Science gone very, very bad
Get a load of this one…
A secret lab is set up in the California desert so that a whacked out scientist and his buxom, elderly assistant/grandma can use a plastic salad spinner as a telepathetic teleportation device. Seems the long in the tooth Lisa has psychic abilities, and she can communicate with other dimensions and planets. All she has to do is think real hard on an alien and "poof" he makes a guest appearance on the third planet from the sun. After a demonstration of this mind muck in front of some faux important military and government brass (all three men really putting the anal aspect into the back end of that nomenclature) a strange metal cage is carted off. Before the bearers can get the crate back to DC, a child in an alien monster suit leaps out and takes a slice out of a soldier's mug. Pandemonium ensures as the Army and its casually dressed, knocked down to private investigator Carter tries to locate the killer Halloween costume before it face carves again. Naturally, he teams up with the overstuffed, overaged extrasensory skin bag, but not before they indulge in a little bug hunt nookie. As the diminutive extraterrestrial chases hobos and halfwits, our dumbfounded duo keeps stumbling over Lisa's astral projections. It's not long before they've cornered the fiend in an abandoned building's basement beauty shop. They need to terminate this non-favorite Martian before his face and neck hugger babies get the better of mankind and create a real Biohazard.
Sometimes, nothing quenches your cinematic camp thirst better than a thoroughly cheesy and all-out tacky early '80s cheapo horror film. You see, kiddies, long ago when the Earth was first and dinosaurs played compact discs because you couldn't download the complete Flock of Seagulls discography off Kazaa, independent filmmakers with a dream of mainstream success hooked up with direct-to-VHS (it stands for video tape—look it up in your history books) video brokers to turn pipe dreams into potential profits. These deranged visionaries had a desire to see their imagination and mantle projected onto full-frame screens in one-head clarity for all the world to rent. Mockery was not an option. It was the market that counted. You see, back in the early part of the Reagan era, the VCR was such a novelty that you could actually release any fermented feces, from compilations of pre-WWII B-movie trailers to celebrity exercise tapes without anyone batting a Blockbuster. Mom and Pop shops, eager for some product to push to the emerging tapeheads, would desperately order anything resembling a movie to stock and eventually sell-through. Hollywood itself was so behind the 8-ball that they were sideswiped by copyright-buying businessmen who understood that the new medium was the message that a great many miscreants were looking for. And then there were the forward-thinking producers and directors who saw their chance at cinematic stardom and leapt without looking or logistics. The fevered, fetid mind of Fred Olen Ray, drown in the drive-in aesthetic, knew there was a stoned college student demographic just waiting to be exploited, and he along with the Bands and the rest of the Empire/Atco/Vestron family of horror hucksters set up studios. And the direct result of all this inch-tape mania is a gem like Biohazard.
From its opening frames to its blooper filled finale, Biohazard is a certified forgotten cult classic just waiting to be (re)discovered by bad movie buffs around the globe. Ray's insane Alien rip-off (which itself was seemingly lifted almost intact for that nekkid chick on the prowl picture Species) is a monster movie that features a fake-chested has-been (the uncomfortably wigged and siliconed 41-year-old Angelique Pettyjohn), a military man of action dressed in Dockers and a Members Only jacket, and an extraterrestrial that is really his own son in a bad baby mushroom costume. The plotline is merely an excuse to move the movie along to the next scene of transients having a barbeque, Congressmen getting flummoxed, and bimbos taking baths. We get everything we could possibly ask for in a made-on-the-cheap creature feature with one eye on the gore and two hands on the titties. There are buckets of blood, a couple of really gratuitous boob shots, and a passing reference to one character's war atrocities in Vietnam. Taken in combination, we end up with a trip down Movie Channel scheduling lane and partake in a nostalgic bit of mind-bending goodness in a 78-minute package. Of course, none of it is taken very seriously, and Olen Ray really ratchets up the wretched dialogue (there are too many quotable moments to mention) to have us understanding where the cheek-bound tongue is planted. But more than just a wink and a nod to the home video viewer, Biohazard strives to be a pathetic pale imitation of its big budget brethren. The fact that it's more intentionally entertaining than the usual Tinseltown tripe is another matter all together.
You see, the best part of Biohazard is the fact that it recalls an innocent, non-geek oriented phase, a holdover from the grindhouse mentality of the '50s, '60s, and '70s about making motion picture amusement. Memories of late night Saturdays in front of the TV watching local horror hosts, pot-fueled parties in sleazy passion pits, and trips to the downtown bowery to catch an obscure, supposed classic con all formed the basis for a new brand of trash, one with a fresh, novel means of distribution. Individuals like Ray realized that bad monster movies were basically fun. He understood that he was creating off-the-cuff craziness to service what was essentially a small niche of dedicated denizens. Biohazard is a perfect example of this newfound ballyhoo. When Angelique sports her plastic colander and tries to project her thoughts out into the universe, the fact that she's wearing a spaghetti strainer is only half the story. The lame-ass creature, the exquisitely incoherent science, and the casting of washed-up, once big time Hollywood talent mimics the Ed Wood racket of the past. But the cheap cheese of the 1980s added its own layer of ludicrousness, that self-referential sense of irony, the "I know I'm making junk" vision of its creators. Filtered through this homage hierarchy, serious slowly shifted to salute, and before long the market was flooded with bad physical effects and actresses in less than their birthday suits battling plastic parasites. That is the legacy and the draw of movies like this. Biohazard is so goofy, so downright daffy in its illogical cohesiveness that you'll wonder why it hasn't crossed your psychotronic doorstep before.
Retromedia's release of Biohazard is unbelievable. Ray apparently had access to some decent film stock when he made this film, and the new full screen transfer (from a recently discovered 35mm negative) is stunning. Sure, there are some dirt and scratch issues with the print, and the budget restraints occasionally show through in the lighting and color timing, but this is still a fantastic artifact from 20 years ago that looks almost brand new. Sound wise, the Dolby Digital Mono is crisp, clean, and never distorted. All the kitschy dialogue and laughable creature sounds (dog growls…in REVERSE) are captured in all their easy-to-understand sharpness. If there is one weak point to the Biohazard package, it would be the extras. Besides a commentary track by Fred Olen Ray and a stills gallery, there is nothing else offered here (the weblink is a screen with the Retromedia URL on it). It's a good thing that Ray is a fascinating alternative track narrator. He walks us through the early years of independent movie making and discusses every aspect of this production. He has some wonderful anecdotes about his actors (Aldo Ray's "bottle" dependency, Angelique's body care and grooming) and points out that his son didn't like it when his monster antics caused the actors to "fake" bleed. Ray's recollections make for a wonderful alternative track and, if it has to be the only bonus here, it is well worth going solo.
If you long for the days of bad effects, half-baked horror ideals, and direct-to-tape terrors, then grab an Ale 8, a couple of Teenage Mutant Ninja pudding pies, and perhaps a microwave burrito and settle in for some neo-nostalgia cornball craziness. Nothing calms your craving for mediocre monster muck more than a glowing, great example of it. And Biohazard is such a stellar stool sampling.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Image Entertainment
• Director's Commentary
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