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Movie Review: Woolgathering Mammoth

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"Big monster on the loose, leave town as fast as possible."

After watching director Tim Cox's Larva a while back, which is a creature feature with some solid entertainment value for a B-movie fan like me, I was excited to receive an opportunity to review his Mammoth, which I had missed on the Sci-Fi channel last year.

Fully expecting a blood- and gore-filled production with a rampaging mammoth on the loose, I was ready to be thrilled with suspenseful moments broken by loud painful screams as the tusker did his manic bit to thrill me. As a die hard fan of horror and sci-fi, I was surprised and disappointed to find that Mammoth is not a sci-fi thriller. What it is is a parody of old time B-movies, and I mean really old time.

The movie begins in the Pleistocene epoch museum in Blackwater, Louisiana, where a meteroite crash thaws and frees a frozen wooly mammoth. The meteorite, which is actually an alien spaceship, contains aliens that take over the mammoth. At this point, the viewer is asked to suspend all logic as the mammoth disappears (a 17 ton creature), playing "now you see me, now you don't" through the length of the movie.

Dr Frank Abernathy (played by Vincent Ventresca, of The Invisible Man fame), the museum curator/paleontologist, appears not the least bit fazed at disappearing mammoths and instead plays out long, drawn-out, unfunny family scenes with his father Simon (Tom Skerritt), ironically a B movie fan, and his daughter Jack (Summer Glau).

Forced to face the situation when the G-men appear on the scene and put a time limit on annihilation of the monster or the town, the good doctor goes on doing a poor imitation of Jim Carrey as he tackles the mammoth by shouting "aaah" and "oh my God!". The G-men oblige by zapping the creature with toy store tasers. The mammoth itself appears playfully nimble as it tiptoes around town, invisible until it's right upon the people at which point it takes thundering steps that are way out of proportion.

There are allusions to Night of the Living Dead, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, and The Blob, which may be considered as hints to what the director hopes to spoof. However, attempts at comedy seem forced and unnatural and fall flat. Frank acts clumsy and forgetful, forgetting keys and birthdays. His father, Simon, appears to be the real problem solver, which is useful since the G-men are clueless and the sheriff's deputies act like bungling goofs.

The clock does not tick fast enough before the end, which is interminable in its appearance. There are lots of holes in the story, from the GPS to the "hand" and the head of the G-man. Nonetheless, any such moments which engage your attention are few and far between. Even the mammoth barely gets any attention, much of which is focused on the central characters.

I was surprised to learn the movie had received an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Special Visual Effects for a Miniseries, Movie or a Special. The special effects are next to nil, the creature fails to look even remotely threatening, and there is not a single scene that does any justice to the rampaging mammoth of my imagination.

Rated: C+

Ratings: A = 4.0, B = 3.0, C = 2.0, D = 1.0, F = 0.0

Run Time: 90 mins
DVD Release date: Jan 8, 2008 

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