And You Call Yourself a Scientist!

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[aka Wes Craven’s Mind Ripper aka The Outpost]

"He’s dying, Alex. Why not let nature take its course?"
"Screw nature!"

Director: Joe Gayton
Starring: Lance Henriksen, Caroline Stansfield, Dan Blom, Giovanni Ribisi, Natasha Wagner, John Diehl, Gregory Sporleder, Adam Solomon
Screenplay: Jonathan Craven and Phil Mittleman

Synopsis: A seriously injured man is rescued by a scientific team working for a company called Gentec, who save his life by injecting him with an experimental virus developed by Jim Stockton (Lance Henriksen). Six months later, the subject of the experiment, known as Thor (Dan Blom), is dying. Alex (John Diehl), the team’s leader, is desperate to save Thor’s life and calls for help from Jim Stockton, who quit three months earlier in protest at the direction the research was taking. Reluctantly, Jim heads for the Gentec bunker, in company with his son, Scott (Giovanni Ribisi), his daughter, Wendy (Natasha Wagner), and Wendy’s boyfriend, Mark (Adam Solomon). Scientist Joanne (Caroline Stansfield) discovers that Alex has been injecting Thor with huge doses of the experimental virus. The original research, intended to develop a virus capable of helping the regenerative process, has been taken over by the military, who want to develop a super-soldier. As the team works to save Thor’s life, the power in the underground facility fails. Thor revives, attacking and killing two of the team. Joanne and Rob (Gregory Sporleder) want to escape, but Alex forces them at gunpoint to try and recapture Thor, erasing his handprint from the facility’s security lock, so that none of them can leave. Thor kills first Alex, then Rob. As Joanne tries to save her own life, Jim and his companions arrive. As Thor attacks again, Jim must come to terms with what his work has spawned, and find some way of stopping his seemingly immortal creation.

Comments: Hmmm. Monster on the loose in confined space, long dark corridors, people being picked off one by one.... Sound familiar? Yes, that’s right folks: what we have here is yet another Alien clone. All the elements are in place in Mind Ripper: the team leader’s a raving psychotic, the rest of the crew are a bunch of panicky idiots, the high-tech equipment’s faulty, and at the first sign of crisis, all the power fails. The best man for the job even turns out to be a woman. But the creators of Mind Ripper didn’t just confine themselves to a single source. There are riffs here from Rabid (1977), The Hidden (1987) and Brain Damage (1988), too. The action takes place in a converted nuclear facility, whose architects favoured the ever popular style of ten miles of dark corridor to every well lit room, and whose previous occupants displayed the same concern for the correct disposal of toxic waste as Charles Montgomery Burns. To the surprise of absolutely no-one, the original scientific research intended to benefit mankind - the development of a virus capable of assisting the regeneration of human tissue - has been hijacked and corrupted by the military, who want a "super-soldier". (Again? What was going on in America in ‘95-’96??). The result, Thor, with his long hair and open shirt, initially looks like he’s wandered in from the set of Hercules, but undergoes a reasonable mutation by the end of the film. His need for brains allows the film plenty of gross-out moments, and his regenerative powers are demonstrated by having his body expel first a knife, then shotgun pellets. Thor’s encounter with Jim Stockton, his creator, leads to some of the most hilariously bathetic dialogue in the history of science-fiction (see "Immortal Dialogue"). The rest of the film suffers from the usual shortcomings of this genre: characters whose behaviour is too stupid to be believed, plot inconsistencies (Thor catches a moving van without difficulty, but we’re supposed to believe that Wendy Stockton could outrun him), a series of silly false endings, and the apparently unavoidable (and excrutiatingly predictable) final scene kicker. On a more positive note, the film boasts a strong performance from Caroline Stansfield in the post-Ripley heroic female role, a characterisation annoyingly weakened by a screenplay that gives her a gratuitous shower scene in the opening few minutes, and has her miss a shot at Thor from near point-blank range. Lance Henriksen is always interesting to watch, and Giovanni Ribisi, a talented actor who deserves better material, is good as the asshole teenage son who turns out to be a good man in a crisis. The involvement of executive producer Wes Craven is fairly easily explained by the presence of one Jonathan Craven, who co-wrote and produced the film. Craven Sr’s touch can be seen in the trademark nightmare sequence; although it’s hard to know whether to be amused or annoyed at the chutzpah that gives that nightmare to the film’s monster.