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A researcher at Chicago's Natural History Museum returns from South America with some crates containing his findings. When the crates arrive at the museum without the owner there appears to be very little inside. However, police discover gruesome murders on the cargo ship that brought the crates to the US and then another murder in the museum itself. Investigating the murders is Lt. Vincent D'Agosta who enlists the help of Dr. Margo Green at the museum - she has taken an interest in the contents of her colleague's crates. Unknown to both there is a large creature roaming the museum which is gearing itself up for a benefit reception which the city's mayor is to attend. Written by
Enjoyable creature feature B-movie with the usual formula
When a shipment of artefacts returns to America from South America the police find decapitated bodies on board the ship. When a similar murder occurs in the Chicago museum Lt D'Agosta suspects a psychotic killer and shuts down the museum. With political pressures to keep the museum open for an `opening gala' for Chicago's rich and famous, D'Agosta is forced to give way but sets the place up with a police presence to deal with any trouble. Meanwhile scientist Margo Green suspects that an empty crate of mysterious leaves may have been more than just that and examines the potential that a virus on the leaves caused some sort of creature to evolve. When the same `evolution' attacks during the gala setting off the security alarms and locking down the museum it becomes a fight for survival and escape.
When this came out in the cinema I felt that that was not the best place to see a film like this and decided to wait for video or TV. I finally saw it on TV last night and feel that my gut feeling was right the small screen is the best place to see this film. At a cinema you may have higher expectations than you would if you watched it in the comfort of your own home on a lazy Saturday night and that might have hurt this film because honestly it's not that good a film. However as a video you perhaps have a lower expectation and then this film is a nice little surprise.
It is without it's own style or ideas but it is an effective monster movie which, in a nutshell, is really what it is. The film follows the traditional formula of all these types of things monster loose, location sealed or remote, characters separated and picked off in the order you expect until the hero gets the better of it. In that sense this is without any new ideas but and doesn't shine on the plot front but it is an effective little movie. Not particularly scary but more gore than I expected and the film manages to keep the beast frightening by keeping it in the shadows for the majority even after we've seen it, it is still shot in darkness. In fact the way the film is moved into darkness adds to the tension and makes it more exciting. Of course it isn't fantastic but it does do what you expect a monster movie to do, which is my point. It's main weakness is that it plays it very straight (although the mood made by the darkness helps this) many monster movies have successfully gone more tongue in cheek and done well (Deep Rising from the same period comes to mind. However, having gone the straight road the film does stick to it well despite a very unlikely explanation for the beast.
The cast are par for the course with this type of film no big stars but support cast given bigger roles. Sizemore is on good form and is at home in the lead of this type of film, I doubt he could carry a blockbuster but he is good. Miller has done better films and she is OK, sadly she is lumbered with all the science stuff and isn't as impacting until near the end. To contrast the two characters there was a 20 minute spell in the middle where both Sizemore and Miller are absent from the action (in different areas) I noticed Sizemore's absent but it wasn't until Miller came back that I noticed she was gone. The rest of the cast are the usual monster food and you can almost predict who will live and die without 30 seconds of them being introduced selfish arrogant scientist? How long do you think he'll last!?
Despite this and other clichés the film is good enough to watch as long as you know what you are getting it is certainly better than a lot of the creature feature movies you can get at your video store and the mood produced by the director in all that darkness helps it along nicely. Not great but better than average for the genre.
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