Metamorphosis: The Astral Factor (1990)
METAMORPHOSIS: THE ASTRAL FACTOR
WRITER: Story and Screenplay by Glenn Takakjian
Additional story material by Ted A. Bohus
DIRECTOR: Glenn Takakjian
STARRING: Tara Leigh as Sherry Griffen
Tony Gigante as Mitchell
Dianna Flaherty as Kim Griffen
Katherine Romaine as Nancy Kane
George Gerard as Michael Foster
Allen Lewis Rickman as Dr. Elliot Stein
Patrick Barnes as Brian
Greg Sullivan as Jarrett
Marcus Powell as Dr. Viallini
QUICK CUT: A scientist's work is threatened when he is bitten by an alien creature he's experimenting on, and once he begins to transform, the experimentation is turned on himself. What could possibly go...wait...
Michael Foster - A dedicated scientist who is slightly less crazed than Peter Houseman. He's not as focused or driven to the heights of Pete, but he's still highly invested in his work. He's just capable of having normal relations outside of the lab, and isn't about to experiment on himself. More a victim of circumstance than anything.
Nancy Kane - Michael's love interest and fellow scientist, who doesn't get much characterisation beyond that, save for not being as evil as other people in the movie.
Sherry and Kim - Two sisters, and the daughters of a security guard at Talos. They care about their family, and go to great lengths to try and find out what happens to their dad when he goes missing. Unfortunately they get sucked into the crazy of the plot.
Mitchell - A 'cleaner' for the Talos Corporation, for lack of a better term. He's little more than a tough guy willing to do whatever's necessary to cover up anything needing covering up. Fortunately for the Griffens, he's got a *little* bit of a soft spot and doesn't shoot the girls on sight.
Dr. Viallini - *coughcoughVillaincough* This guy fills the "we will go to whatever lengths are necessary to make science happen!" amoral tool role of this movie.
THE GUTS: Metamorphosis? AGAIN? Hnnngh. All right, this better be the right Metamorphosis. I am not doing three. It looks right. But so did the LAST one. How can there be two movies so similar at the same time?? But I digress...
This time we're out of the gate running as we open up on a security breach at the Talos Corporation. The Hapless Security Guard (Trademarked all horror movies everywhere) goes to investigate and finds our first dead body, six minutes in.
Once inside the lab he finds...oop, he finds his death, I guess. Whatever's setting off the alarms and gnawing on scientists decides it needs a little bacon, and has our security guard for dinner too. Nice job giving us just a few quick flashes of whatever.
Naturally we jump from a little death to almost the same thing but just a make out session, that is quickly interrupted. Meet your heroes! And on the tv is some weird scifi movie that looks famil...waaaait a minute.
...This movie is from the same guy that gave me Regenerated Man. Sweet Kaufman, pass the booze. And what is with that weird-ass movie??
After Sherry sends her little sister Kim off to bed, the plot jumps right back to movie A where things are actually interesting.
While the girls begin to notice their dad the security guard didn't come home last night, the head of Talos is quickly revving up the cover-up machine and beginning the search for some of his missing scientists. Because heaven forbid they escape and drive the plot of a movie.
The cleanup crew comes in, and Doctor Miss Infodump tells us all what's been going on. In short, they've been testing supposed alien biological material, and shit went wrong real fast. Because that went so well for the Species gang.
Which leads us into a flashback to explain the massacre in the lab, including introducing us to Dr. Foster as he's playing with the lost monster from There's Nothing Out There, apparently.
And that is more than 'biological material'. That's like going to the zoo and saying they have a sample of a feline mammal's genetic code when checking out the lions. Anyways, things go horribly wrong all because of a kiss. Thanks to Nancy, Foster is distracted and jabs the puppet in the eye with a needle, and instead of having it develop strange lizard like properties, it instead bites the doctor on the hand, despite the protective gloves.
Foster tries to stop the spread of the alien factor by pouring sulfuric acid all over the wound, and Nancy asks if it worked. The answer would be a very strong 'no' as his arm goes all veiny and starts to inflate.
Another doctor, the in-house physician Dr. Elliot comes in to try and help, and he's not much help because he doesn't know about the alien experiments. With bonus jokes at his patient's expense. I do appreciate the levity though.
The exposition carries on and are they allowed to flashback even *further*? They go back to before the accident just to work in an argument between Foster and Viallini about his research being sold to the defense department. It's decent character work, but it's making this plot feel like a jumbled jigsaw puzzle of ideas, with too much drifting from the real story.
