You have to give The Asylum credit for chutzpah. The cheeky little production company (infamous for releasing direct-to-video schlock with titles suspiciously similar to high-profile theatrical releases: Snakes on a Train, Transmorphers, Atlantic Rim, Ghosthunters, Planet Dune, etc.) put their latest low-budget effort – titled Jurassic Domination! – into a few theatres three weeks after the release of box office behemoth Jurassic World: Dominion – a move reminiscent of Roger Corman releasing Carnosaur in time to cash in on Jurassic Park back in 1993. Careless ticket buyers, looking for a convenient screening that is not sold out, may accidentally end up filling a few seats; otherwise, it is difficult to imagine why anyone would want to see Jurassic Domination on the big screen. In fact, it is difficult to imagine why anyone would want to see it at all.
Jurassic Domination is a threadbare production, predictably short on production value, lacking even the sort of bumptious attitude that can elevate exploitation fare to entertaining levels. Despite a poster and a trailer suggesting a rampaging dino-attack upon an urban population, ninety per cent of the action takes place on an army base that often looks as if it were filmed on a school and in a factory. The cast is small, which is explained away by supposedly evacuating the base; the budget is even smaller, which is amply illustrated when we are later told that the staff was killed before they could evacuate, and the film cannot manage to show us a visual hint of the supposed carnage.
Likewise, characters often tell us what the dinosaurs did offscreen in order to spare the expense of actually showing the action, which sometimes makes it hard to keep track of what is happening. To cite a particularly confusing example, there appear to be two adult Allosaurs in captivity: a male seen walking loose and a female seen chained. However, the dialogue does not clearly distinguish them, and only the mother seems to around for the climax, though how she got loose from her chains is never explained.
This miserly use of special effects is unfortunate, because the computer-generated imagery in Jurassic Domination is superior to that seen in previous Asylum efforts (e.g., King of the Lost World) – not exactly good but not completely embarrassing. What is embarrassing is reusing one particular shot of the adult male Allosaurus walking across screen several times: the animation is inserted into one or two different backgrounds, and in one case a shot is simply repeated.
The plot follows what happens after a pair of juvenile (i.e., raptor-sized) Allosaurs escape from the military while being transported back to base. It turns out the military confiscated them from a private company and put them to use as bio-weapons, turning them loose in a South American war zone, where their territorial instincts lead them to kill anyone they could catch (presumably including civilians – but who cares as long it saves putting American soldiers at risk?).
Getting the escaped Allosaurs to return home is easy; all it takes is an amplified recording of their mother’s roar to lure them back. Killing them is not so easy, because they were genetically engineered to be impervious to bullets. The military has come up with a sort of electronic stun gun to capture the dinosaurs without killing them, but the weapons are hilariously compromised: they take five seconds to charge up when the trigger is pulled, and they short out after firing once. If you think that’s hysterical, get this: in the grand tradition of movie scientists who know science stuff way outside their field of expertise, the film’s beautiful blonde paleontologist (Alissa Filoramo) knows metallurgy real well too, fashioning a piece of magnesium (which she just happens to have lying around) into a fuse that fixes all the weapon’s problems. Isn’t science wonderful?
None of this is filmed with any kind of verve that would transform its nonsense into good, goofy fun. The drab settings and the bland, over-lit photography rob the film of suspense, making the cast look as if they are walking through a rehearsal rather than an actual movie. A couple jump-scares work – shots of the juvenile Allosaurs leaping upon their victims are reasonably effective – but too often the film falls prey to its own absurdity, as when an attempt to blow up an Allosaurus is foiled when the dinosaur (described as a “clever girl” – get it?) deliberately triggers the explosive by tossing a trash can on the trip wire – and that’s not the absurd part! The absurd part is that the soldiers, who have taken up sheltered positions in anticipation of the blast, suddenly yell and run as if the explosion is somehow more dangerous because the dinosaur triggered it deliberately rather than accidentally.
As expected, the one name star in the film, Eric Roberts, appears only in scenes filmed separately from the rest of the cast, literally phoning his performance in – calling the base for updates on the situation while he sits behind a desk in the Pentagon or briefly steps outside in front of a factory that looks as if it exists nowhere near the Pentagon. At least he actually gives a performance instead of simply reading the lines off a teleprompter.
Weirdly, Robert is not the only example of isolated acting in Jurassic Domination. Much of the editing suggests the main cast were often not on set at the same time; conversations are shot in isolated closeups or over-the-shoulder shots using body doubles. It’s almost jarring when the three survivors finally appear in a medium shot together as they head for the final showdown with the Allosaurs.
At the end of the day, Jurassic Domination fails at even its modest ambitions. Turning some carnivorous, bulletproof dinosaurs loose upon a military base may not offer the spectacle of citywide destruction, but it should provide some exciting close-quarter combat and low-budget thrills. There are a few decent moments – enough to make a trailer – but not enough to justify a trip to the theatre.
Our rating of Jurassic Domination
Even by the modest ambition of low-budget exploitation ripoff movies, Jurassic Domination fall short. Though the CGI is decent, there is too little of it, and the live-action footage is bland. Worst of all, the film never cops the sort of attitude that can distinguish a low-budget film unencumbered by the burdens and requirements of big-budget Hollywood fare.
Jurassic Domination (The Asylum, 2022). Produced by David Michael Latt. Directed by Brian Nowak. Written by Jason Tozier. Cast: Jamie BernadetteKahlo, De Jesus Buffington, John Crosby, DeAngelo Davis, Alissa Filoramo, Eric Roberts. 90 mins. US release date (theatrical and VOD): July 1.
Jurassic Domination is playing an exclusive engagement in Los Angeles at the Laemmle Town Center 5 in Encino.