Monday, 25 May 2015


Director: Steve Lawson
Writer: Steve Lawson
Producer: Steve Lawson
Cast: Helen Crevel, Steve Dolton, Julian Boote
Country: UK
Year of release: 2015
Reviewed from: screener disc

It wouldn’t surprise me if Killer/Saurus sets some sort of new record for the lowest-budgeted film ever to feature a dinosaur. Consider the vast financial gulf between Jurassic Park and Carnosaur. Now take a second step down that ladder - or continue that line on the graph, if you prefer - and you’ll land somewhere around the level of Killer/Saurus, the latest opus from Leicestershire-based Creativ Studios.

But of course, as budgets come down over time, so the bang/buck ratio improves. While this movie has been shot on a shoestring, it has been shot with an eye for what a shoestring can do and how a shoestring can be used. A few coloured gels, a couple of cheap hazmat suits, a garage door and a smoke machine. In the right hands, and with the right approach, these can create an epic tale of science meddling with things that man was not meant to know. With a T rex in it.

Furthermore – and this is really important – this is an actual T rex. Well, not an actual one (though there is one just up the road from Creativ in the Geology Department at Leicester University) but an actual T rex prop. For everyone fed up with crappy CGI creature features, Killer/Saurus is a treat. Not a computer effect in sight. Just a good, old-fashioned puppet made to look a lot bigger and fiercer than it actually is. For such small mercies, the true dinofilm fan is always grateful.

That said, it should come as no surprise that, the DVD sleeve and associated publicity materials notwithstanding, you don’t actually see much of the dinosaur itself. But it is there.

Killer/Saurus reteams director Steve Lawson with actor Helen Crevel who impressed so much with her role in Survival Instinct. Here she is Kayleigh Ma, a scientist in the employ of a somewhat shady company doing unethical developments in bio-printing. This is a real thing, although nowhere as advanced as in this film (that said, a brief glimpse of a blog suggests this is set in the mid-2020s!). Essentially, bio-printing is similar to common or garden 3D printing except that it uses cells rather than plastic. The technology currently exists to manufacture undifferentiated tissue samples, but the ultimate goal is to be able to ‘print’ entire new organs or limbs for transplant.

This particular dodgy company however (which I don’t think is ever named) has got somehow sidetracked into using bio-printing to generate an entire living creature from scratch. And if you thought you might be able to create a living creature, what sort would you go for? Well, something small and simple to start with, probably. An earthworm, for example. Then maybe a fruit fly. Let’s say you have mastered invertebrates and want to try a higher form of life. You might try to create a frog, or a mouse.

Or you could just say the hell with it, cut out all those tedious incremental stages and go straight for tonight’s star prize: a fully grown Tyrannosaurus rex.

Remember that graph we were plotting of the budgets of Jurassic Park, Carnosaur and Killer/Saurus? I think a very similar line could be plotted for the loopiness of the three films’ plots. Killer/Saurus has a narrative which would make Roger Corman say, “Well, that seems a tad far-fetched and slightly insane.” But it is what it is.

In an epic ten-minute prologue, the 3D-laser-bio-printer-thing is set running behind a metal roller door, which then obviously has to be opened to see if the experiment worked. Not thought that through, have you Mr so-called Scientist? Kayleigh’s colleague Amy (a smashing performance from Vicki Glover, who previously encountered dinos in Ken Barker’s Bikini Girls vs Dinosaurs; she’s also in Cleaver, Gabriel Cushing and a Tuck Bushman short) volunteers to take a peek – and quickly regrets doing so. The door is closed and the whole project closed down. Sort of.

Kayleigh and Amy’s boss is Professor Peterson (Steven Dolton: Zombie Undead, Devil’s Tower, Nocturnal Activity) who has personal, non-dino-related reasons for wanting to develop this technology. He’s actually working for the mysterious Andrews (Dead Room alumnus Julian Boote, also in May I Kill U?, Deadtime and Evil Souls) whose ultimate goal is to progress beyond a T rex to something called a ‘Tier 2’ creation. What the hell is the next stage up from a T rex, you might wonder. You’ll get to see that right at the end of the film.

