Jurassic Park may have set the bar pretty high for dinosaur flicks, but I could never resist some B-side prehistoric action. From Prehysteria to Roger Corman’s infamous Carnosaur trilogy (plus the spin-offs), you can’t expect that much from these silly movies. This is why I was so surprised with Ryan Bellgardt’s new mockbuster, The Jurassic Games, a film that’s way better than it has any right to be.
Jurassic Games stars Adam Hampton as Anthony Tucker, one of ten Death Row inmates selected to compete for their freedom in a virtual reality game show against digital dinosaurs. The catch, as it often is in these dystopian futures, is that if you die in the game, you die in real life. Anthony, however, insists that he’s an innocent man, and will stop at nothing to survive and return to his children.
You’ve got to commend Bellgardt for knowing his demographic, as the film wastes almost no time in getting right to the fun stuff, properly introducing the characters and their backstories as the cruel (though undoubtedly entertaining) games go on. Sadly, there isn’t much depth to this vision of the future, as everything looks aesthetically familiar and any serious questioning of the social and political reasons behind the Jurassic Games themselves gets played for laughs.
However, the emphasis on self-aware satirical humor manages to overcome quite a few issues stemming from the film’s shallow script and limited production value. The movie itself actually recognizes how ridiculous certain situations are, while simultaneously mocking several reality television tropes. Ultimately, you’re laughing with the movie more often than you’re laughing at it, which is a welcome change of pace when compared to most mockbusters.
It’s a shame that the characters weren’t more fleshed out, as an ensemble of compelling criminals would have made for more interesting dinosaur fodder than the one-dimensional archetypes that we ended up with. Fortunately, the acting was mostly serviceable, as Hampton made for a solid lead and Ryan Merriman was obviously having lots of fun playing the film’s most entertaining character, The Host.
Personally, I found the dinosaurs themselves to be the most surprising part of the film, as a few sequences managed to rival the effects-work of CG-heavy flicks like Jurassic World. It’s still obviously a smaller production with less-detailed models (and don’t even get me started on paleontological accuracy), but the few instances of shoddy effects are largely forgivable once you consider the film’s virtual setting. Even so, it would have been nice to see at least a few practical dinos, as it’s been a while since we last saw a B-movie with proper animatronic monsters.
At the end of the day, what you see is what you get with this one. It won’t change anyone’s mind about the merits of the mockbuster industry, and I can’t honestly call it a good film, but Jurassic Games is a legitimately entertaining ride with a solid premise and some genuinely fun action sequences. Fans of B-movies with lots of prehistoric mayhem should check it out, but it’s definitely not for everyone.
Jurassic Games will be available on VOD June 12th, and on DVD July 3rd!