And while we're paused here, Viallini has to be pretty high on the chart of improbable names. Why not just call him Dr. Evil? What's his first name, Sinestro?
Fortunately we get to jump back to the earlier timecode in the flashbacks and get back to Foster's transformation, as he's being rewritten and overtaken by the alien tissue.
Elliot tries to get a sample from an open wound on Foster, but it instead spits out a happy fun ball of grossness which they rush around to quickly grab before it escapes.
Remember that missing security guard and his daughters? Yeah, well, the movie finally does, and Sherry comes in to find out where her dad is. And Viallini lies through his teeth saying her dad didn't come in to work the night before.
Back in the flashbacks, Elliot keeps poking at the ever-more transformed Foster, until he gets surprised and the body swallows up his probe. Take that, alien! YOU get probed this time! Elliot retrieves the melted remains, and I will say that is one hell of a way to show that Foster's blood is now acidic.
Things are looking pretty bleak for Foster, as one might imagine from having acid blood and a very non-human body by this point, but Elliot has a breakthrough we know will go horribly wrong because we saw how this ends.
While Elliot futzes around with his breakthrough, Nancy visits her boyfriend who starts having random bits burst out of his body and grab his girlfriend. Well, he's still a little bit Foster after all!
And booo, BOOO I call foul on that being a nightmare.
Elliot tries to explain his breakthrough treatment, and I'm gonna try and cut through the technobabble and just say they have to electrocute Foster in a very specific way that involves a device borrowed from the particle physics lab for the control and power they require.
I dunno, sounds like they just need to microwave the poor bastard to me, but I'm not a scientist. Then again, neither was anyone involved in this movie. And I am getting way too used to the dodgy science in these movies when this is A) making sense through the jargon and B) sounds reasonably plausible enough not for me to call BS.
Back in Flashback Village, they're still keeping an eye on Michael while they wait for a chamber large enough to blast him with the needed radiation is built. See? Microwave the guy!
However, before they can do that, Foster's body begins to crack open and spew tendrils. Didn't I just see this in The Strain? Elliot sends Nancy off to fetch Dr. Villain, so they can move up the procedure.
While she's gone, a gigantic fanged head tendril...thing tears out of Foster like the mother of all chestbursters and chomps down on Elliot while pulling himself free of the restraints. I think we're just about caught up on the present day.
Now that we've caught up to the now, the movie goes back to Sherry worrying about her missing dad. Her boyfriend tries to calm her down and convince her that they don't experiment on *people*!
Well, not *deliberately* they don't, sure.
As those two plan to inflitrate Talos, Viallini lives up to his almost-name and tells the clean-up crew to kill whatever's left of Foster, and Nancy too if she doesn't feel like playing along. Gasp! Surprise!
So, Mystery Incorporated arrive at the offices, and Chim Kim pops up in the backseat since she snuck along. How they missed her being there, eh. If I can put up with the bad science, I guess I can let that slide.
They head up to the door and dork about before going inside. In full view of the new security guard. So this isn't suspicious *at all*. Considering they actually get by the guy, despite Brian being an idiot, Talos really needs to upgrade their security. Shame their best guy is dead.
Of course, it gets even MORE embarrasing for this guy when Kim leaves her coat outside, gets his attention, and when he bumbles out there and leaves THE DOOR WIDE OPEN she runs inside. Yeeeah, Talos security is more of a joke than their science.
Pffff, and then they kill me. The dynamic duo break into Villain's office, and Sherry sits down at his computer to hack in and find out what's going on. She literally says that she's a Princeton cryptopgraphy champion, and she can get into anything. And they show her just brute force attacking the guy's password.
This approach requires neither skill nor knowledge, just repeated attempts at every possible combination. Anyone can do this!
Just as her leet haxxor skills at typing in progressively incremented numbers gets them into the security log, the clean-up goons show up. Brian bravely sacrifices himself to them so Sherry can run and get help. I almost forgive his bumbling with this.
Kim runs around and finds what was once Foster, Mitchell finds the two of them, and Foster eats Mitchell. Or something. There's a lotta blood, that's all I know.
Kim runs into Nancy, Sherry runs into Jarrett, Brian runs in and tackles the goon...generally there's a lotta running through the halls of Talos.
Which leads quickly to a fist fight between Brian and Jarrett, but that gets interrupted when the Fostermonster arrives and eats Jarrett's bald head.
