Warning: Because the plot of Carnosaur is so completely indiscernible until a third act info dump, this review is going to spoil the plot.
Before Jurassic Park the novel, there was Carnosaur, the novel. Before Jurassic Park the movie, there was Carnosaur the movie.
Actually, Carnosaur the novel was an original work that was released six years before Jurassic Park the novel while Carnosaur the movie was a hastily developed movie shoved into theaters mere weeks before Jurassic Park to cash in on the dinosaur media hype. Unlike Jurassic Park, Carnosaur, a movie that seems like an apt precedent to the modern day cash grabs from The Asylum, has been lamented by the novel’s author. While I haven’t read Carnosaur, it surely can’t be much like the movie, can it?
Roger Corman had a habit of producing cheap movies on the fly that make money off the latest fad; Joe Dante’s Piranha is, by far, the most successful of these attempts, cashing in on the success of Jaws. Sometimes that on the fly philosophy can result in glorious limit-pushing magic when nobody has time to question anybody’s decisions. Other times, it results in Carnosaur, a piece of batshit insanity with absolutely no talent for storytelling.
To give you an idea of how cheap and batshit this movie is, the opening credits play over black and white stock footage of chickens being slaughtered for food production. Presumably this was for an old educational video, but ominous music makes all slaughterhouse footage seem evil. You might be asking yourself, as I was, why is there footage of chickens being slaughtered for food production in a movie about dinosaurs?
Well, the dinosaurs don’t show up for the whole first act of the movie. For a good half hour, Carnosaur seems to be about killer chickens. The plot actually rips off Piranha, in that a couple of hippy chicken thieves break into a farm to free some chickens, except the chickens turn out to be infected with a virus? Somehow this make them killer chickens? Or, maybe humans are infected with a fever? At this point, you might be asking yourself, as I was, what does a fever have to do with a movie about dinosaurs?
Somewhere in here, Diane Ladd shows up as a mad scientist who has been perfecting the perfect chicken for a food supply corporation, and she spends her time getting worked up over people stealing her chickens. But, then she reveals she’s been keeping a dinosaur in a laser light show room for a few years and is feeding it with a steady supply of unsuspecting humans. But, wait…what the hell does the dinosaurs have to do with the chickens? And who are these goddamned hippies that keep popping up and chaining themselves to construction equipment? And what does that have to do with the movie? And what are these numbers that report the location time, and has nonsensical data like “Number of infected cells per 1 million: 35%”?
Carnosaur is a nature gone amok story combined with a viral outbreak story combined with a dinosaur story combined with shades of an environmentalist story. Diane Ladd’s scientist is an ex-military contractor who is sick and tired of humanity. In her efforts to destroy humanity, she engineers a virus that can infect chickens and causes them to lay eggs of dinosaurs. But, the chickens, when killed and consumed, then infects humans and causes women to become pregnant with dinosaur eggs. Apparently the process of laying these dinosaur eggs kills the women, and the dinosaurs will eat the men. This is all revealed in a third act monologue, which is great because it doesn’t make a lick of sense otherwise (it only makes a single lick of sense after the monologue).
Didn’t I tell you this movie was crazy? It’s also a film made completely on the fly with little rhyme or reason for any scene in the movie. There is no tension because you have no idea what’s going on for most of the movie. Is a chicken going to kill somebody? An alien? Is somebody just going to get shot? Why is Clint Howard walking around a chicken farm while eating a bucket of fried chicken?! Listen, I’m not going to say this movie is better than Steven Spielberg’s “classy” b-movie Jurassic Park. But, it is more daring and risky and dumb…and, even though it has enough plot for four separate movies, Carnosaur is half an hour shorter to boot. If only Jurassic Park was brave enough to have a direct homage to Alien.