Welcome to The Prime Sublime, a weekly column dedicated to the underseen and underloved films buried beneath page after page of far more popular fare on Amazon’s Prime Video collection. We’re not just cherry-picking obscure titles, though, as these are movies that we find beautiful in their own, often unique ways. You might even say we think they’re sublime…
“Sublime /səˈblīm/: of such excellence, grandeur, or beauty as to inspire great admiration or awe.”
People say that the 90s was a bad decade for horror movies. Those people are wrong. The 90s was actually a pretty great era for horror movies, but it just happened to be sandwiched between the 80s and the 2000s, both of which were boom periods for the genre and arguably better overall. However, if you’re willing to dig for the hidden treasures, the 90s is littered with countless slices of scare fare that deserve to be celebrated. Gems such as 1995’s Project: Metalbeast, to name an example.
What’s it about?
Project: Metalbeast does have a story, but the beauty of the film is the feeling of joy that possesses the entire essence of your being while watching it. That said, the plot revolves around the government’s shady plan to create super soldiers, and you could say that their methods are a little bit hairy.
The film opens with two soldiers in Hungaria tasked with collecting werewolf blood. Standard military stuff, you know. It doesn’t take long for them to encounter one of the beasts either which brutalizes one of the soldiers while the his colleague (played by a delightfully evil John Marzilli) takes pictures of the violent altercation. After the surviving soldier puts a few bullets in the angry pooch, he collects its blood and returns to America to begin the experiment.
Unfortunately, the soldier — who is also a mad scientist of sorts — learns that they aren’t allowed to test their serum on humans as the blood will cause them to die. So, the impatient lunatic takes it upon himself to inject the blood into his own veins, causing him to have homicidal impulses as a result. He is then cryogenically frozen until the government operation figures out how to turn him into a werewolf with synthetic skin.
Of course, it’s only a matter of time before the wolf super soldier (with Kane Hodder donning the costume) gets let out of its cage and starts causing havoc in a military compound. And that’s when the real fun begins.
What makes it sublime?
Project: Metalbeast isn’t concerned with reaching the same heights as American Werewolf in London, The Howling, Ginger Snaps, Dog Soldiers, or other more distinguished lycanthrope fare. This is some unabashed schlock that’s all about having a good time. Still, I think this movie deserves some credit for doing something different and interesting with the werewolf concept.
Let’s face it: if werewolves were real, the world’s military powers would try to use them for their own gain. The hounds would be experimented on and World War III would be a barking mad battle between humanoid dogs. This seems to be the future that Project: Metalbeast envisions, should actual werewolves ever be discovered. The film is also fascinated with concepts like man-made destruction and corrupt authority figures, and the titular metal beastie is a roaring representation of humankind’s tendency to play god and come up with new ways to sabotage their enemies. The real monster is always man at the end of the day.
Of course, some people might be wondering why a werewolf with synthetic skin is a fresh spin on werewolf lore. Well, when you think about it, that makes the creature impenetrable to silver bullets, which have have always been a sure-fire way to defeat the monsters in most movies.
Screenwriters Roger Steinmann, Timothy E. Sabo, and Alessandro De Gaetano (who also directed this gem) probably watched every werewolf movie while creating this and came up with ways to protect the monsters from the methods that frequently killed them off in other movies. And in doing so, they created a pretty awesome beast of their own. At the same time, the werewolf isn’t immune to every superstition. For example, the creature has an aversion to crosses and sunlight, so it’s safe to say that the government’s experiment to create the ultimate killing machine is a work in progress. This juxtaposition of forward-thinking ideas and traditional ones is all part of the fun, though.
The creature also looks incredible here. A movie that’s called Project: Metalbeast needs a monster that lives up to such a bad-ass title, and the creature costume design by John Carl Buechler and his colleagues is exquisite. While this kind of movie isn’t for everyone, there’s no denying the artistry involved.
More importantly, though, the movie lives up to the majesty of its monster. While the film takes its time getting to the creature’s onslaught of carnage, it’s well-paced and features a fun cast of characters. Barry Bostwick steals the show as an evil colonel, while Kim Delaney leads a group of scientists who are morally opposed to the corrupt work they’ve been forced to do. But when the carnage finally does arrive, it’s a helluva lot of creature feature fun.
And in conclusion…
Despite featuring some genre heavyweights in the cast and a fun monster movie premise, Project: Metalbeast is barely even discussed among die-hard horror fans. That said, fans of self-aware monster movies that play it straight will find this gem very entertaining. It’s just a shame that the film didn’t do better and gain numerous sequels, culminating in a full-scale war movie with werewolf metallic soldiers on the battlefield, tearing each other to shreds.