Sy-Fy Ate My Brain: Mammoth Review

Echo’s rating: 2.5 out of 4 Changs

 

 

Mammoth Rated: C(for Campy) 90 min.

Starring: Vincent Ventresca, Summer Glau, Tom Skerrit, A Big Dead Mammoth.

Ok, party people, here we go. After some time of considering doing a Sci-Fi Channel retrospective–and usually nixing it because of Jarv’s coverage of similar material–I’ve decided to heck with it, there’s room enough here for both. Afterall, an examination of the sheer volume of work the dubiously named channel churns out means we will likely never come close to reviewing the same thing, unless someone greenlights FrankenFish 2: Jus When Yo Think It Safe! I’ll avoid stepping on toes, and will reserve this column for only stuff playing in that Saturday night death slot on Sigh-Fry, er, umm…Sy-Fy.

As a way of getting started, I’ve picked Mammoth–one of the funnier and more absurd entries and, as far as I am aware, the only one of the lot to be nominated for a Prime Time Emmy (yes, some of Sy-Fy’s series and mini-series have been, but never a saturday night ‘Original’). Emmy for what you might ask? The mammoth of course! Apparently, whomever is responsible for nominations must have decided that the CGI corpse of a rotting stinking prehistoric pachyderm chasing the guy from Picket Fences was a visual achievement worthy of recognition.  

In truth, the fx aren’t really that special (Oh, shock!) but the movie has its own brand of nuttiness going for it.  Skerrit and Glau, as sci-fi geek grandfather and sci-fi geek granddaughter respectively, who join forces to hunt down an alien infected mastodon who happens to be sucking the souls of the townspeople? Yes please. And, for good measure, the filmmakers have let Vincent Ventresca tag along too. The result is stupidity of the highest order, that occassionally drags, but managed to keep me smiling the whole time and it actually gives Skerrit opportunity to…wait for it…act!

The story, which kicks in right after a super-silly animation sequence featuring dancing cave paintings and alien spaceships, is pretty lame-brained, even by the standards of this sort of thing. Ventresca is a paleontologist studying the remains of a frozen mammoth in the museum at the center of town. Ventresca is challenged by that age-old dilemma; spend time with his teen daughter or stay late pulling blood samples out of a hairy, frozen carcass. Luckily for Jack (yes, that really is Summer Glau’s characters name), she has an uber-nerdy white-haired grandfather who looks suspiciously like the old-age version of that captain in the first Alien movie. Gramps hangs around, takes Jack to the movies for seconds of whatever B-feature is showing, and gets to give Ventresca insight on how to be a better daddy.

All swell, until an alien organism comes beaming its way down into the mammoth (what small town museum can afford to house an entire frozen mammoth?) and the creature comes to life, breaks its puny exhibit captivity and starts rampaging through the sleepy little burg, actually picking people up, impaling them with its tusks, and promptly using its trunk as a soul hoover to remove their lifeforce! Rock on!

The weird thing about the movie is this; yes it is daft, and purposefully insane, but it seems like its actually trying when it comes to the familial relationship at the movie’s center. The connection between Skerrit and Glau is the fun kind of parent/child team-up that one could often find in 80s horror films. I liked it, and thought they both had decent chemistry together. Ventresca’s character is a stick in the mud, so mostly he’s very wooden, but there are even some nice touches thrown in between he and Skerrit. Tom looks like he is having a ton of fun, and he refuses to lower the quality of his performance just because his co-star is a CGI mammoth that wants to snuff up his soul. There are a pair of agents that show up halfway through, and a couple of assorted rednecks late in the game, but neither group add much interest to the story. Same for Glau’s boyfriend. He smells like mammoth fodder from scene 1.

But the mammoth itself? How is it? Well, good enough to earn an Emmy. So I found it more than a little strange that after shuffling behind houses, picking up and shotputting a guy in a gorilla gram suit, and chasing raving teens through a field, the beast would reveal itself as this:

Ok, kidding. The mammoth is just fine, slightly more solid and seemingly ‘there’ than most of the creatures that end up in these films. It has some occassional weight and heft to it, but there are so few long shots of it, that usually we only see it when it’s in the frame with another person and right on top of them. As a result of that, it ends up looking like the mammoth is constantly creeping up slowly behind people as if it wasn’t the size of a dumptruck and probably smelled like death itself. At one point Ventresca is looking for it, and it’s standing right behind him in the parody of a Chaplin silent film. One dude, scanning an abandoned town for a massive rotting elephant and it’s breathing down his neck.

The weakest element of Mammoth is that when it comes to scenes like the ones mentioned above, the movie isn’t confident enough to assure us that its playing fast or loose or is just simply incompetent and thats why it is funny. I’m certain it is the former reason, but my point is, the comedy elements aren’t delivered with any authority. They are off-to-the-side, instead of being over-the-top.

You get the impression that director Tim Cox actually expects the human story to sell the movie. No, we want more mammoth madness please! But for a Sy-Fy original, it marks an evolution. Most of these things you watch as part of the background to a more interesting event; playing cards with friends, hanging out with beer, slowly passing out mindlessly of boredom. You get the picture. Mammoth has progressed to the point that when you look at it, you will be tempted to not look away. Thats about as close to a recommendation here as you are gonna get.

And some fine enterprising and tone deaf individual has set scenes from Mammoth to music from Offspring. Here you go:

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33 responses to “Sy-Fy Ate My Brain: Mammoth Review”

  1. xiphos0311 says :

    I kind of enjoy these goofy Sky fy movies. They unrepentantly rip off other movies and the quality is low. They remind me of 50’s cheapo horror movies.

  2. Droid says :

    Huzzah! I need to see this!

