Monday, September 16, 2019

"I've Spent Most of My Life Looking for This Blood" - Project: Metalbeast (1995) - Film #152

Who among us has not contemplated attaining superpowers through the injection of werewolf blood and the application of synthetic metal skin? Fortunately, the Barry Bostwick vehicle (not to be confused, of course, with this Barry Bostwick vehicle) Project: Metalbeast is here to fulfill our hearts' desires.

Some of your universe's critics are unbelievably negative about this film. Reviewer frodave writes that "the movie is a downward spiral into the abyss of film making. What possible reasoning any producer, director, or writer could have for involving themselves in this disaster of a movie escapes me. I would like to get in contact with the filmmakers and request compensation for my time and brain cells wasted." Reviewer KizerSouza writes, "This movie is pure garbage. The acting is atrocious, the dialogue absurd, the plot asinine, and that's the good stuff!" And reviewer bhcesi writes long-windedly, "There are no words to describe the symphony of stupidity this movies presents to us, the audience. The cast was mediocre at best and their acting skills were the same. The storyline, at times, doesn't make any sense, and there are contradictions left and right. There are points made in the course of the movie that simply don't compute, and the ending was laughable."

Of course, now you must read on to experience the truth...

The film begins in 1974 as a small boat sails across a lake at night in the Carpathian Mountains. Superimposed text tells us the boat is (or has something to do with) Project: Operation Lycanthropus, a U.S. military intelligence operation that, unlike probably half of all U. S. military intelligence operations, requires werewolf blood.

A group of agents infiltrates an old castle, finding a maggot-filled body in the dungeon. Once they reach the living quarters, they find their quarry: werewolf blood, but it is unfortunately still inside the werewolf.

The monster attacks one of the agents, but it is subdued by the commander, who shoots it, presumably with silver bullets, and then extracts its blood. For good measure, the commander also kills the agent who was bitten by the werewolf.

Back at a building called U.S. Secret Operations Center, the commander, Butler, is scolded by a black-haired Barry Bostwick. A woman named Dr. Barnes meets them, showing them the results of her blood tests. “It’s an extra chromosome. That means it’s not human.”

“Who cares?” asks Butler. “Is it diseased?”

She replies with an explanation of what will happen if the blood is injected into a human. “If you use it on anyone, the body’s immune system will treat it like an infection. The subject’s blood will putrefy into a pus-like fluid. The body will swell up like a balloon. There’ll be vomiting and fever, and the result will be a horrifying death.”

Mr. Bostwick says, “Well, that’s not a pretty picture, is it, doctor?”

The two agents are frustrated that Dr. Barnes is not finished with her analysis of the blood. Outside, Butler says, “Nobody ties my hands. I’ve spent most of my life looking for this blood, and I’m not waiting.” At night, he returns to the Secret Operations Center and not steals the last vial of werewolf blood, hiding it in a hypodermic needle. Then he goes into a bathroom and injects himself.

Butler starts sweating. Instead of seeking medical attention, he goes to an office and watches a slide projector showing images of the werewolf attack in the Carpathian castle. Mr. Bostwick charges into the room and asks what’s going on. He glances at the screen, which shows a werewolf attacking an agent, but obviously thinks nothing of the scene—he probably sees five or six scenes like this every day.

Butler explains his senses have been enhanced by the werewolf blood. “I hear your heartbeat. It’s going a little fast, isn’t it? Pit-pat pit-pat pit-pat. Getting nervous?” Then he explains himself: “I’m taking back what was lost through millions of years of evolution. I’ll be a new kind of warrior. Changing shape at will. I’ll have the instincts of an animal and the brain of man.”

(Perhaps Butler forgets how easy it was to kill the werewolf in the opening sequence.)

Mr. Bostwick storms away to cancel the project. Meanwhile, a lab worker cuts herself on a test tube that bursts spontaneously, and Butler smells her blood from far away in the building. He attacks her with his one werewolf hand.

Seconds later, she stumbles away, shoeless for some unknown reason. When Butler in full wolf form kills another man, Mr. Bostwick shoots him, apparently killing him.

After the body is taken away, Mr. Bostwick explains his plan for moving forward to a colleague with a ridiculously fake mustache.

Mr. Bostwick plans to pause the program, but then to control and enhance the werewolf process. He offhandedly says that if Butler’s bullets get dislodged, “all hell will break loose.” He also tells his mustachioed colleague to kill Dr. Barnes.

Mr. Bostwick then visits Butler’s body, which is completely naked behind a pane of glass, in some kind of suspended animation.

The film moves forward to 1994 and a building called the New U.S. Secret Operations Center. Here, Dr. Kim Delaney is working on a project to generate synthetic tissue (the animal kind, not the Kleenex kind, apparently). She is quite successful, having given life to what appears to be a pan of well cooked lasagna.

Barry Bostwick (now with his more familiar silver hair) is in charge of the synthetic tissue project. Dr. Delaney and her boyfriend, an Air Force officer, explain the problems they’ve been having with artificial skin. “We still can’t control the hardening process. We’ve never been able to keep it stable. Sometimes it works, but sometimes we end up with skin as hard as steel.”

“I’m well aware of that,” says Mr. Bostwick with some satisfaction. Perhaps there might be a use for skin as hard as steel that nobody has thought of yet.

Helpfully for the audience, after explaining most of his plan to the project scientists, Mr. Bostwick heads to the secret room where Butler’s body is cryogenically stored and explains his entire plan. “These so-called scientists don’t even know it, but they’re going to give you a skin of steel. You’ll be indestructible...and under my control.”

