Project: Metalbeast Is A Feast!

I got wine drunk & called my family to let them know how succulent my Thanksgiving turkey turned out because I am an insufferable chef. The Princess of Purrsia kept screaming for some bird, & I told told her she could have as much as she wanted once it finished cooking in several hours. Then she only had a couple bites & walked off in disappointment. She interrupted many a cozy tryptophan coma afterwards. It wasn’t until day three that she put in a serious effort to help devour the poultry as it grew more putrid. Meanwhile I’ve been eating turkey every meal for four days, & my body is beginning to reject me.

I insist that this personal anecdote  tangentially segues into today’s topic. If you thought last week’s 300th blog on She-Hulk was a cold take, wait until you feast your eyes upon this week’s movie review! The Academy is a bunch of cowards too intimidated by Project: Metalbeast to give it the awards it deserved! This direct-to-video gem could become a Thanksgiving staple just like The Lair Of The White Worm has become for Easter! Why isn’t it Metal-Beast or at least MetalBeast?

I first learned of this motion picture from reading the comments for a werewolf action figure Kickstarter. There’s a dim memory that it was also at my local video store, but perhaps I’m just now retroactively imagining it since it’s the kind of movie that would’ve been there. I watched it on Tubi (also home to Russian were-bears), but supposedly it’s free on Amazon as well. Now, without further ado, here’s SPOILERS for a movie from 1995!

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Finally, a meme people can relate to!

This film doesn’t waste time trying to convince its characters that werewolves are real. Only two US agents are sent on a covert mission to get werewolf blood from the Carpathian Mountains in Hungary. They just let themselves into a chateau by a river & find a werewolf inside. Either they had directions to his house or got very lucky on their first try. The agent with the camera is instantly mauled by an excellent werewolf costume before his partner slays it with silver bullets. He offs his half-chewed partner too for good measure. He then drains the lycanthrope’s blood with an automated extractor that looks very advanced for 1974. No attempt is made to smuggle the werewolf corpse stateside.

Don Butler the werewolf killer has a buzzcut so flat you can balance dinner plates on it. John Marzilli’s crazed commando has no chill or volume control. Not content with having killed an endangered supernatural creature, he absolutely can’t wait for Dr. Barnes to finish testing werewolf blood at U.S. Secret Operations Center. This hematologist is running low on it, which is why you take the entire werewolf cadaver home with you. She also says the blood would cause anybody a horrible death if they injected themselves with it, which is presumably why lycanthropy is usually transmitted by saliva.

Impatient Donald shoots up with the last vial of werewolf blood in a bathroom whose mirror is already broken so he can’t dramatically punch it in fury. Against medical projections, he survives & now claims to be able to produce all the werewolf blood the CIA needs. (So much for the DNA overload promised by the poster.) He rapes Dr. Barnes offscreen & kills another scientist onscreen before he’s shot by his boss, the nefarious Miller. Miller cryonically freezes Butler for two decades & you can see briefly his winkie. (There is no female nudity contained within.)

By 1994, the US government devoted an entire research base to bioferrals. Seriously, it’s on its plaque outside. Bioferron, the metallic skin graft, isn’t even out of the experimental phase. The scientists bemoan that it gets too hard, which is a porn-y sounding clue that they shouldn’t be making replacement skin from metal. Miller vows to cut their funding if they don’t try the bonding process on a “cadaver.” All the scientists realize this plan is dumb because you can’t tell if a corpse is rejecting skin transplants.

The base’s Latino chef is horrified that Butler’s body has been temporarily placed in the kitchen freezer. (Miller didn’t even have to ship the frozen body from Langley as claimed since the base was actually built over the location Butler was held in cryo-stasis this whole time.) He demands the kitchen be sanctified with holy water before he cooks in it again. The doctors chide his superstition (Butler has a psychosomatic aversion to crosses before he juiced himself with paranormal hemoglobin.) then wonder how to get holy water & if they can trick him with unconsecrated stuff. Do they really not know Christian churches give away free holy water? How does a medical base not have its own cold storage away from food? That’s a major health code violation!

Partially defrosted Donald inadvertently comes back to life when they remove the silver bullets from his sternum & heat him up with the grafting laser. This development makes the scientists extra peeved. Miller gleefully taunts the werewolf about his impending servitude while he’s strapped down.

