Lionsgate // 2002 // 89 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Bill Gibron (Retired) // October 5th, 2002
Created to live on Mars. Destined to kill on Earth
On one of those routine Space Shuttle missions to Mars that were so popular about six months ago, a can of computer-enhanced snot decides that the angry red planet is not a place it wants to hang out on. So it goes grand mal and kills the crew. NASA finds this turn of events suspicious, and calls in Dr. Nancy Burnham and her team of phlegm fatales to figure out why this big booger went ballistic. In the meantime, the goo's identical twin is stolen from a government lab and it's up to secret agent Mike Connors to track the angry albumen abductors. Together with Dr. Burnham and the gang, Connors discovers that the menacing mucilage has caused the thieves' plane to crash in New Mexico (It must have fear of flying issues). As it insipissates and liquefies the local Love Canal style townsfolk, the government gimps try to locate the creature and figure out a way to deactivate it, lest it continue to swell and jelly up the greater Western hemisphere. After a few hours of searching, they realize the mean mother pus bucket has decided to do a little sewer surfing on its way to an ancient uranium mine. So armed with an extra large box of Kleenex, a few gallons of Afrin, and an EMP bomb, the federal muck-up brigade try to stop the marauding mucus, even as secret governmental forces plot to stab them in the proboscis.
Project V.I.P.E.R. is a good little sci-fi/horror/action film. It is not great, and not always resolute, but when it comes to small scale made for Showtime or direct to the satellite dish dollops of entertainment, Project V.I.P.E.R. really hits the spot. And why shouldn't it, since it borrows almost all its action, plot, and even dialogue from the past pantheon of great thrill films. Jaws, Jurassic Park, The Terminator, Virus, The Thing, The X-Files, Pitch Black, Deep Rising, and even The Abyss all find a fresh new secondhand home within this amalgamation of action, suspense, and deep sinus congestion. Within the first 45 minutes, we get intense chase scenes, impressive helicopter fire fights, and a military cargo plane crash that packs a great deal of impressive special effects and pyrotechnical production value within its B-flick boundaries. Give longtime veteran schlock film director Jim Wynorski (under the pseudonym of "Jay Andrews") all the thrills and chills credit. About the only "bad" aspect of the film is the monster, and it's truly glad-bad. Is the CGI Commodore 64 crummy? Yessiree! Does the creature resemble a half-finished 8th grade computer graphics project without finishing touches like texture mapping or surface smoothing? Uh-Huh. Does it leave a slimly trail of delicious sputum behind? Oh yeah. Will any of this bother you? Absolutely not. Project V.I.P.E.R. is so dead set on being entertaining, and succeeds so wonderfully, that you will be flicking your Bic just to get another glimpse of this lame example of digital post-nasal drip. After all, what other film would base its entire premise on the notion of super smart nostril slime? While it can melt people down to their gorehound-loving internal organs, it's more farcical than frightening. The Blob may have set the standard for killer glop from beyond, but Project V.I.P.E.R.'s notion of computerized, nanoteched sinus juice is incredibly gratifying.
Lions Gate offers a bare bones DVD package with just a few trailers constituting the extras. But what it lacks in special content, it makes up for with a remarkably clean and crisp anamorphic transfer. One would expect a star field of compression defects or an artifacting digital disaster of for such a low-end title. But instead, we get a wonderful letterbox image, rich in detail. While some additional bells and whistles would have been nice, like a decent surround soundtrack for the film, Project V.I.P.E.R. is enough of a satisfying surprise to forgive this rather shoddy treatment. Just remember, those looking for an authentic big budget beastie or expressive, subtle acting should really take a couple of Cold-Eeze zinc lozenges, a jigger or two of Nyquil, and go with the nose flow. Just like the wonderful relief one feels when their hideous case of flu dissipates, the fever breaks and head and lungs begin to clear, Project V.I.P.E.R. is a pure popcorn movie slathered in cheesy effects, ham-fisted acting, and a generous portion of Vicks Vap-o-rub. Breathe in the relief!
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Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 89 Minutes
Release Year: 2002
MPAA Rating: Rated R