A scene follows that is beyond my ability to describe. It begins with a Spanish-speaking cook quitting because his kitchen has not been sprinkled with holy water, and ends with Butler’s body (eyes blinking once or twice) on a gurney being wheeled out of a freezer into the kitchen, where Dr. Delaney takes a biopsy sample right there in the kitchen. Mr. Bostwick assigned Dr. Delaney with the task of grafting the artificial skin onto Butler. Preparing the operation, Dr. Delaney’s colleague says, “Your subject consumed high amounts of raw meat.”

Although they have been called scientists, the group act as surgeons, peeling off some of Butler’s skin and replacing it with synthetic skin.

During the operation, however, they discover the silver bullets in Butler’s body, and they decide to remove the bullets, which results in the immediate resurrection of Butler’s corpse. They tie Butler down and sedate him, leaving him on the operating table overnight. Dr. Delaney goes to her office, where she sleeps with a stuffed rabbit, and talks to her colleague about metaphysical topics. When we die, does something leave our body, or is our life locked inside our cells?

Meanwhile, Mr. Bostwick goes into the operating room, unlocks Butler’s shackles, then shows him dark pictures of his previous life (i.e., werewolf images). Butler is agitated by Mr. Bostwick’s agitation.

The next day, the scientists attend Butler, but they are having difficulty injecting him with drugs because part of his skin is hard as metal. Oddly, his urine also flows freely, staining one of the scientist’s shoes. Dr. Delaney asks, “Do we have enough surgical tubing to make a catheter?”

“No,” says the scientist, Larry Porter. “I’ll quit before I touch him down there. Let him piss all over the bed.”

Eventually, Butler transforms into a werewolf when Larry is the only other person in the room—tragically for Larry. The werewolf escapes, and proves he is surprisingly agile and good at hiding in a facility full of military personnel.

One of the officers patrols the facility’s scenic reflecting pool. On the radio, he says, “Nothing out here but a full moon.” He is incorrect, however. The werewolf/metalbeast pounces on him from the roof and kills him. The others soon find the body, and they fend off the metalbeast with fire extinguishers, returning him to the operating room, where they are again frustrated by his metal skin.

Dr. Delaney says, “He’s turning into a wolf or some kind of monster. We have to kill him.” She develops a plan: Put the metalbeast to sleep by injecting a sedative into his eyes, and then shoot him with silver bullets.

Needless to say, the group of scientists does not pull off the plan with complete success, though Dr. Delaney’s boyfriend efficiently melts down his coin collection to make silver projectiles (fortunately, molds for shells are standard equipment at top secret military bases). Of course, the projectiles are mixed with the synthetic metal skin to improve the probability of killing the were-metalbeast. Before the metalbeast can be sedated, it awakens and kills another scientist. He also kills the general, whom Mr. Bostwick has arbitrarily incapacitated by shooting his kneecaps.

Mr. Bostwick confronts Dr. Delaney and her friend Debbie in the secret chamber full of bodies in cold storage. “I’ve never understood the concept of sacrifice,” Mr. Bostwick says, about to shoot the women when he is interrupted, not without irony, by the metalbeast. “It’s okay, Donald, it’s me,” Mr. Bostwick says, perhaps forgetting the metalbeast hates him. Mr. Bostwick is killed by the beast in a sequence that is nearly as satisfying as the filmmakers intend.

Dr. Delaney eventually fires a silver projectile at the metalbeast, though the shell confusingly bursts through a brick wall, and the resultant explosion somehow drives a metal bar through Dr. Delaney’s foot. The beast, not dead and now spinier than before, chases Dr. Delaney through seemingly endless tunnels underneath the facility. Eventually, Dr. Delaney and Debbie electrocute the beast and impale his leg with a pointy silver shell, but he keeps coming. In the end, they manage to blow up the monster with the last shell.

After the monster is defeated, the three survivors—Dr. Delaney, her boyfriend, and Debbie—limp away from the facility, oblivious to the small chunk of metalbeast pulsing on the sidewalk.

Of all the revered films about zombie werewolves with metal skin that have enchanted our hearts throughout cinematic history, Project: Metalbeast is, of course, one of the most beloved, and the reason can be attributed to two alliterative words: Barry Bostwick. Because all but the last 15 minutes of the film features the monster lying helpless on an operating table, the filmmakers generate tension through the age-old narrative device of having people argue with Barry Bostwick, sometimes when he has black hair and sometimes when he has silver hair. What could be more suspenseful?

The film also has a nicely realized structure. The first third is primarily about Mr. Butler's genitalia. The second third is primarily about a werewolf on an operating table. And the third third is (eventually) about the werewolf stalking everybody in the New U.S. Secret Operations Center before being blown up by a mortar shell made of melted silver and synthetic skin. What could be more organized?

Although I often write that I would like to see a sequel to the classic films reviewed on Senseless Cinema, I will state that I do not believe a sequel to Project: Metalbeast would be effective. After all, both the metalbeast and Barry Bostwick are dead at the end of the film. The only possible sequel idea would be to revive Mr. Bostwick as a new metalbeast, but if I may say so, that seems to stretch the credibility of a potential franchise about zombie werewolves with metal skin. So I will just say that we are fortunate indeed to have the cinematic gift of Project: Metalbeast as a standalone film, and we must look elsewhere to satisfy our universal desire to view people arguing with Barry Bostwick.