We all love and need a good creature feature once in a while. Director Ryan Bellgardt’s The Jurassic Games is not that.
As the title might suggest, this sci-fi B-movie is an interesting mash-up of Jurassic Park and The Hunger Games. The film follows 10 death row inmates, led by the possibly falsely accused Anthony Tucker (Adam Hampton), as they fight their ways through harsh terrains and take on man-eating dinosaurs along the way via virtual reality headsets. Dying in the virtual world means actual death in the real world. Whichever inmate survives until the end of the show wins freedom and a pardon of all their crimes.
While The Jurassic Games might make for serviceable entertainment with a group of friends, it’s not as over-the-top as it could be, which takes away greatly from its appeal. The most glaring example of this problem is that there is not nearly enough bonkers dinosaur action, with many of the kills being inmate-on-inmate. In fact, only one scene involving 3 raptors vs 1 inmate stands out, while the rest jumble together. The film never goes above and beyond with either humor or gore, rendering it instantly forgettable once it’s over. With such an absurd concept, it seems to be an unforgivable error not to make the film as ridiculous, gory, and funny as possible.
This movie is also quite predictable, setting up the end almost immediately. While those who flock to the “so bad, it’s good” style of horror movie may not expect much originality from such films, it seems unfair to the audience that The Jurassic Games be so calculable and simultaneously bland. Films like Skybound and Sharknado fascinate audiences because each film takes its concept and goes batshit, using archetypes and formulas to sort out a narrative. The Jurassic Games seems to have attempted the reverse, skimping on the wild idea and trying to create a bulkier, more complicated story than necessary. The ambition is noteworthy, but the end result is dull.
Additionally, the only time the movie attempts humor is when we are with The Host (Ryan Merriman) as he cracks tasteless (sometimes plain bad) jokes at the expense of the recently deceased inmates. Merriman plays the arrogant, tactless television host well, helping to re-engage viewers when they might begin to tune out. For the most part, the acting within The Jurassic Games is one of the film’s better elements. Surprisingly, no one went for the campy approach, but this works out well considering the more serious tone of the overall film.
In fairness, The Jurassic Games did not set out to create a life-altering film experience. However, it comes up short of its goal of being a fun, tongue-in-cheek shlock experience, too. This film is not as insane or larger-than-life as its title or plot description might suggest. Rather, it’s unfortunately tame and ultimately lifeless. With nothing to set it apart from the myriad other, better creature feature B-movies, The Jurassic Games is an anticlimactic dud.