Move over, Dr Frankenstein, there’s a new re-animator in town. His name is Dr Devine, and in his business a mishmash of body parts will not suffice. We’ve all dreamt of eternal youth, but for those who are uninterested in being turned into a plastic zombie, our crazed innovator has come up with a mind-boggling alternative — providing you are hideously wealthy and bereft of all human emotion. His modus operandi is thus: 1) find lithe, nubile specimens; 2) send enslaved mutant wrestlers to kidnap and sedate said specimens before injecting them with neon-green ooze; 3) present a catalogue of specimens to the ageing elite; 4) transfer brain of aged elite into the body of lithe, nubile specimen. Brilliant, right?
Well, no actually.
Neon-based scientific ingenuity aside, Devine’s business model is rather flawed. Firstly, as owner and operator of the Seaview Ageing Therapy Clinic, you would have to advertise kidnapping and murder as your primary services. One botched surgery or moral disagreement and the cops would be kicking down your door, particularly since your practice is located in the middle of an everyday suburban community and surrounded by potential witnesses, some of whom stare blatantly at proceedings through giant binoculars. Before you could say ‘scalpel!’, you would be up to your neck in lies, forced to commit one murder after another in a ceaseless attempt to cover your morbid tracks. Soon you would be killing friends and family, limo drivers, yapping little terriers ― the treachery would never end.
Then there’s the matter of your employees to consider ― you know, those people whose trust your entire business depends upon. Call me cynical, but I don’t remember being particularly fond of any of my previous bosses, and even those who I kind of liked I would inevitably find fault with. So what if one of them didn’t appreciate the way you were treating them? Soon they’d be turning up late for work or running their mouths and demanding raises in return for their silence. Then there’s the personal ad to consider. I mean, what on earth would the application form entail?
Nevertheless, Devine’s business seems to be thriving by the time the sleazy Dr Timmons (Jamieson) arrives to fill the position. Timmons has had a recent brush with the medical board and seems to be entirely motivated by greed — just the kind of dirtbag Devine can exploit to the whims of his insanity. Meanwhile, a fresh batch of teens are kidnapped and brought to the prep room for transformation, but Gregg (Crone) manages to avoid the sedative-laced claws of their mutant captors, and wisely plays dead until left alone and presented with the chance to escape.
After diving through a windowpane in the dead of night and disturbing absolutely no one, Gregg goes straight to the local sheriff, who in typical horror fashion dismisses everything the poor lad throws at him. Spending a night in the slammer, our clean-cut hero harbours hopes that some late night detective work might clear his name, but when the sheriff returns with news of a missing cop, Gregg soon graduates from petty drunk to suspected murderer faster than he can say, “huh?!” His only hope of evading the ‘hot seat’ lies in their fruitless investigation of the suburban horror house, but fortunately for Gregg there is a shed nearby, and after slipping the sheriff’s grasp he manages to hide in it, totally bamboozling the number one cop in town.
Worse luck befalls Gregg’s friend, Darrell, who after experiencing an allergic reaction to the dubious neon gook is transformed into one of Dr Devine’s hideous mutants. Gregg then convinces suspicious neighbour Agnes (Wendel) to masquerade as a customer in the hope of infiltrating her psychotic neighbours, but suspicion rears its ugly head when her walkie-talkie is discovered, leading to a treacherous love triangle involving Dr. Devine, Dr. Price (Lindsley) and insatiable harlot Nurse Blaine (Patterson), whose obsession with the body of a beautiful young redhead threatens to unravel the whole sordid scheme.
There are plenty of bad movies picking up dust in the recesses of home video purgatory, many of them achieving cult status due to their irresistible and occasionally inspired shenanigans. The Immortalizer doesn’t have a cult following (at least not that I’m aware of), and it certainly isn’t inspired. In fact, bumbling mutant antics aside, it barely falls into the ‘so bad it’s kind of irresistible’ category. So why review a movie such as this?
Other than a morbid fascination with the woefully inept and the belief that all movies deserve to be remembered simply for existing, I’m not too sure, but if nothing else, productions like this fill you with a renewed appreciation for grainy, low-budget masterworks such as Sam Raimi’s The Evil Dead and John Carpenter’s Halloween. I’m a sucker for bad movies. They fascinate me, engross me and oftentimes leave me in hysterics. Sadly, The Immortalizer lacks the self-aware qualities or lawlessness of the truly beguiling. This one isn’t so bad it’s good. It’s just plain bad.
This is something of a shame because there is a fun concept at play here that should have been so much more, particularly as a commentary on the extremes of cosmetic surgery and the lengths some of us will go to maintain the gift of eternal youth. In the end, it fails quite dramatically. This is no doubt due to the film’s monetary restrictions, but the whole affair is haphazard and ineptly staged, with lifeless sets that border on the moribund.
It also lacks the bite of similarly cheapo attempts at social satire. Brian Yuzna’s polymorphous attack on the Reagan 80s Society and Stuart Gordon’s Lovecraftian cult classic Re-Animator were resourceful movies that made the most of their meagre outlays, but low-budget and bargain basement are on different sides of the same galaxy, and this one fell headlong into the creative void.