Our Jim Wynorski season is winding down – there might be a few others coming, but seeing any of his really recent films fills me with dread. This site will close before we touch “The Witches Of Breastwick” with a ten-foot pole.
The space shuttle is off on a terraforming mission to Mars, and to help it along it’s brought a mysterious secret weapon, contained in a large tube. Power cut – secret weapon gets out – people in space shuttle die; but we then meet the group of scientists who created the thing in the tube, codenamed “Viper”. It’s a really odd scene, as their banter feels like it’s from a bad corporate video (you know, like the ones you have to watch about sexual harrassment or whatever). They’re waiting for the fourth member of their team, but she’s busy getting killed and replaced by a doppelganger. The main scientist, Nancy Burnham, is played by Theresa Russell, who appears to have aged very well as I would never have guessed it was her.
Our star, though, is Captain Connors, played by Patrick Muldoon (star of “Ice Spiders”, one of my favourite B-movies of recent years). He’s a wisecracking womanising special agent and he’s called in when it’s discovered that persons unknown are after the other “Viper”, held in their secure lab. It turns out that “Viper” is a combination mechanical / organic device, created for terraforming but with military applications that raise its value considerably, and after it’s stolen the thieves make it as far as the small town of Lago Nogales before crashing their plane, allowing Viper to escape and kill them both. Oops!
So, we’re in familiar territory for a SyFy Channel movie (for it is so), a small town with a bad thing terrorising it. But, amazingly, Jim Wynorski still gave a damn back in 2002 so there’s a variety of storylines impacted by the arrival of Viper, Connors, Burnham and her team. The sheriff, suffering from terminal cancer thanks to local radioactive waste, is played by ISCFC legend Tim Thomerson; and Curtis Armstrong is the ambulance chasing lawyer, trying to persuade the town to sue the company that dumped the waste.
Signs of low budget are everywhere – the water jugs with “NASA” stuck on them are a delight, and the fact no cars were damaged in the firefight that takes place in a car park is a good indicator they were all rentals and they couldn’t afford to lose the deposit. Then they blow up an aeroplane! Wynorski 2014 could make ten films for the cost of that one special effect from Wynorski 2002 (unless they bought it from some other film).
It’s not all good news for “Project Viper” though, sadly. People seem to die at the drop of a hat, as characters who are built up to be fairly central just get offed without a by-your-leave. But, the flipside of that is you don’t have time to get bored by any of it, as the plot rips along. It’s got a very strong cast, relatively speaking, decent-ish special effects, and is definitely in the upper echelon of SyFy Channel originals.
Rating: thumbs up