Carnosaur 3: Primal Species (1996) — Countdown to Extinction

Matty gets to grips with the bad and the brilliant in this mixed bag of a sequel.

In terms of acting honours, charismatic Roger Corman regular Rick Dean stole the show in Carnosaur 2 (1995) so CARNOSAUR 3: PRIMAL SPECIES nabs a green tick straight off the bat for casting him again, albeit as a completely different character (makes sense: he ended up as monster chow last time). Of course, it’s ‘different’ in air quotes. Here, the late, great Dean is another army-type: a smart-mouthed grunt, part of a black ops team deployed to round up three dinosaurs — two male velociraptors and an asexual T-Rex — that’ve been let loose at a dock following the robbery of a military convoy. 

Like its superior predecessors, Carnosaur 3 — exec producer Corman’s third bite of the Jurassic Park cherry, sandwiched between the release of Michael Crichton’s literary sequel, The Lost World, and its screen adaptation — delivers everything you’d expect. There are a few chuckles; some knowing yet never smug or ironic soldier to soldier interplay; and a healthy splash of gore. Best of all, though, are John Carl Buechler’s stunning dino effects. The exaggerated physicality of the sorely missed make-up wiz’s renderings, largely brought to life via classic ‘man in a suit’ tomfoolery, is as joyous as ever, and the designs of the beasts represent the cream of the series. On occasion, the rubbery mayhem on display even trounces the spectacle of the mighty Carnosaur 2 as well. Incidentally, Buechler would recycle the bodies of the raptors for the Aztec monster in Haunted Sea (1997) — a film that also found the ever thrifty Corman repurposing Carnosaur 3’s boat set. 

However, as fun as Carnosaur 3 is — from Stephen Lee’s cameo and Andrea Rossotto’s gliding photography, to Louis Cioffi’s impactful cutting and the marching beat of Kevin Kiner’s score — there’s a nagging feeling of fatigue this time. Entering the Corman fold as a painter in the art department (on The Drifter (1988)) and quickly becoming one of the exploitation titan’s most trusted lieutenants, helmer Jonathan Winfrey does an admirable job of keeping things moving but he’s kneecapped by the wash, rinse, repeat nature of Scott Sandin’s script. Carnosaur 3 is essentially the same set-up and payoff replayed over and over. It gets a little wearying and makes the film seem longer than it is.

Hitting U.S. video on 17th December 1996, Carnosaur 3 — which landed on U.K. tape as the franchise-less ‘Primal Species’ in November ‘97 — marked the end of the ‘official’ Carnosaur saga. Instead, Corman bolstered it with a pair of spin-offs: Jim Wynorski’s Raptor (2001) and the Buechler-directed Eden Formula (2006). Both made extensive use of footage from the first three Carnosaurs.

USA ● 1996 ● Horror ● 78mins

Scott Valentine, Janet Gunn, Rick Dean ● Dir. Jonathan WinfreyWri. Scott Sandin

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