Brian doesn't last much longer when he gets grabbed and eaten as well. Foster has worked up quite the appetite it seems.
Sherry runs and finds Kim in the lab before she's eaten, but Fosterstein's Monster is right behind her and pins them in. She runs and tries to grab a jar of acid to try and stop the creature. Have you see the size of this thing, Sher? A jar of acid ain't gonna do much!
Foster launches one of its little pods at her that they SAID is supposed to release a powerful toxin, but they never seem to DO anything but be icky and nifty. He also tries to drag her in, but since she's supposed to be our heroine, there's actual struggle involved.
Kim uses the distraction to actually get to the acid, and it surprisingly works. Well, by 'works' I mean 'annoys the monster long enough for Sherry to get away'. It doesn't seem to DO much beyond sting.
Dr. Villain has arrived by this point and let his bumbling security guard back in. They make their way to the lab and while the doc fires a few shots at Foster, the guard just takes one single look at the creature and just has a huge pile of NOPE to run from.
Which makes him the smartest person (formerly) in the room, because Villain gets podded and tentacled quickly, and then Foster does the same to Nancy as well. I guess that's one way to break up with a woman.
They escape the lab and run into Mitchell who is miraculously not dead yet for plot reasons. He sends them down to blue sector, while he deals with the creature.
Fostermonster finally breaks out of the lab and they go into full on stop motion animation. This is just getting crazier and crazier the bigger this monster gets. And it is awesome in every way.
Mitchel leads the deformed California Raisin to blue sector, but every single person there has handily left their security pass, stolen or otherwise, behind. I...but...how?? Three of you! How did they all drop their passes? Damnit, plot contrivances.
But wait! Sherry is a computer scientist! She can hack into the security panel with a nail file and by zapping the ram chips with electricity!! Probably not! But it's better than her earlier attempts, so I'll allow it!
So they find the particle accelerator and the chamber for Foster to get zapped, and fortunately Sherry understands the notes enough to get it up and working. Up until she doesn't. I don't know why someone who knows computesr wouldn't understand what an electrical wavelength frequency is, but hey! Again with the plot contrivance.
Mitchell gives the girls an exasperated look as things don't seem to be working perfectly, and he goes off to lure the Fostermonster into position. He's much better at the shooty than the typey.
I will give Mitchell this, he is actually trying to *drag the gigantic monster* by the tendrils that have bitten into him. That's low-level badassery at least.
Sherry throws ze svitch to zap Foster, but there's an *ahem* beam crash. What that means is anybody's guess, but it delays the plot for another two minutes. Which gives Kim enough time to run into harm's way and try and rescue Mitchell.
I do have a problem that the particle beam apparently crashed, and while it's recharging, sure, they're not really DOING anything to fix the problem? Isn't it just gonna crash again when Sherry slams the big red button in another minute? I know if my *computer* crashes, it's gonna keep doing it until I remove the problem.
And they keep saying the room will be flooded with radiation, which was fine when Mitchell was gonna sacrifice himself, but then Kim's out there, and Sherry slams the button anyways.
But y'know, whatever. As long as we fry Foster and maybe fix him. Stopping at the very least is preferred. We can deal with whatever cancerous lessions our heroes end up with later, right?
However, yay! It worked! No one else in the room died or melted! Foster is nice and human again! And naked, but that's easily fixed! And won't require a giant microwave...
Ever grateful, Mitchell just wants to know what Sherry was waiting for, and calls her a stupid bitch. Well, you're *welcome*.
Of course, Mitchell is the company cleaner, and he can't just leave Foster alive, so while the sisters hug it out, he loads his gun. They try briefly to stop him, but...He Has A Gun.
Unfortunately for Mitchell, it looks like Sherry isn't as smart as she thought. Or Elliot had it wrong. Or forgot that little bit he mentioned about it being halted temporarily or whatever. Because all that running around, and screaming and radiation? Yeah, it didn't take. Foster starts to change again in Mitchell's arms. It will be a real shame if Foster survives this, and everyone else dies of radiation poisoning because of dumb.
The new pop top Pez dispenser Foster reveals a new tentacle head which gnaws on Mitchell's face while the girls duck back into the control room.
Sherry tries again to zap the bug, but the machine isn't quite ready yet. So let's just start pushing random buttons and joysticks until she flat out admits she has no idea what she's doing.
Great. When she DID know what she's doing, it didn't work. Now that she's just button mashing like it's a Street Fighter game, how badly can this get in the final few minutes??
