Search the Cinema Head Cheese Archives!

June 13, 2014

Movie Review: Gila! (2012)

Directed by Jim Wynorski

Movie review by Greg Goodsell

In rural Indiana during the 1950s, the local teens make out, have impromptu drag races and go to sock hops. Their fun is interrupted by a gigantic Gila monster stalking through the barren farm lands. The monster is the result of power plant waste; in this film’s only really bit of gore, the grumpy lizard knocks chemical waste on to two factory workers’ faces, their features melting away before he swats and crushes them with his tail. In the meantime, hot rodder Chase Winstead (Brian Gross) and his girl Lisa (Madeline Voges) gets some friendly antagonism going with Chase's former nemesis, Waco Bob (Jesse Janzen) and his sidekick Carla (Christina De Rosa). No one is really concerned with the rampaging CGI monster which appears sporadically for only a few seconds throughout the movie. The plucky teenagers eventually kill the lizard with a hot rod full of nitro glycerin, and everyone kisses and makes up at the annual Christmas party. The end – or is it? Who cares …?

The Giant Gila Monster (1959) of which this is a remake, is a negligible bit of teenage ennui that somehow managed to escape being redone by AIP TV hack Larry Buchanan in the Sixties. Jim Wynorski steps up to the plate with a serviceable retooling. The excellent cinematography from Ross Headley lavishes considerable attention on all the vintage hot rods used for the film. The stark Indiana countryside, in particular is rendered strangely beautiful. Not so attentive to period detail are the hairstyles – all the guys’ locks fall long past their ears, which would have condemned anyone other than Elvis Presley to “squirrel status.” The girls don’t fare much better – there’s an abundance of long, stringy “hippie hair” and no Bettie Page bangs or Marilyn Monroe bleached-blonde upsweeps. The costumes are kind of, sort of Fifties, but not really. The only real actor this reviewer recognized was Kelli Maroney, one of the heroic teenagers left to inherit the earth in the 1985 cult classic Night of the Comet. Maroney plays a plucky female sheriff’s deputy who says “You’re a big fella, aren’t ya?” before providing the monster’s aperitif.

This writer had a conversation in 1993 with screenwriter Jay Simms, who wrote the original The Giant Gila Monster, for an independent producer friend of his who would also produce The Killer Shrews (1959) with yet another Simms script. (Simms would go on to pen the paranoid nuclear war classic Panic In Year Zero with Ray Milland along with the chilly and cerebral The Creation of the Humanoids, both in 1962 – but those are whole ‘nother stories.) He told this writer that the problem with Gila Monster was that the said reptile would do little else but “sit on its big fat ass all day long” and it took some human manipulation for it to go on its rampage through the miniaturized sets. Gila! Circumvents this with CGI, but the giant lizard in question wouldn’t fool a myopic child from across the room.

The original Gila Monster is chiefly memorable for the dreary sing-along performed in the film called “The Mushroom Song.” The lyrics are represented by the repetitive refrains of “And the Lord said, laugh, children, laugh / The Lord said, laugh, children, laugh / The Lord said, laugh, children, laugh / The Lord said, laugh, children, laugh, laugh, laugh.” This song is sang at the film’s conclusion as another giant reptile struts across the screen.

Gila! Is in largely competent hands by director Jim Wynorski, who helmed the satirical tits-and-ass sci-fi sleeper The Lost Empire in 1985. Overall, Gila! Speeds painlessly by and it’s over before the viewer realizes it. It does leave a vaguely sad aftertaste, as it is plainly evident that everyone involved with the film has given up the notion of ever making a good or original film. The DVD of this made-for-TV remake has some extras … that alas, wouldn’t play on my Blu-ray player.

No comments:

Post a Comment