Watchers Reborn (1998)
Watchers Reborn (1998)

Genre: Sci-Fi Horror Running Time: 1 hr. 30 min.

Release Date: June 30th, 1998 MPAA Rating: R

Director: John Carl Buechler Actors: Mark Hamill, Lisa Wilcox, Stephen Macht, Gary Collins, Lou Rawls, Robert Clendenin, Melissa Cross

 


 

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uring the last part of the 20th century, great advancements in genetic research were made. While a sheep had been cloned in the UK, the US had actually been creating, covertly, new animal species for more than a decade. One of the most notable experiments involved Banodyne Industries’ AE-73, a creature resembling an ordinary golden retriever. Its counterpart, AE-74, was deemed a failure, though it was conceived as a super-soldier to be utilized in conjunction with the canine creation as a psychically-linked, search-and-destroy unit, devised to avoid having to lose human troops in battle.

AE-73 was nicknamed Einstein, and he managed to escape the Banodyne laboratory as it burned to the ground, thanks to the escaped, rampaging AE-74, nicknamed the Outsider. In present day, a nearby zoo provides refuge for both the dog and the monstrous humanoid correspondent (plus, the location is useful as a food source). A security guard and a chimpanzee are the first victims, mutilated to such an extreme degree that Los Angeles detectives Jack Murphy (Mark Hamill) and Gus Brody (Gary Collins) can’t even begin to hypothesize what sort of culprit is behind the attacks. And the zoo doctor, Grace Hudson (Lisa Wilcox [“She’s kinda cute … for a scientist”]), who actually works for Banodyne, offers up little information herself.

“How afraid should I be?” As the police investigate what could be a ritual killing, Grace consults with her superiors about how to collect their valuable yet dangerous specimens – for termination. The history of the Outsider’s escape is chronicled via flashbacks (many of the same ones that constituted the opening title sequence), which is a poor construction at best, while other technical elements are equally mediocre – from the dialogue to the acting (bit parts tend to be more convincing than the leads) to the set decoration to the editing. It’s clearly a low-budget, Roger Corman-produced undertaking (Hamill also served as a producer), but it’s always disappointing when any attempt to conceal those qualities is so blatantly unsuccessful.

Despite the shoddy storytelling and the careless design of the picture (replete with slow, jazzy saxophone music, reminiscent of vintage porn), the gore effects are quite amusing. An eyeball is pulled from a head within the first few minutes; a severed, rubbery hand is discarded like a random plaything; and brain surgery and bloody corpses reveal gooey (but phony) viscera. Due to practical makeup effects, even the cheaper scenes of violence possess a certain charm.

To contrast the mild horror components (including monster-cam perspectives, a car that has difficulty starting, and various nighttime assaults) is the comically smart dog, who understands English, spells out messages in gravy, and dials 9-1-1 for help. Unintentional humor also arises, chiefly from the Outsider, whose clumsy, bigfoot-like costume is frequently exposed – and in well-lit shots, allowing audiences to see its uncostly manufacturing far too often. And even with intermittent sequences of action or bloodshed, the meandering plot makes the 83-minute runtime feel like more than two hours. As unimpressive (and laughably bad) as “Watchers Reborn” is, it’s curious to note that this is the fourth feature film based on Dean Koontz’ novel; it’s basically the same story as the 1988 original, as well as the 1990 and 1994 sequels. And, despite being a remake, this latest adaptation was at one point titled “Watchers 4.”

– Mike Massie

  • 2/10