With the beam blaster also being a convenient claw-like device pinning the monster down, Sherry overloads the system and nukes Foster yet again. This time the particle beam explodes and takes the head with it.
That MIGHT stop him.
In fact, the creature barfs up a blast of light and uh...disappears. Completely. Um? Did it just ascend to a higher plane? Is it hanging with the Vorlons and Daniel Jackson now?
"Is it over?" "I certainly hope so." That's exactly the way I react to all these movies, kids.
On their way out, they run into Brian who is alive by 'just being lucky'.
Fortunately, they run into the creature that bit Foster and started all this in the first place, and it's mutated quite a bit itself. No reason given, it just did. Because heaven forbid the movie actually *ended* by now.
I hope its there to rectify Brian's stupidly miraculous survival, but it instead claws its way through the ceiling to try and escape the movie. Take us with you!!
The monster proceeds to burst out of the roof of Talos, having suddenly grown to gigantic stop motion sizes, and the movie stops dead right there. No kidding, giant monster goes full on kaiju, so roll the credits!
I choose to accept everyone died at this point, because that's the happily ever after this movie deserves. Except the security guard that ran out with all the NOPE in the world, because that's the only smart guy here.
Video: It looks like it was a straight to tv release, and it sure doesn't look great. But it looks better than Metamorfirstsis. The colour is a bit washed out, and the blacks are a little too grey, but I can live with this, I guess. The effects really do look good, even on this.
Audio: Surprisingly solid, for what this is. I could use a little better mixing, but it's bearable.
Sound Bite: "...Have you noticed any pods?" Dr. Elliot taking Foster's infection very, very seriously.
Body Count: Hey, it's a mutated hellbeast movie that actually lets the thing reign down some carnage, yay!
1 - A scientist *technically* dies on screen six minutes in, even though we never see the circumstances, just the last five seconds of his bloody body's life.
2 - Quickly followed by a security guard meeting the same fate.
3 - Doctor Elliot gets nommed on by whatever Foster has become...wait, did I count that twice?
4 - Jarrett doesn't fare any better against the Fostermonster and gets chewed up shortly after.
5 - Brian dies as he lived, screaming and foolishly. And he shoulda stayed dead, so I'm keeping this, damnit.
6 - After a few shots fired, Dr. Viallini gets poked to death.
7 - Poor Nancy gets eaten next.
8 - After a long fight that ultimately goes nowhere, Mitchell gets eaten as well.
9 - After a few blasts of radiation and having his head explode, Fostermonster dies. Maybe. Or disappears in a blast of light.
Best Corpse: Sigh, I feel so spoiled for choices right now! I'm gonna go with Jarrett getting eaten, since it's one of the few times someone interacts very directly with the full scale monster, not kinda off screen with tentacles and whatnot.
Blood Type - A: So much gory, icky goodness in this. There's lots of blood, one scene almost literally painting the walls with it, and the effects are *amazing* for 1994. No CGI here, and even though the stop-motion monsters may have that distinctive look to them, they still look great, and sticky, and drippy, and most importantly, so alien. The creatures break the rules of our phyiognomic configurations, and just look so unique.
Sex Appeal: Not much to speak of, save for a little making out with Sherry and Brian.
Drink Up! Every time Foster shows up in a mutated form.
Movie Review: Okay, let's get it out of the way. The science is laughable. The computer stuff is criminal. But what movie *wasn't* just as guilty of this in 1990? The plot is not terrible, even if we've seen it a few times before. The acting is wince-worthy. But it has a plot that doesn't overly complicate itself, save for a few too much flashing back and plot cul de sacs like government contracts. It's a decent idea, made with at least some level of competency, but with a lot of pieces misfiring. Hard to give it anything more than a two out of five mutated hellbeasts, even though I want to, and it almost reaches a three.
Entertainment Value: Oh my. I was thoroughly entertained with this one. You know that trailer? The promises it made to me of crazy alien creature shit getting crazier and crazier? Now that I have the right movie, man did it ever deliver on every promise it made! I was not disappointed. Bohus's Regenerated Man was a blast, and this was even better. I absolutely LOVED Viallini's scenery chewing, the effects were glorious, the monster was great, the plot logic was so not there, and just...I had a *blast* watching this. I should not love this movie as much as I do. Four out of five security guards smart enough to get the heck out of dodge.
But let the lesson be learned, experimenting upon one's self, whether it be with regular old human science, or by getting infected with alien DNA somehow, is not a good way to heal wounds or bring yourself back from the dead.