in your universe is clearly indistinguishable from wrestling awkwardly. They are interrupted by Sherry’s younger sister Kim, who has returned from a date of her own. After some bickering among the sisters, Sherry complains to Brian that she is no longer as close to Kim as she once was.

Back at The Talos Corporation, two administrators with British accents (one an evil man, one a compassionate woman) find the mysterious lab, where rats are eating one of the bodies. They are worried that “he” has escaped. They bring in two men named Mitchell and Jarrett to take care of the problem. During a briefing, the female administrator, Dr. Nancy Kane, explains that Talos has been assigned a project from the government: studying an alien substance (that might actually be native to Earth, but rather an illegal biological weapon developed by the U.S. government).

The film then flashes back to illustrate Dr. Kane’s story. We see a lab with some charming genetically modified monsters such as a giant Venus flytrap.

Michael, the “he” that everyone is worried about, causes an unfortunate accident by kissing Dr. Kane, which somehow causes him to inject the “alien” material into a monster, who bites him, thus somehow transferring the alien material into Michael. An alarm starts ringing spontaneously. His hand swells up, and his plan to fix everything is, obviously, to pour sulphuric acid all over his arm.

The acid does not work, unfortunately. The infection spreads up Michael’s arm. Dr. Kane calls Dr. Elliott Stein, the corporate physician, and Stein comes running. “What the hell was he working with?”

“Elliott, they were cell samples from another planet.”

“Cells from outer space. I ought to change my name to Dr. McCoy.”

They attempt to get Michael to a hospital, but the other administrator, Dr. Vialini, whose accent becomes more Ronald Colman and James Mason with every passing scene, insists they treat Michael on the premises.

The film then moves into another flashback in which Dr. Kane explains why Dr. Vialini wants to get Michael out of the picture: Michael discovered a virus that could cure all inheritable human diseases, but Dr. Vialini sold the cure to the Defense Department. Dr. Kane’s flashback is a long confrontation in an office between the two scientists.

Eventually, the film returns to the main flashback. Back in the same lab where the accident occurred, Michael lies in a hospital bed, mutating. Something flies out of him, a la Alien (1978), and Drs. Kane and Stein chase it through the lab and then immediately dissect it. It appears to be made primarily of teeth.

Back in the present, Dr. Kane’s flashback is interrupted by the entry of Sherry, the young adult from the suburban household shown earlier, who happens to be the daughter of the security guard killed in the opening sequence. The is investigating the disappearance of her father. Dr. Vialini sends her away, lying and telling her the guard wasn’t working last night.

Back in the lab flashback, Michael’s continuation continues to deteriorate. ‘Finally, after four weeks of dead ends, Elliott made a major breakthrough.” Elliott’s breakthrough is made with the help of a large laser that irradiates a mass of alien tissue. Before the filmmakers reveal the breakthrough, Dr. Kane is attacked by the transformed Michael.

The attack, however, is just a dream, making the audience question why Dr. Kane would relate the incident during her briefing with Dr. Vialini and his henchmen. The breakthrough is revealed after she wakes up from the dream in the flashback: Elliott has discovered  that electricity can stop the alien infection, meaning they can use their particle accelerator to reverse the process. They construct what Dr. Kane calls an “atomic shotgun” out of a cyclotron. Before the weapon/cure can be used, Michael’s metamorphosis moves to a new stage. He becomes a toothy monster and kills Elliott.

This is where the flashback ends, as we have already seen the rest: Michael escapes and kills the security guard.

The film moves back to Sherry’s suburban house, where she is convinced her father is being held captive at Talos. Sherry, Brian, and Kim race to the facility with a key card and white lab coats, intending to infiltrate the place and find Sherry and Kim’s father.

Meanwhile, security professionals Mitchell and Jarrett walk through the corridors of the facility, shooting escaped monsters. At the same time, Sherry and Brian walk through the same corridors, looking for her father. (It must be noted that the walls and floors in the facility are spotless; the custodial staff are clearly excellent at their job, though we never see them during the film.) Sherry and Brian break into an office and Sherry breaks into a computer. The filmmakers introduce perhaps the cleverest bit of dialogue in the film. Brian says, “Quite the dick, aren’t you?”

Sherry replies, “What?”

“Uh, a private dick. Detective, I mean.”

Elsewhere, Kim finds a dead monster on the floor and runs through the corridors. She almost collides with Michael’s monster form.

After some confusion and fisticuffs, one of the security guards and Brian have been eaten by Michael. Dr. Kane, Dr. Vialini, the remaining guard, Kim, and Sherry appear to be the only survivors.

In the space of a few minutes, the monster kills Dr. Vialini, flinging his head into the corridor, and Dr. Kane as well.

The surviving security guard guides Sherry and Kim to a small room in a remote part of the facility. Sherry puzzles over a command console. “What the hell is this thing, anyway?”

“A way for us to stop that thing out there,” replies the security professional.

They have made their way to the particle accelerator. The guard lures the monstrous Michael to the center of the room, and Sherry activates the accelerator (along with the flux capacitors, according to the computer voice). Finally, the monster is irradiated.

Shockingly, the particle accelerator turns the monster back into Michael. The security guard tries to shoot Michael, but it appears he has not transformed completely back into a human. His face contorts into a monstrous visage and a monster jumps from his mouth to kill the security professional.

Sherry and Kim then overload the particle accelerator, which stops the monster.

“Is it over?” Kim asks.

“I certainly hope so,” replies Sherry. “Let’s go home.”

As they walk outside, they find Brian. Despite seeing him eaten by the monster, Sherry asks, “How did you escape?”

He replies, convincingly, “Just lucky, I guess.”

In a surprise ending, a completely different monster breaks out of the roof of The Talos Corporation building.

The End

Metamorphosis: The Alien Factor has many lessons to teach us. First, Vialini is not the name of a pasta. Rather, it is the name of a rather intense, probably British administrator, formerly employed by the Talos Corporation. Second, high-tech corporate facilities working on alien organic materials feature Coke machines in their hallways (good to know!). Third, particle accelerators are capable of reversing metamorphoses between aliens and humans, but the reversals may not be permanent.

As the story goes, filmmakers involved in the critically successful, beloved The Deadly Spawn (1983), including producer Ted A. Bohus, planned a sequel to that film, but the sequel evolved into something quite different, much like Michael evolves into something quite different from his original form in the film. The result is Metamorphosis: The Alien Factor. Oddly, the new title sounds more like a sequel either to Metamorphosis (1990) or The Alien Factor (1978), the first film by Don Dohler, with whom Mr. Bohus worked on Fiend (1980) and Nightbeast (1982). Ironically, Mr. Dohler's The Alien Factor "spawned" an official sequel in 2001 called Alien Factor 2: The Alien Rampage.

No matter its provenance, Metamorphosis: The Alien Factor is an entertaining, creative film that mixes special makeup effects, stop-motion animation, and optical effects in the most charming way possible. The British accents of Drs. Kane and Vialini are the proverbial icing on the proverbial cake, assuring that this film is if anything a proverbial classic.