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DNA – 6

Director – William Mesa

Cast – Mark Dacascos, Jürgen Prochnow, Robin McKee, Tom Taus, Roger Aaron Brown, John H. Brennan, Mark McCracken

Release Year – 1997

Reviewed by John of the Dead

My thirst for a creature feature lead me to this 90s effort, DNA. I honestly did not expect much going into this piece, and for obvious reasons: it has a really low budget, is virtually unknown aside from those who see it on the discount rack at your family-owned video rental store, and contains no actors I have ever heard of. On top of that, the director is not known as a director and the writer has some very low-rated films tied to his name – all things that normally equate to a film you should stay away from. Well, I was glad to see that the film exceeded my low expectations and wound up giving me a pretty fun experience in the end despite its flaws. This is not a great creature feature but it gives enough positive action to warrant a borderline-positive review, and goes to show that you never really know when a “bad” film will turn out to be an enjoyable one.

Deep in the jungle of Northern Borneo a young scientist, Dr. Ash Mattley, is on a humanitarian mission to provide medical aid to the native tribe that helped raise him. Dr. Mattley is approached by Dr. Carl Wessinger, a brilliant German geneticist, claiming to have found the missing link in a promising but failed experiment of Dr. Mattley’s one that involves the DNA extract of a rare beetle found deep in the jungle. With the allure of completing his work and potentially saving millions of people, Dr. Mattley leads Dr. Wessinger to the rare beetles, only to be double crossed and left to die. Two years later, Dr. Mattley learns that Dr. Wessinger has succeeded in his true intention for the beetles: a giant prehistoric creature that he will auction off to the highest bidder as a war machine…and only Dr. Mattley can stop him.

After looking at writer Nick Davis’ other films it seems the guy has a knack for the cheese, and with DNA he got things right. The story does not try to be something that it is not, and he delivers to us a simple tale that gives enough of the goods and enough conflict to keep the viewer engaged, and lets the director take care of the rest. The film plays off exactly how the plot summary states, with Dr. Mattley learning of Dr. Wessinger’s intentions thanks to a CIA agent who needs his help in stopping the creature. It takes a good 45 minutes before we get our first glimpse of the creature, but Davis’ story managed to keep me engaged thanks to its interesting subject matter, which included the spooky remains of an ancient creature and mutilated bodies mysteriously popping up around it, but of course I have a strong interest in such stories. Once the creature makes its appearance on the screen we are given plenty of creature action, spaced very well and coming with many close-up sequences as well. There are a few deaths at the hands of the creature, but I want to say that at least half of them came via Dr. Wessinger doing what he has to do to keep his lackeys in check. I was also glad to see that this was not your run-of-the-mill “90 minutes or less” low-budget film, but a 105 minute piece that took its time developing and never left me uninterested in what was going on. Bravo, Nick Davis.

Known for his awesome special FX work, director William Mesa did a swell job executing this piece, which happens to be the last of the three films he directed. From the get-go we are thrown into the interesting development the story provided and with engaging performances and camerawork to keep us enthused. Once our characters enter the jungle we are provided with absolutely breathtaking sets that bleed beauty and tranquility to contrast with the deadly creature living within the jungle, and the locations only get even more amazing as the film goes on. We are provided with live-action gore early on, which comes via the bodies of the creature’s victims so the gore is after the fact, but eventually the gore manifests into some decent kills, but nothing like the kills I wanted to see (decapitations, dismemberments, etc.). Mesa shows his SFX skills by giving us amazing creature FX that came both via live-action practical effects with a guy in an awesome looking suit and then CGI that appeared way too good to be in a low budget 90s film. I did feel that this eventually wound up a Predator ripoff, with the creature blending light like the Predator did and the film’s jungle location added to that, but I did not find that to be a negative element of the film.

Overall, DNA is a fun creature feature that does a lot with what little it has to work with. It comes from a no-name writer and no-name director (just know for his SFX) and still manages to deliver the goods in a fun fashion. This is not great by any means, but if you know what to look for in a creature piece than I don’t see how you wound find at least a little joy in this one.

Rating: 6/10

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