The partially transformed Butler mysteriously & noiselessly teleports out of his restraints to kill the only black doctor who should’ve phoned about his transmogrified paw from outside the lab. After killing an MP by the lovely reflecting pool (foreshadowed by the detailed chalkboard map in what I mistook to be an art department joke), the Metalbeast is somehow vanquished by fire extinguishers? The most sensibly freaked out scientist gets killed when the others peer pressure him into sedating the monster alone. The chef is also killed offscreen at some point. Metalbeast arbitrarily kills a drinky-bird too.

Miller’s plan is to make Butler an even better killing machine. Who among us can honestly say they don’t want a metal skinned werewolf?  In the double decade span since he shot Butler, however, Miller has apparently not put any effort into how to get a psychotic werewolf to follow orders. This is worse than when Hugo Strange gave Venom to Jim Gordon before installing the mind control chip. His smarm remains strong though! Miller kneecaps the general with two of his precious silver bullets. You get three guesses about what happens to Miller, & the first two don’t count. (Barry Bostwick would take vengeance upon werewolves as the titular FDR: American Badass!)

The fully transformed Metalbeast has a back full of quills. It’s the superior Sonic the Hedgehog design. His body has fully absorbed the bioferron well beyond what was grafted onto him via werewolf magic. It doesn’t protect him from silver though. Now Butler’s more bronze than Doc Savage! You can no longer see his dingo when naked either.

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It’s clearly not a tanuki.

Upon seeing that they’re dealing with a werewolf of some sort, the named characters wisely don’t even bother with non-silver weapons. The base’s general has a bunch of silver dollars in plastic sleeves just lying on his office desk like a lazy numismatist for just such an occasion. The silver-tipped rockets made from them is a metaphor for the exorbitant cost of the military industrial complex.

Dr. Anna de Carlo, the lead doctor surprisingly has zero qualms about violating her Hippocratic Oath to kill the Metalbeast. She’s played by Kim Delany, who is apparently unrelated to Dana Delany. The first time misses with the RPG, she takes a piece of rebar debris through her foot. It’s a gnarly wound placed precisely to not impede her ability to flee too much form a monster that should already be faster.

Future Mansquito star Musetta Vander doesn’t hide her Afrikaans accent as Debbie the base security overseer & that’s okay. She & Anna pass the Bechdel-Wallace Test at least once. Debbie arguably has better flirt game with Anna than the male lead suitor. None of the women in the movie are objectified.

The sole surviving guy gets covered in some bioferron from the exploded Metalbeast. It’s unclear if it melted into him or can just be scraped off. If it’s the former, does this mean grafting bioferron will be successful? Will this dude transform into a metalbeast too? Will the survivors become a throuple? Another scrap of exploding bioferron starts pulsating on the ground as if it’s going to regenerate into a full Metalbeast. Or maybe it’ll cause deadly hijinks by itself like Ash’s hand? There were also a few more cryogenic tubes in the basement that could contain lycanthropes. A sequel was sadly never made, so speculate amongst yourselves in the comments section below.

The entire premise of the movie makes it unique from standard werewolf fare. It’s also superfluous. The werewolf didn’t need an upgrade to tear through people like tissue. Likewise getting bioferron skin didn’t counter his weakness to silver. We don’t even see that its new skin has improved his imperviousness to non-silver weapons. The novel concept allowed them to put Kane Hodder in two unique monster costumes though, so I can’t complain too much. If this movie wasn’t so obscure, we could’ve had a couple cool toys made from it. This would’ve been a perfect fit for McFarlance’s Movie Maniacs. NECA could probably pick up the license for the cost of a sandwich if it cared.

Project: Metalbeast is just a hair’s breadth away from breaking through the B-movie barrier. Alessandro De Gaetano’s direction is solid. The script by De Gaetano, Timothy Sabo, & Roger Steinman is more clever than it needs to be. The tone has a sense of humor that doesn’t undermine the terror. It moves at a good clip. Gore levels are substantial without going overboard. The biggest fault I can find with it is the audio gets very low whenever Miller the villain speaks. If you watch it with closed captioning, that’s not even a problem. On the other paw, everything Donald Butler says before becoming the eponymous creature is extra loud!  It’s missing A-listers to put it over the top, but it doesn’t need them either. Its characters may not be that memorable in the long run, but the cast has an amiable camaraderie. The budget was wisely spent on two spectacular werewolf suits by John Buechler, Kevin MCarthy, & TaMara Woodard. These practical effects are right up there with The Howling, An American Werewolf in London, Waxwork, Underworld: Evolution, & Cursed!

The world doesn’t need a Project: Metalbeast remake. How could Hollywood could possibly improve on a picture that’s practically perfect? What we need is a direct Project: Metalbeast sequel! The concept’s got more gas in the tank than Halloween, & they won’t quit making those!

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