Like its titular shape-changing monster, this British production mutates from something pokey and derivative into a tense and exciting (if still derivative) creature feature.
A trio of drug-smuggling couples--Alex (Craig Fairbrass) and Rachel (Jennifer Calvert), Mark (William Marsh) and Christina (Margot Steinberg), and Paul (Robert Firth) and Linda (Toni Barry)--wind up adrift at sea in a life raft after their yacht catches fire. They come upon and board an oil rig,
where they discover a genetics laboratory and only a few hostile occupants. After a slimy parasite jumps down the throat of the injured Rachel, Alex discovers that a creature created in the lab has consumed everyone on board, and can imitate anyone it has killed.
Now an alter ego of the monster, Rachel recovers and attacks Mark and Christina. Alex reveals to Linda that he and Rachel are actually a cop and federal agent who have infiltrated the gang. They then encounter Paul, who also proves to be the creature in disguise: Alex blows him up with a grenade.
Paul's remains recombine just as Brinkstone (Doug Bradley), the head of the DNA project, arrives with an armed detachment. Enlarging to towering size, the monster kills Brinkstone and his men, and Alex and Linda escape in his helicopter as a bomb activated by Brinkstone destroys the rig and the
creature. But the pilot also appears to be possessed.
Director Bob Keen, a makeup effects veteran whose Image Animation company created PROTEUS's monsters, is clearly more at ease directing creatures than people, and the script by John Brosnan (adapting a novel he wrote under the pseudonym Harry Adam Knight) doesn't offer much in the way of human
interest. The characters have little to do in the first half except bicker and curse incessantly, and Alex and Rachel's undercover identities aren't exploited for the potential tension that might have made the proceedings more intriguing. Once the excessive hallway-creeping ends and the
protagonists finally realize what they're up against, however, Keen's hand becomes surer, and he stages the subsequent gruesomeness with skill.
The basics of PROTEUS certainly won't surprise anyone who's seen ALIEN or John Carpenter's remake of THE THING, but the actors are good enough to sustain tension in the latter reels, and the makeup effects are grotesquely well-crafted. If the climatic monster isn't completely convincing, it is
certainly impressive for the scale of its construction, and Keen shoots and edits its rampage for maximum effect. There's also fun to be had with the appearance of Bradley (Pinhead in the HELLRAISER films), and with some of the dialogue; when the creature in human form proclaims its superiority,
Fairbrass responds, "Superior? You're a fucking fish with a drug habit!" (Graphic violence, sexual situations, substance abuse, extreme profanity.)
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- Released: 1996
- Rating: R
- Review: Like its titular shape-changing monster, this British production mutates from something pokey and derivative into a tense and exciting (if still derivative) creature feature. A trio of drug-smuggling couples--Alex (Craig Fairbrass) and Rachel (Jennifer Ca… (more)