Thursday, June 6, 2013

THE REJUVENATOR (Review)

THE REJUVENATOR (1988)

review by AARON ALLEN

Directed by Brian Thomas Jones

Starring Vivian Lanko, John MacKay, James Hogue, Jessica Dublin
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The Rejuvenator (or Rejuvenatrix in some markets) is so very, very, very dumb. The characters are dumb. The writing is dumb. The effects are dumb. Triple stupidity.

This is quite disappointing considering that I fondly remember The Rejuvenator VHS box art from my youth and recall being intrigued by the image of the woman on the left and the waxen, melting mutant on the right. Now that I've seen it, I want the time back. The few decent monster effects this film can be proud of are completely torpedoed by some of the most annoying characters and ham-fisted acting I've ever seen. In fact, the acting is so bad I have awarded The Rejuvenator my coveted HAM-FIST AWARD.

We all get old and we all lose our beauty, but aging actress Ruth Warren (Jessica Dublin) isn't going to take nature lying down. She hires research scientist Dr. Gregory Ashton (John MacKay) to develop a youth serum to make her young again -- and it works! Rejuvenated (and now played by Vivian Lanko), Warren and Ashton enter into an awkward romance. Everything seems great, but there's one tiny catch. If Warren is not administered increasingly higher and higher doses of the serum, she mutates into a hose-headed, rubber-fingered monster driven to consume human brains. Oh yeah, Warren neglected to find out how Dr. Ashton made his serum -- illegally and from the brains of dead or murdered junkies, of course! And Ashton neglected to tell Warren that the first and only test subject, a lab rat, turned into a horrible monster before melting into a disgusting puddle. Trivial details! Kids, that's what you get when your drugs aren't FDA approved. After Warren goes on a killing spree, Ashton attempts to create a synthetic serum to feed her addiction. At the same time, Ashton's melodramatic rival, Dr. Germaine, tries to kill his research project. Academic politics meets goofy monsters in this stale attempt at gross-out horror.

I feel pretty, oh so pretty....
Everything about this movie is ridiculous. While the gruesome transformation scenes could have been shocking, the acting is so ham-fisted that almost every scene evokes bored laughter. People don't talk as tediously in real life as they do in this hunk of garbage. While the characters are droning on and on, it gives you a lot of time to think about more important things. For example: doesn't Dr. Gregory look like the love child of Lorne Michaels (SNL) and Bradley Whitford (The West Wing)?

+

 =

The questionable paternity of Dr. Gregory aside, the silliest part of this film is the "monster." While we do get to see some neat transformation sequences, the end result is a real mess of a creature design. Primarily, when all is said and done, and the latex bladders have stopped pumping and the prosthetic skin has stopped ripping, Warren turns into nothing more than a purple and brown freak with a head full of inexplicable tubes

Monster or Muppet?
I guess people have done equally crazy things to look beautiful in real life.

Watching the actress run uncomfortably around the frame with a cumbersome and probably very heavy head appliance really sucks the energy out of any attempts at atmosphere or dread -- not that there's much of an attempt. Director Brian Thomas Jones seems quite content to stick the camera on a tripod and just film the characters talking or walking around the set. The best attempts to create atmosphere that I can think of is when the lights are turned down so you can't see what's happening on screen. In this case, they're doing us a favour.

I have to admit that the transformation sequences are interesting although hardly ground-breaking, but this movie has nothing else going for it. It's subtextual themes regarding beauty, addiction, and medical ethics are pretty shallow and, frankly, as tired and flat as the acting.

Maybe the film could get a botox injection in the form of a modern remake?

*80's ALERT*

The Rejuvenator features a cameo by real-life female rock/metal band Poison Dollys. In what is one of the most entertaining scenes, Poison Dollys play at a club where Warren goes to look for a bit of fun. Keep that hair big, ladies!

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