Year: 1988

Production: Concorde / Centaur

Director: John Hess

Starring: Corey Haim, Michael Ironside, Barbara Williams, Lala, Duncan Fraser, Dale Wilson, Blu Mankuma, Jason Priestley

Screenwriter: Bill Freed

Based on Watchers (1987) by Dean R. Koontz

92 minutes; Color

The premise of Koontz's competent novel is that the scheming government has created a new breed of genetically engineered Gestalts, consisting of a telepathic dog, an eyeball-gouging ape and a human psychopath. This film adaptation is a kind of combination of Lassie Come Home (1943) and Predator (1987) that picks up Koontz's basic idea and then throws it away amid a parade of monster movie cliches. It opens with an unexplained explosion, which lets the dog and the beast out of maximum security and is forgotten by the screenplay thereafter. The dog, nicknamed Furface, finds refuge with a tousle-haired teen (Haim). The monster wanders around, ripping up anyone who gets in the way and poking their eyes out for no apparent reason. Enter psycho Ironside, who works for a shadowy Washington agency that definitely isn't supposed to be the CIA, and who has been genetically altered to be even nastier than the monster.

There's an annoying attempt to make us care about the boy and the dog element of the plot, which is scuppered by Haim's unsympathetic performance and the silliness of the dog's Scrabble-playing, computer-programming and one-bark-for-yes communications. The monster on the loose sequences are typical low-budget cheats: lots of boring shots of the subjective camera crashing through the undergrowth intercut with glimpses of someone in a shaggy Bigfoot outfit. There are contrived gore scenes every reel or so, in which various disposable characters wander on screen with T-shirts marked "Next Victim" and mutter a bit before the hairy arms reach into frame and yank bodily parts off them. Schlockmeister producer Roger Corman's usual saving graces - sick humor, a lively cast and spirited direction - are absent here, and the whole thing is so slackly assembled that it resembles a made-for-tv movie with clips from some forgotten video nasty spliced in at random. There are 2 sequels.

The Overlook Film Encyclopedia - Science Fiction

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