  3. Jarv says :

    I have to see this.

    Great review. That mammoth picture made me laugh.

  4. Jarv says :

    To be absolutely fair to Sci-Fi: the Frankenfish were well rendered CGI as well.

  5. Echo the Bunnyman says :

    Yea, Frankenfish had decent CGI, but it was a water-based creature. The work here was a little different in that the animal had to be up and moving with all of it present on the screen and in most cases chasing a truck or something. I still don’t understand it’s Emmy nomination, as there are any number of better rendered things on tv, especially in 2006.

    The summer/spring that I saw this was when Sci-Fi also played Abominable on the Sci-Fi Channel. One of the few other ‘originals’ that didn’t suck.

    Up next though is Wyvern-giant mythological dragon in Alaska, featuring better dragon fx than Reign of Fire.

  6. ThereWolf says :

    Excellent review. I’ve gotta see this as well. Can’t go wrong with a giant bloody Mammoth, surely.

  7. Bartleby says :

    Franklin,

    That’s going to be a theme. I think Fire and Ice, with Amy Acker will actually be next since it’s playing this weekend (Saturday night) and I’m trying to get in a review of Fire From Below (Sunday night’s feature) with Kevin Sorbo. But after that, I’ll have William the Bloody in High Plains Invaders for Sunday’s movie, and then Monday with Wyvern most likely.

  8. Bartleby says :

    Wow…Fire and Ice stars Amy Acker, John Rhys Davies and Arnold Vosloo, directed by Pitof…of CatWoman fame. Bliss!

    I’m gonna have to do George and the Dragon too, starring Patrick Swayze, Michael Clarke Duncan and Val Kilmer as the Black Knight!

  9. Jarv says :

    Frank- I know I’m asking a stupid question here, but where did you get Demon Island?

  10. Jarv says :

    You need to let go of Buffy, man.

    It honestly wasn’t that good. Certainly not worth subjecting yourself to shit like Date Movie simply because Willow happens to be in it.

  11. Bartleby says :

    I disagree about Buffy. I never saw it until recently, and have to say, divorced from all the fan stuff, it actually is pretty good. There were some really weak parts–near all of season 4 and most of season 7–but when it was working it was really working. However, the acting cast have been terribly messed up in their choices since then. A few weeks ago I turned on legend of the seeker to see cordelia chase making out with some blonde chick in armor.

  12. Jarv says :

    It was Good- but not good enough to celluloid stalk the cast through their less than good films.

    Seriously, you could be stuck watching nothing but Scooby Doo followed by Date Movie with a “How I met your mother interlude” if you did that.

    Nothing is worth that.

  13. Bartleby says :

    well, yes, Jarv is right about that. Outside of Boreanz who went over to Bones, no one is up to much. Even Boreanz has that awful Crow movie and the Tera Reid sex scene to his, um, ‘credit’.

  14. Bartleby says :

    What ever happened to that movie where Buffy’s husband and Ned the Piemaker switched bodies and the Cigarette Smoking Man had to help via hypnosis? Or did I make that one up?

  15. Jarv says :

    I loved the first series of Dexter.

    The second series killed it dead for me. Dexter at fucking NA meetings. How dull.

  16. Bartleby says :

    Darkness Falls..I saw that crap, who from Buffy was in that one?

    • Bartleby says :

      awwww, Anya. She was one of my favorite characters. Slagging her wedding and then tossing her off in the final episode were some of Whedon’s more predictable and pathetic shenanigans. He is notorious by rewarding the supporting players that carry his shows with destroying their narrative arcs and then taking their lives. I saw Caulfield in a decent indie sci-fi comedy recently. Trying to recall the title.

    • Jarv says :

      Darkness Fails is to be avoided like a fat whore with herpes.

  17. Bartleby says :

    Franklin, do you watch Supernatural? A fair amount of Whedon actors show up there…Acker, Benz, amber benson, and the list goes on. In lieu of more Buffy, Supernatural is where it’s at for horror/fantasy on televison. I’m just now getting into the third season. Finished that rabbit’s foot episode and the one with demon-posessed priest.

  18. just pillow talk says :

    I think these sci-fi silliness flicks would be so much hilarious if they didn’t go the CGI route, and instead went a bit more practical. In homage to the ’50’s flicks.

  19. xiphos0311 says :

    Frank download last nights SN forthwith. It’s very good and brutal.

  20. xiphos0311 says :

    Pillow the bad SPX in the silly Skiffy movie a kinda make them in my opinion. they are so bad that I can’t help but smile. although sometimes the SPX are good in thier movies so who the heck really knows what goes on there.

  21. xiphos0311 says :

    yeah it comes back on 11 January I think. They say something about at the end of the show but I don’t know if that part downloads or not.

  22. Continentalop says :

    A guy named Tim Cox directed this? Seriously? I think I might know him!

  23. Bartleby says :

    like really Conti? Oh, Im hoping to have a Black Dynamite review over at Cinematropolis this weekend. Liked the flick. Good stuff.

  24. Continentalop says :

    Glad you liked it Bartleby. I had very little to do with it, in all honesty, but I feel an attachment to it because the guys who made it were so cool. Wish it did better in the BO, but I still think it will be a hit on video.

    And it is the same Tim Cox that I know. Small world (smaller if it turns out I know JettL93, and I suspect I do).

  25. tombando says :

    Does JettL93 make movies or is he more of a play director?

  26. Jarv says :

    I thought he was a writer or a fluffer.

    One of the two.

  27. drmorbius says :

    Gotta love the scene at the gas station when, swear to god, the Mammoth must have tip-toed up behind the guy before his impending impalement. Who could have seen that coming?

  28. bob says :

    sck the cheese under my nuts

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