CARNOSAUR (1993) Reviews and overview of Jurassic Park mockbuster

 

‘Driven to extinction. Back for revenge.’

Carnosaur is a 1993 American science-fiction horror feature film about a mad scientist who plans to recreate dinosaurs and destroy humanity.

Written and directed by Adam Simon (The American Nightmare documentary; Body Chemistry II: The Voice of a Stranger; Brain Dead 1990) and very loosely based on the 1984 novel of the same name by John Brosnan [as Harry Adam Knight]. Roger Corman was the executive producer. The New Horizons production stars Diane Ladd, Raphael Sbarge, Jennifer Runyon and Harrison Page.

The film spawned two sequels, Carnosaur 2 (1995) and Carnosaur 3: Primal Species (1996). Stock footage from the first three films was used in the spin-offs Raptor (2002) and The Eden Formula.

Plot:

A genetically manipulated and very hungry dinosaur escapes from a bioengineering company and wreaks havoc on the local desert town. A security guard and a girl environmentalist try to stop both it and the company’s doomsday biological weapon…

Reviews:

Carnosaur elicits a low-budget fascination all its own. Far closer in tone and production design to The X-Files than to that other 1993 dinosaur movie, this avowedly “B” production manages to slip in lots of enjoyably bad special effects and even moments of early-Cronenberg weirdness between its lengthy stretches of exposition.” AllMovie

“No breasts. 33 corpses. Dinovision. Gratuitous chicken processing plant footage. Wild driving. Gratuitous urination. Puking. Face munching. Flame throwing. Puppy gobbling. Dino disco lounge.” DVD Talk

Carnosaur cries out for straight-ahead, hell-for-leather momentum and sheer outrageousness but is instead merely efficient. Although not onscreen as much as we’d like, Ladd really is the whole show. Technically, Carnosaur (rated R for monster violence and language) looks good, and to its credit, it has a refreshingly cynical finish.” Los Angeles Times, September 20th 1993

“What makes Carnosaur laughable is its mid-film jumping of tracks into a completely different film where it develops as a plague outbreak film with cliche images of an ominous military clampdown a la The Crazies (1973). What transports it into the realm of the spectacularly tacky is its mad scientist scheme – where Diane Ladd conceives a plot to release genetically-engineered household eggs…” Moria

“Though its dinosaurs are clearly not in the same league with Jurassic Park‘s state-of-the-art creations, Carnosaur delivers solid, low-budget fun. Adam Simon’s clever screenplay, adapted from the novel by Harry Adam Knight, is chock-a-block with quotable quotes, of which “That’s really fabulous–make a great theme park,” is only the most obvious. Diane Ladd is chillingly over-the-top as Tiptree.” TV Guide

“What makes the film fun is that even though the premise is rather silly and over the top, the movie continues to play it straight. There is no winking at the camera or bad jokes to let the audience know the filmmakers are on the joke. To me, this allows the viewer to have a good time and appreciate what these filmmakers can do with such a small budget.” Unrated Film

“Replete with scientific mumbo jumbo, this breezy outing is a not-very-filling popcorn treat. Predictably plotted with bargain-basement effects, it’s a serviceable programmer […] Writer/director Adam Simon keeps the action moving about a step or two ahead of the silliness.” Variety

“The special effects are ludicrous and the gore is cheaply done too.  Some of the birthing scenes have a kick to them, but they belong in another movie entirely.  What’s worse is that the hilarious dinosaur looks more like a Land Before Time hand puppet I got from Hardee’s as a kid than a real dinosaur.” The Video Vacuum

” …there’s actually a scene in which we watch—with just as much discomfort as the scene in The Fly—a woman give birth to a dinosaur. There’s nothing more we can ask from cheesy, gory monster movies than that they give us at least one scene that leaves our jaw on the floor. Carnosaur, believe it or not, does just that.” Wicked Horror

This cheap cash-in features rubber animated dinosaurs (created by a mad scientist) running amok tearing up humans in surprisingly graphic ways (it may be Corman’s goriest movie) […] there’s some ripping off of Alien in here as well, complete with an alien-tractor battle.” The Worldwide Celluloid Massacre

Choice dialogue:

“Better a bottle in front of me than a frontal lobotomy.”

“I’ve never seen such nervous chickens. Maybe they smell rain or else the sky is falling.”

“Your body is a revolutionary battlefield”

“I could give a chicken’s nuts for your excuses!”

“The last thing we need is a biotech panic about chickens!”

“What are we but a set of instructions for the reproduction of the species?”

“The Earth was not made for us, she was made for the dinosaurs. The Earth was scaled to their dimensions. Human beings are ants crawling through their living rooms … I don’t want to end the world. Just one unruly species.”

Cast and characters:

Diane Ladd … Doctor Jane Tiptree
Raphael Sbarge … ‘Doc’ Smith
Jennifer Runyon … Ann ‘Thrush’
Harrison Page … Sheriff Fowler
Ned Bellamy … Fallon
Clint Howard … ‘Slim’ Friar
Frank Novak … Jesse Paloma
Ed Williams … Doctor Sterling Raven
Andrew Magarian … Swanson
Brent Hinkley … Peregrine
Lisa Moncure … Susan Mallard
Myron Simon … Vogel
V.J. Foster … Lt. Colonel Wren (as Jeff Foster)
Martha Hackett … Miss Kroghe
Michael Elliott … Siegel

Technical details:

83 minutes
Aspect ratio: 1.33: 1
Audio: Ultra Stereo

Background:

Author and journalist John Brosnan was first approached to write the screenplay in mid-1991 by Roger Corman’s wife Julie, who formalised the deal at Brosnan’s drinking club and drew up the contract on a bar napkin. Although concerned that the restrictive budget would require a reduction in the number of dinosaurs used, Corman assured him that he was free to write whatever he wanted and that any modifications would be made in the final draft.

Once Brosnan sent his first draft to Hollywood, he apparently lost all contact with the production team. His screenplay had in fact been heavily revised to the point where his credit had been reduced to “original story”.

Release:

The film was released theatrically on May 21, 1993, by Concorde Films, just four weeks before the blockbuster Jurassic Park. As a result, Carnosaur is considered a “mockbuster”.

Fun Facts:

Diane Ladd’s daughter Laura Dern was one of the stars of Jurassic Park.

Carnosaur grossed $1.8 million at the box office on a budget of $850,000.

American film critic Roger Ebert named Carnosaur the worst movie of 1993.

Includes a brief clip from Adam Simon’s 1990 released Brain Dead

Trailer: