One can’t help but admit that 1993 was a helluva year for dinosaur movies as not only did it see the release of Steven Spielberg’s groundbreaking film Jurassic Park but also his animated dino-pic We’re Back! A Dinosaur’s Story and then we also got the first installment of Roger Corman’s Carnosaur franchise, but one film that is often forgotten amongst all these “classics” would be Charles Band’s Prehysteria! a rare family-oriented outing from an offshoot of Full Moon Entertainment, a company known mostly for its low-budget horror movies. What could possibly go wrong?
After releasing a plethora of horror films for over two decades Charles Band decided it was time to branch out and get some of that Disney money by making “kid-friendly” movies – as fun as they are the Puppet Master franchise definitely had a limited audience – and with Moonbeam Entertainment he could focus on science fiction and fantasy films created for both children and adults. Enter storyboard artist Peter von Sholly who had a concept about miniature dinosaurs and which was an idea that Band thought was be perfect for the launch of his new distribution arm. Prehysteria! was co-directed by Charles and Albert Band and dealt with a museum curator named Rico Sarno (Brett Cullen) who upon entering a forbidden temple in South America discovers a nest of five eggs, he quickly makes off with this valuable find, with plans to make them a key exhibit in his own museum. Needless to say, things do not go exactly as planned.
Enter our family-friendly cast of characters; widower Frank Taylor (Brett Cullen) who takes his kids, Monica (Samantha Mills) and Jerry (Austin O’Brien) to town, to sell some fossilized dinosaur poop at Rico Sarno’s Antiques & Curios shop, and while there a mix up occurs with their cooler and Sarno’s, and the Taylor family soon end up walking off with Sarno’s cooler, which just so happens to contain those stolen eggs. At home, the family dog, who due to economic necessity had its litter given away, somehow hatches the eggs and Jerry is soon delighted to find five tiny dinosaurs in his basement. The dinosaurs consist of Tyrannosaurus Rex, a Stegosaurus, a Brachiosaurus, a Chasmosaurus and a pterosaur, and because Jerry is a big music fan they are named Elvis, Jagger, Paula, Hammer and Madonna respectively. As this is a kid’s movie they decide to keep this amazing find a secret from the adults despite the family being cash strapped and this kind of find would be an amazing windfall for everyone involved, which makes these particular kids more than just stupid they are also self-centred. Now, I’m not saying they should have gone and sold them to P.T. Barnum but any news agency or scientific community would pay big money just to look at these things.
The rest of the film deals with the kids trying to hide the tiny dinosaurs from all concerned, with the main threat coming from Sarno accusing everyone around him of stealing the cooler with his eggs, to the point of assaulting his assistant Vicki Vandell (Colleen Morris), needless to say, things get worse from there with their dad finding out about these prehistoric pets, Vicki showing up at the farm to add some love interest and family drama, and then Sarno hiring a couple of goons to steal the dinosaurs. These two idiots make Horace and Jasper from One Hundred and One Dalmatians look like Road Scholars by comparison and is just one more nail in the coffin of this rather unfunny family comedy. The film will eventually stumble to its rather predictable conclusion, with Sarno being humiliated and our heroes back in possession of the dinosaurs, but when the credits roll we are left wondering “Who the fuck cares about any of this?”
Lawyer Note: Sarno is definitely an asshole but despite him obtaining the dinosaurs via dubious means he is, in fact, the rightful owner and all the “Moral Outrage” our protagonists’ exhibit does not change this at all.
• If this temple was so sacred and the contents so precious why would the native guide even mention its existence to an obvious asshat like Sarno in the first place?
• Jerry is a young kid obsessed with Elvis Presley who ends up with monstrous pets making him a pre-cursor to Lilo and Stitch.
• A fat idiot stealing dinosaur eggs is just a hair away from Dennis Nedry in Jurassic Park stealing fertilized dinosaur embryos.
• The family “acquire” the dino eggs at an Antiques & Curios shop and it’s only surprising that they didn’t also pick up a Mogwai.
• These tiny dinosaurs completely demolish the kitchen but somehow not one person in the household hears a damn thing, is everyone in that house partially deaf?
The only real positive thing I can say about Prehysteria! is that the puppets built for the movie were fairly well constructed and the puppeteers do a pretty good job giving them each a little bit of personality, unfortunately, the few times they are forced to optically composite them into a shot with the actors looks godawful and Charles Band and company should have done their best to just avoid attempting it at all. Aside from the cool dinosaurs, there’s not much to offer any viewer over the age of six and the acting from the human cast ranges from Dinner Theatre levels of bad to Tommy Wiseau in The Room bad. Overall, this family-friendly outing from Charles Band is a bland and quite forgettable outing and that it somehow managed to have two sequels just goes to show you how low the bar is when it comes to direct-to-video movies.
Note: I’d love to see an alternate world version of Prehysteria! where this film is a straight-up horror film where the tiny dinosaurs brutally murder and eat those who come between them and the kids.
Movie Rank - 4/10
I give credit for Charles Band trying to expand the horizons of his company but the result here would barely pass muster as a 70s Saturday morning kid’s show.