Wednesday, May 25, 2011

in the middle of the ocean, a new form of horror is taking shape.

it has to be annoying. you spend years of your life deeply steeped in genetic and biological scientific study - or let's say - days on end of meticulous militant training... real top-of-the-class stuff. you excel and overcome physical and mental adversity for weeks, months, years, until it finally pays off. you're enlisted to become part of a high-tier government project. your life is paid for - sure the work is a little risky and there are a lot of dangerous secrets flying around, but your long ordeal has finally gotten you into the big leagues. you're exceeding where most others have failed, pressing your mind and body to the limits and breaking down all the walls in a world of advancing technology.
so one night you're working out in the middle of the ocean on a top-secret black operations-funded oil rig, and things get a little frumpy...
everyone has to expect some setbacks right? some money is lost, valuable data compromised, maybe even a person or two or three or four dies? all in the order of crisis management. nothing you can't handle. sure enough. that is unless a group of curious survivors casually drift up at the most inopportune time to climb aboard at the exact moment there is a compound-wide security wipe-out and stroll right along into the heart of your laboratory - touching everything they can see, breathing all over the specimens, and arming themselves with very costly firearms that will most likely be taken out of your paycheck if you survive. drink all the coffee in the break room and eat my sandwich out of the fridge while you're at it. well great, thanks. hey, and fuck you. why did your yacht full of heroin have to blow up on my shift? like i don't have enough to deal with with this rabid clump of mutant DNA sliming up all the vents and liquefying people?

so proteus is one of several horror movies i've seen that takes place out there on the high seas. inevitably i always assume that sea-creatures will end up being more terrifying than shore-side monsters, as the ocean is already packed with soulless abominations that exist purely to strike terror directly into the deepest portion of your gut. it was less satisfying, then, that the thing which stalked the half-sunken halls of the film ended up being a bit more man-made than something that was just unearthed and swam up from the blackest depths. but i'm a man, i deal with these things - and i'm not one to turn my nose up at a genetic experiment gone wrong - leviathan or mutant alike - who's really that picky?
so we kick this bitch off with a group of six drug dealers (one of which is actually an undercover cop) and about twelve bags of dope being loaded onto a yacht to escape some ordeal with the triads. one fellow, paul, is already bleeding through his face and missing a few fingers right from the start - so i was sure that more dismemberment was to come.
at some point during the opening credits the boat blows up and the crew is set adrift on a raft until they plunk into a seemingly abandoned oil rig. normally i would complain about the plot-crutch of a group of inexperienced people insisting on worsening their situation by exploring some hollowed-out place of misfortune they probably shouldn't... but i let it slide this time seeing as they were floating abroad with nothing to eat but a bag full of drugs.
now i knew some dank shit was already happening inside. there was at least one panicky security officer running from some serious color-tinted monster vision already teased before the smugglers got on deck.
after making themselves comfortable (as they always do), the group discovers lumps of clothing laid all about the rig - and plenty of empty animal cages and living quarters. the whole place is dripping with slime - and paul (the fingerless fellow) goes off almost immediately and gets taken out by the red lens filter and ingested... i guess? his face sort of melts off into some awesome late 90s CG effect.
my faith wavered a bit when i put the slime and the clothes together like some tubby-limbed child doing grade school math while waving his arm and grunting at the teacher... i had already nailed this flick down as a slime creature feature which i'm never pleased with. not the good kind - like the blob - but the sort where they just toss a bunch of fluid around and insinuate you to death. not to say i have an aversion to slimy movies, i just prefer to see the stuff in action.
anyhow anyhow anyhow.
so eventually you're told what's going on - after a few of the people who have died start showing up in spanking condition - though it was fairly straightforward all along. a crazy doctor named shelley (name drop) was hired out by an eccentric billionaire to explore the boundaries of human DNA to potentially unlock the secret of eternal life. the doctor mentions that the body and all of its elements are 95% water and that the trick was to exploit the meatier remaining 5% into something that would defeat death.
it just has to sound good normally, but i found myself making a 5% meatier effort to explain the contrivance away and caught the reflection of my contorted face on the television screen and thought it was a jump-scare.
so this biological element was tested on a great white shark (always good to test that radical and unstable virus on something with five rows of teeth) they nicknamed 'charlie'. from this point on the creature is referred to thusly.
most of this knowledge comes from a tape which alex (the undercover DEA agent) finds, that shelley had made himself.
it got a bit more interesting when they explained that charlie sort of gelled himself and slopped out of the tank to take over the remaining staff on hand - gathering their traits and forming a mental collective - but it was still a little hands off for my taste. a lot of the kills were made by reusing actors who had come back after they had died to kill again by jamming a feeding appendage down the throat of their victim.
just before the doctor succumbs to charlie on camera, he hints at a way to defeat the entity by using a large amount of heroin.
sometimes you just get all the best cards...
there's a lot of menial elements in the movie that i've not even bothered to mention - various little thickets of disinterest about the characters who you don't really care for to begin with - but i'll just let that sauce marinate until i forget i've left it on the stove.
let's get to what i really want to talk about - and probably the reason you should watch this rank load yourself - the final confrontation.
the final battle against charlie gets real when alex's girlfriend (a previous victim) returns and tries to pull on his muscled heart just before his escape from the rig. she offers to show him charlie's "true form" and begins to buckle and gag until a five-story-tall creature ERUPTS FROM HER FACE which is genuinely awesome and looks like a cross between the universal studios jaws ride and a street shark. alex begins to pelt the monster with BAGS OF HEROIN, each time prompting it to stop what it's doing and lap up the smack.
this is just to slow charlie down until he douses the beast with gasoline and scrambles a trail of it back to a mess of hand grenades (the most overused method of ending large killer things, second only to 'laying prone behind an upward-angled pointy stick') but it doesn't even matter - at that point in the movie i had gotten what i came for.
proteus has lain mostly dormant since 1995 for good reason. at first most would probably decry it as one of many similar movies that rolled out unhindered off the aliens meets abyss craze - but they aren't aware of the key issue this movie provides - and that is: under the most extreme and particular circumstances - drugs are good for something.