Back when I was younger, between the ages of 10 and 12, I would often tempt my dad into taking me to Hollywood Video, which was a huge privilege for me because it cost to rent movies from there. Well, they would always have a very obscure but better collection of horror movies than our local library and one VHS tape caught my eyes. That film was called Proteus and I guess what captured my attention was just the look of the VHS box cover; the way you see this horrible monster snarling at you while hatching out of an egg. Even the tagline, “In the middle of the ocean. A new form of horror is taking shape,” just begged me to pick up the box and check it out. I only saw this film about 2 or 3 times but it left such a huge impression on me.
The scene that did it for me, or the scene that made me cover my eyes and scream was when the group of stranded people were eating in the mess hall when suddenly they all hear this crashing sound that’s getting closer. Then, the camera would turn into the POV of the monster speeding closer and closer to the hall. As the crashing got closer, so did the growling and you never see what was coming towards them but you can only imagine that it’s big and pissed off, whatever it was. That scene alone would terrify me and was one of the contributing factors as to why I love it when you never see what the monster fully looks like. Of course, as I see it today it doesn’t have the same effect but it’s still pretty frightening in a general sense.
Now that I have rambled about how I felt towards the movie a few years back, I think I should go ahead and elaborate on what it’s about. The movie is typical creature feature formula as it should be. A group of drug smugglers end up boarding a deserted oilrig after their yacht exploded during a piloting accident. While exploring the oilrig looking for people to help them out, they soon realize that the entire place is deserted and before long they come to discover that it was all a giant cover-up. See, the oilrig is a smokescreen for a secret project involving genetics but whatever that experiment was has become loose and now the stranded people must fight for their lives against the genetically created menace.
The name of the creature in this film is called Charlie and ever since I could remember, that name has stuck with me up until now. Every time I see a monster movie I feel compelled to name it Charlie. I feel as though I should also note that before I ever wanted to go into film, I wanted to be a geneticist because I had the misplaced idea that I could create horrible monsters like Charlie (yeah, I was a little twisted back then). In turn, horror movies that involved abandoned laboratories ore monster-run-amok stories always interested me. I loved hearing all the different imaginative scientific processes that went into creating the monster and I would use those explanations to sound smart when I went to school the following week. I can’t tell you how many times I told my friends that my uncle made Charlie to my classmates.
But enough about me, what about the movie? Is it worth seeing? Is it good? Well, it’s certainly not the greatest movie of all time; it was a straight-to-VHS movie that you’d probably find in the $5 at Wal-Mart. However, it’s not a bad movie either. It’s fun, it’s campy and it’s pretty graphic. I liked it and for being an indie movie made in the mid 90’s, it has some pretty outstanding creature effects. See, that’s what I miss about the old days… indie movie directors took their craft serious and wanted to make honest horror movies and not try to dull the genre down by creating shitty horror comedies. This movie set out to scare its audience and though they may not have succeeded, their effort was still valiant. Even now, as I watched it, I couldn’t help but feel that kids today might still be freaked out by it. Additionally, you’ll have to understand that it can be pretty cheesy and campy at times but I think that only adds to the fact that it should be a midnight movie.
I think it should also be known that this film bears a striking resemblance to my favorite horror movie of all time; you guessed it, The Thing. It’s a very uncanny resemblance because even some of the creature design looks and sounds the same. Consider this: Charlie hijacks his victims DNA and assumes the physical appearance of anything that it genetically molds with. So if he were to mold with a shark, he would take on the physical likeness of a shark and that would also go with people that he molds with. Now, The Thing does the exact same thing. It devours and replicates itself based on what it’s victim looks like only it does this on a cellular level rather than a genetic DNA based level. By the end of the movie, paranoia sweeps the remaining survivors and you are wondering who is who. I will probably elaborate on this when I begin my Thing Week this June.
C'mon, doesn't that remind you of that goopy pile of dog meat from The Thing?
Overall, Proteus may not be the best horror movie ever made but its heart is in the right place. It was a great time for me to watch a film that I used to watch as a kid and it took me back to those days. Of course I am bias but that should be understood. I might have looked at this movie differently if I saw it for the first time. So, if you want a good midnight movie or if you have a hankering for a cheesy 90’s creature feature, give this indie film a watch. Just be sure to not take it too seriously, doing so may result in permanent genetic disfigurement.