After the credits, the main plot kicks in three months later when Kayleigh returns to the research facility with her American journalist boyfriend Jed. (Kenton Hall, who plays Jed, is actually Canadian but has a quite extraordinary accent that sounds like he grew up in a little village on the Ireland/New Zealand border. Plus he has facial hair that looks like he couldn’t really decide whether he wanted a beard or not. His BHR credits include Amityville Asylum, Theatre of Fear and Valley of the Witch.)

Professor Peterson is still sitting in the same chair in the same office (and indeed wearing the same outfit), overseeing a now empty facility from a position of empty futility, like Captain Nemo in The Mysterious Island. There ensues a great deal of talking between the three, which bogs the film down somewhat, until we finally get a decent look at the T rex at about 45 minutes (the whole film runs a commendably taut 75 minutes, including about four minutes of end credits/blooper reel). Andrews himself subsequently turns up, accompanied by an armed ex-squaddie, simply credited as ‘Sergeant’ (Adam Collins, a genuine ex-squaddie whose stunt credits include Batman Begins and Allies). There’s yet more talking, the 3D-laser-bio-printer-thing is set running again and we finally get to see the ‘Tier 2’ creature, which is actually a commercially available horror mask bought (and licensed) from Illinois-based Zagone Studios.

In the end, the T rex is loose and, as is traditional, the whole place blows up. Well no, actually it doesn’t. I was expecting it to – but the film just sorts of ends, rather suddenly. Not having the budget to blow anything up, and not wanting to matte in a bunch of crappy CGI explosions, Steve has presumably left all that to our imagination. In the process, of course, he has left the way open for Killer/Saurus 2, should the market demand such a thing.

It should be obvious that Killer/Saurus is most certainly not a dino-on-the-rampage actionfest. Point of fact, it’s very talkie and it really could have done with something – anything – happening in the middle of the film that wasn’t just shot/reverse-shot of people talking under a blue light. Even if it was just some interstitial shots of the metal roller door shaking as something hurls itself against the other side, that would have served to keep things ticking over. (I say ‘middle of the film’ rather than ‘act 2’ deliberately. It’s difficult to identify a three-act structure when nearly 15% of your film is prologue. A clearer three-act structure might also have been beneficial.)

Thematically, in featuring the creation of a living creature – in toto, from scratch – this is a borderline Frankenstein film, and there is some brief discussion of how the creature has just appeared fully formed without birth or upbringing, though little is made of that. (Ooh, ooh, I just thought: Dinostein! That’s not been done. No, wait. Frankendino. No, Frankensaur. Oh well, something like that anyway. It’s bound to turn up sooner or later. Maybe I’ll write it if I get a moment. Shouldn’t take long. Anyway…)

Despite the lack of puppet-on-the-loose action, Killer/Saurus is a fun little sci-fi/horror picture with some appealing performances from its cast and a solid awareness of its limitations. It’s played completely straight when many such microbudget fancies would descend into silliness or spoofery. It is ridiculously over-ambitious and yet somehow manages to just about achieve those ambitions – and for that it is to be both commended and recommended.

The minimal crew was basically Creativ head honcho Steve Lawson with production assistants Lars Zivanovic (who previously worked with Steve on The Silencer) and Grace Coxall. Marc Hamill, director of The Wrong Floor, is one of the background techies in the prologue and also supplied some locations (specifically the staircases, Creativ Studios itself being a distinctly one-storey affair). Alex Young (Survival Instinct) supplied the original score, which is all pounding rhythms and approaching menace. Helen Crevel pulled double duty as the woman with her hand up inside Rexy the dinopuppet. Young Mr Lawson does an audio-Hitchcock as a telephone voice.

Shot in early 2015, Killer/Saurus is at time of writing pencilled in for a 6th July 2015 UK release through 88 Films (who get a thank you at the end, but didn’t fund the picture). Amazon currently lists the title as the oblique-free KillerSaurus but we shall see what it actually says on the sleeve when that’s made available.

MJS rating: B-


  1. Having just watched this film (bought for me by my partner as a birthday present) I can say that this review is pretty much bang on. I would perhaps also mention that we folded up with laughter when the Tier 2 creature emerged from behind the roll-up door, still wearing the sergeant's hat.