Artisan // 1990 // 200 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Bill Gibron // November 21st, 2003
No bad dogs...just really evil genetically mutated freak hounds.
The government gets the bright idea of creating the ultimate killing machine by genetically fudging up a few golden retrievers. One turns hella intelligent. One grows superfluous sores and goes insane. When the clever car chaser escapes in a suspicious "fire," the bonkers beast also makes a break for it and soon both are terrorizing Travis Cornell, the only kid in suburban America to avoid "just say(ing) no." The pampered pooch gets to him first and it's not long before stoner and milk boner are having long, involved conversations. But as more and more people that Travis knows turn up composted, he decides to fight fiend with firepower. With the help of his dad's stockpile of white supremacist weaponry (why else would it be in a cabin in the woods unless Pappy was waiting for Helter Skelter?) and his mastermind mutt, Trav takes on the monster. He also tries to circumvent some wacko government agents trying to save the biological brute from, um, "extinction." It's drug addict versus rug remnant as someone needs to paper train the Watchers, whoever or whatever "they" are.
Strangely enough, another lab is doing similar dog DNA experiments and before you know it, yet another curious cur makes a cage break. And yes, along with him comes still another weird looking wildebeest that walks on two legs and smells like genetically altered cabbage. Instead of hooking up with a junkie high schooler, this clever K-9 finds a brig-bound Marine, and before you can say, "you can't handle the truth," the retriever and the jarhead are communicating like they're the same species. In the meantime, a strange scientist who loves his misshapen hellbeast tries to track the towering troublemaker. He wants to teach the terror how to differentiate between right and wrong -- and bathe his smelly carcass once in a while. But all the creature craves is a doggie dinner. So he kill sprees his way to the pooch and the animal shrink who is giving the GI a tick bath. It's not long before monster finds man's best friend and they go paw to paw before licking themselves. Eventually, someone has to de-worm the Watchers II, whoever or whatever "they" are.
When it starts out, Watchers looks like it will be one of the goofiest, most godawful horror films ever created. The "based on the novel by Dean R. Koontz" credit doesn't instill a great deal of scare confidence. Here is an author whose main claim to fame is being just off to the right of a far more successful (and literate and capable and potent and...) scare scribe on the local bookstore shelf, hoping a little of Mr. King's mojo flows over to his weak as well water novelizations. Yet we are constantly tormented by the adaptations of his rote writings into even worse wooden films (the King connection continues, cinematically). When we discover that this movie's main characters are a super smart mutt, a psychologically disturbed Sasquatch, a grim government agent, and Corey Haim, our cinematic heart sinks further. As the initial killings crawl across the screen in strange stupidity, we are resigned to the fact that there is no way this film can meander out of the moribund and redeem itself. But then Watchers does a weird thing. It becomes appealing, entertaining, and just a little eerie. Watchers has an endearing, earnest idiocy about it, a kind of go-for-broke kitchen sink crappiness that tosses as much muck at the audience as it can get away with, hoping some of it sticks without stinking too badly -- and this rationale works. We start to root for the dog in danger, even if he can score higher on the SAT than most of us. We cringe at the thought of that Bigfoot with a bad attitude coming along and de-eyeing us (the creature must be an Italian horror auteur, such are its ocular obsessions). Michael Ironside, a reliable villain if ever there was one, brings undue dementia to his multi-agendaed agent with a secret of his own. So the movie is chugging along, desperate to connect.
And then there's Corey Haim, he of the infamous '80s Coreys. No longer an active member of the brat pack (and frankly, was he ever part of that group, or was he more like a slobbering sycophant, a b-movie Smithers to, say, Emelio Estevez's Mr. Burns?) and by this film a blitz out bozo a simple rehab visit away from Hasbeenville, Haim does everything he can to keep this movie from falling through his drug-addled fingers. He cracks completely stupid jokes. He mugs for the camera like Jerry Lewis with a bug in his bloomers. He shows his concern by constantly fluffing his faux 'fro of hair. And when called to kick it up to action hero, he's clumsy and butterfingered, but determined. Indeed, Haim's hampered hack-ting skills give Watchers that micro-millimeter of eccentricity that converts this routine area rug on the rampage monster movie into a semi-entertaining tale of genetically mutated puppies on the prowl.
Hoping to keep the formula tried and true, Watchers II gives us another cognitive canine, an equally upset Yeti, a fixated physician desperate to save his hereditary malformation and the older, more ripped version of Master Haim, the equally epipleptic Marc Singer. Indeed, Mr. V just may have a thing or two on the Coreister. You see, when it comes to really gooney face making, no one can out tic the Beastmaster. This used-to-being-loin-clothed thespian has obviously been taking lessons at the Shemp school of mandible manipulation and he puffs and contorts his façade into all manner of make-me-laugh portraits. In actuality, it's about his sole acting trait. Smart dog tries to communicate to him, Marc gives him #4: the confused constipation face. Oversized baboon with snout issues tries to kill our swinging Singer and he whips out #65: over-inflated cheek chubbiness with modified tooth accent over lip. And when the chips are down, when a deed of valiant proportions is required, old five-minute-abs locks onto his target with #81: squint-eyed squishy mouth and it's time to unleash the ferrets of war. Indeed, Marc's mug mania is the only thing remotely entertaining about this retread of the first film. The plot spends far too much time with Singer's A.W.O.L. soldier trying to escape justice and avoiding a humongous hamster with an attitude. But the middle act is so drawn out that you lose consciousness before the stupid conclusion clunks into a clump. So unless you find a mad scientist trying to teach a gigantic bag of pus how to feel mercy and compassion entertaining, or love your beast on the unbelievably bad make-up job side, avoid this static sequel and stick with Corey's crazy crack antics.
Let's take the Artisan test, shall we. Grab a pencil and answer the following questions as truthfully and fully as possible:
#1: Watchers / Watchers II are presented on DVD in:
(a) Blurry, fuzzy 1.33:1 full frame farces
(b) Near unwatchable VHS quality transfers
(c) Versions that only disgruntled single celled organisms would find acceptable
(d) All of the above
#2: Artisan offers a Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround soundtrack on each film:
(a) To fool people into buying this aural atrocity
(b) To prove that the word "surround" does not guarantee a channel challenging experience
(c) For no good reason
(d) All of the above
#3: The following bonus extras are part of the DVD package:
(b) Commentary or interview tracks
(d) Artisan offer supplemental material? Are you high?
Yep, it's another bare bones blunder from the mediocre movie manufacturer. And the scary thing is that Art can revisit this foolish franchise in the future to further foist upon our furry friends a digital distemper shot. There are two other sequels to the Watchers films (Watchers III and Watchers Reborn) and don't be surprised if you see them stripped of cinematic sense and smashed onto DVD by our skilled slayers of horror titles. The polymorphous pests in the Watchers films may be unholy butchers of hate, but they can never match Artisan's attitude towards its customers. Now that is truly deadly.
Review content copyright © 2003 Bill Gibron; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 200 Minutes
Release Year: 1990
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* IMDb: Watchers
* IMDb: Watchers II