Dinosaur Drive-In: Triassic Attack

The most telling moment in SyFy's latest installment of Saturday night schlock - Triassic Attack - comes fairly early on in the film. Dismayed and angered by the expansion of a nearby college, a Native American protester named Dakota (played by Raoul Trujillo) breaks into the local museum and trashes the gift shop filled with kitschy representations of his people's culture. The museum had made a mockery of Native Americans just to make a few bucks.

But smashing the store only upsets Dakota further. Enraged, he goes about performing a ritual in the museum's fossil hall that brings the skeletons of a Tyrannosaurus, a Pteranodon and a "raptor" to life so that they can take revenge on the university president who ordered the expansion. The ritual is so stereotypical and poorly executed that it is offensive, turning Dakota into a representation of everything he just destroyed.

This lack of self-awareness is the most prominent feature of Triassic Attack. Our heroes - police officer Jake (Steven Brand) and archaeologist Emma (Kirsty Mitchell) - don't realize that they are two-dimensional characters; the token comic relief character isn't aware that he isn't funny; and the film's prehistoric monsters forgot to put on their muscles and skin before leaving the museum. True, a B-movie about rampaging dinosaur skeletons could be fun, but it does seem a bit inconsistent when the skeletons can sniff, roar and otherwise do just about anything a real dinosaur could. The only thing they can't do is swallow properly - it takes a little while for the film's Tyrannosaurus to realize that frat boys just fall to the ground when it tries to eat them ("I swear, these things go right through me").

Granted, I was not expecting very much from a movie that seems like it was concocted entirely for the reason of having archosaur skeletons stomp around a college campus. ("Hey, where's the rec center?") As described by the film's director, Colin Ferguson, the premise of Triassic Attack could be summed up as "What happens when a flying Tyrannosaurus rex attacks Oregon?" He wasn't referring to the film's Pteranodon. Fairly late in the film the college's R.O.T.C. squad jumps into action with rocket launchers they just happened to have lying around (?!) and blow the attacking Tyrannosaurus and Pteranodon into bits. Being that these were magic dinosaur bones, they obviously had to recombine into a flying monstrosity that looked about as aerodynamic as a brick. As I sat there watching the scattered bones begin to roll towards each other I said aloud "Are they really... ? They are, aren't they? *facepalm*"

I would say a bit more about the plot, but there isn't much of one to speak of. Triassic Attack mostly coalesced from residues of other action films. Monsters run amok, the daughter of our heroes just happens to pick the one place where she will be in the most danger (but survives while nearly everyone around her is killed), our leads are torn between stopping the monsters and saving their daughter, and ultimately the monsters must be destroyed in the manner in which they were created. This last bit places the film more in the realm of supernatural fantasy then reality. Through a cheap backstory meant to convey depth, Triassic Attack makes it a point to say that stereotypical spirituality is superior to logic, science and modern medicine.

And among the worst parts of it all? There was nary a Triassic creature to be seen in the entire film! All three monster skeletons were from the Cretaceous. Yes, yes, I know it is a SyFy movie and if I want anything approximating accuracy I should look elsewhere, but I still feel like this was a missed opportunity. Imagine what fun could be had with some real Triassic predators like Prestosuchus on land or the immense ichthyosaur Shonisaurus in the sea. I guess we may never know, but, given the quality of your average SyFy original movie, that may be for the best.

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