If the title doesn’t give it away: Hank Braxtan, who gave us the uber silly but really fun mockbuster that is Snake Outta Compton (2018), is mixing Universal Studios’ Michael Crichton-bred dinosaurs* with Richard Connell’s later apoc-influencial The Most Dangerous Game (1932)**. However, since we’re talking ’bout movies and not books: Craig Zobel’s critically derided The Hunt (2020) is the other half of the mockequation. But since this is a more a cost-effective version: High Octane Pictures’ rip on that Blumhouse Pictures’ shingle flopper that is American Hunt (2019) is the model at task, here. But since this is B&S About Movies: we’ll always err to the side of Brian Trenchard Smith’s Turkey Shoot for our “human death sport” jonesin’.
To say we had our doubts with Snake Outta Compton is an understatement . . . and it surprised us. So, knowing Hank Braxtan’s past abilities in creating a fun and entertaining film that wears its awareness and influences on its sleeve, we requested a screener for Jurassic Hunt . . . and Braxton impressed us, once again. In fact, I’ve since gone back and watched Braxton’s Unnatural (2015), which deals with a genetically tweaked polar bear, à la William Girdler’s Grizzly, on the loose, and Dragon Soldiers (2020), which deals with a dragon on a rampage.
You know what: I’m digging on Hank Braxtan in a higher-budgeted Brett Piper*˟ kinda-way. The CGI may not be up to the major studio shingle-level that is Universal. You’re justified in your reasons to rag on the acting. However, I’m having a whole lot of fun sucking on Braxtan’s brain candy. Ain’t that the whole point?
A group of hunters, including our four leads of Parker (feature film debut for Courtney Loggins), Valentine (Tarkan Dospil, aka “Beez Neez,” from Snake Outta Compton), Torres (TV familiar and solid Ruben Pla from Dragon Soldiers), and Blackhawk (Antuone Torbert, also Dragon Soliders) are flown in, hooded, to a remote, hidden game preserve to hunt the ultimate game: a genetically-cultured dinosaur in a game known as “Jurassic Hunt” — overseen by enigmatic billionaire Lindon (a very good Joston Theney; a writer and director in his own right with Axeman (2013), and equally good in front of the camera in the aforementioned Snake Outta Compton).
The rules are simple: You’re tagged with a tracking device. Pick a weapon, be it rifles, grenades, or a good ‘ol fashioned bow and arrow, protect your preserve guides, and bag the dinosaur. Of course, watch out for the raptors (who swallow the guides and strand the gamers, natch). Oh, and one of our dinos is DNA-tweaked to spit acid. Oh, and Lindon has sent in a band of mercenaries to up the ante to hunt the hunters, because, well . . . turns out Parker is a corporate spy sent to expose the animal cruelty and take down Lindon’s empire.
Screenwriter Jeffrey Giles maybe new to the game on the ol’ 44 keys (2013’s Knight of the Dead, 2016’s David and Goliath, and 2018’s Alien Expedition, thus far), but he’s extensively skilled as a producer (via Hank Braxtan’s resume) and distributor (The Expendables and Drive Angry to name two). So he’s given us a bloody script (part practical, part CGI) that keeps the action moving at a decent pace with engaging subplots (concerning on everybody’s mind Afghanistan) moved by nicely fleshed-out and motivated characters.
Yeah, I’m dismissing the naysayers on this one.
I’m over my whining about CGI blood and have come to accept that digital effect as the new “indie normal” in the streamingverse. Corded, hardline telephones aren’t coming back and neither are squibs and blood packs, so deal. Asylum-styled films are the new normal, the new “Roger Corman” if you will, so deal.
Jurassic Hunt is well shot, the editing is solid, and the streaming-acting is better than most swirling ’round the Tubi rim of box-office hopes. So pop the popcorn, pour that Dr. Pepper, disconnect the brain, and enjoy . . . as you retrograde to your dad and grandad’s days of kaiju scalers like Sidney Pink’s Reptilicus (1962) and the James Franciscus-starring The Valley of Gwangi (1969).
** We explore the influences of the novel with our review of Elio Petri’s The 10th Victim (1965).
*˟ We examined Brett Piper’s career with our “Drive-In Friday: Brett Piper” featurette.