Bad acting and poor special effects aside, perhaps the one sure fire way to tell you’re watching some low-budget train-wreck of a movie is the amount of running you’re seeing on screen. Take, for instance, “100 Million BC,” one of the many ‘mockbusters’ churned out by The Asylum, those dedicated cinematic hacks committed to capitalizing on whatever happens to be in multiplexes at the moment. The last 45 minutes of “100 Million BC” features an angry t-rex running around downtown Los Angeles. The terrible lizard is chased by some military types, and you might assume that, when pursuing a dinosaur, a car, plane or other fast-moving object might be useful. Maybe even a bicycle or some roller skates. But no, the cast of “100 Million BC” is forced to run, down alleys, through tunnels, up and down the deserted streets of Los Angeles—because, after all, staging car chases, even one involving a single car and a shoddily-animated dinosaur, costs money. There’s a marathon’s worth of running in “100 Million BC,” and like the cast, you’ll probably be worn out by the end of the movie, too. It’s an exhausting sort of film, one that goes on for 45 minutes longer than it should and taxes the patience and stamina of even the most hardened trash-cinema fan.
If, for some reason, you’ve drunkenly added “100 Million BC” to your Netflix queue or picked it up at the video store, confusing it with Roland Emmerich’s “10,000 BC,” be advised—there is absolutely no connection between the two. Even the guys at The Asylum are reaching on this one, substituting dinosaurs and military time travel experiments for woolly mammoths and glorified cave dwellers. Instead, the film starts out in modern day Los Angeles, with a montage of serious looking dudes in sunglasses all looking at their watches at precisely 1:59 p.m. Some ominous Michael Bay-style music is playing, and so it’s a bit of a letdown when the big event at 2 p.m. turns out to be a military briefing. The men are part of an elite SEAL team, even though they look mostly like they just got off shift at Jiffy Lube. They’re gathered in what looks like the Navy’s rec room (complete with leather couches) to listen to Dr. Frank Reno (Michael Gross), an aging scientist who spearheaded the fabled “Philadelphia Experiment” way back in World War II. After the first Philadelphia Experiment failed, Reno tried again; things went awry (surprise, surprise), and he accidentally sent a team of soldiers, including his brother Erik (Christopher Atkins) back in time to 70 million B.C. Now, more than 50 years after that colossal mishap, Reno has decided to send another military team back in time to rescue the first team.
What happens next is pretty paint-by-numbers stuff. Reno and some grunts go back to 70 million B.C. and most of the men are either eaten by dinosaurs or killed by acid-spewing plants. Reno finds his brother and the time-displaced squad and sends them back to 2008, but a t-rex somehow sneaks into the wormhole and shows up in downtown L.A. As is usually the case when dinosaurs appear in a modern American city, complications ensue. It’s tedious and not at all fun, but it wouldn’t be so bad if anyone, from director Griff Furst and writer Paul Bales to any of the forgettable cast, had tried even a little bit. But the already terrible dialogue is delivered in the stiffest fashion possible, and every emotion, from fear to anger to sadness, is summed up thusly: “Ah, shit!” Furst tries to get by on his miniscule budget by zooming in on whatever action happens to be going on. So when some guy is eaten by a dinosaur, you’re more likely to see a close-up of the guy’s vest and maybe the dinosaur’s eye, along with some screaming sounds, than anything else. The SEAL team spends much of their time in the Cretaceous period wantonly shooting at nothing at all, and all the gunfire sounds suspiciously like paintball guns.
By the time the film his the 45 minute mark, you’ll be wishing for some temporally-challenged velociraptor to show up in your living room and chomp your head off. But “100 Million BC” persists, stretching out what should be a 15 minute chase-the-t-rex-through-L.A. sequence into another 45 minutes of torture. It could’ve all been over so much faster if The Asylum had only shelled out a few bucks for a good car chase. Instead, the surviving cast members run laboriously through L.A., trying to lure the t-rex into a tunnel, though it’s a plan that, like the movie itself, ultimately goes nowhere.
This was my first outing with an Asylum movie, and as much I as admire their (half-assed) can-do spirit and money-making savvy, I don’t think I’ll be going back. “100 Million BC” exists somewhere beyond the “so-bad-it’s-good” category and watching it is more on par with sitting through a moderately-painful dental procedure than settling down with a good bad movie. My tolerance for bad movies is formidable, but there were more than a few times that I got up from the couch, puttered around in the kitchen and returned, hoping against all home that the movie miraculously ended while I was gone. But it didn’t, and now I’m another 90 minutes closer to death with nothing to show for it. If there’s anything to be gleaned from “100 Million BC,” it’s that, no matter how useful it may seem, time travel is a universally bad idea and will result in unexpected dinosaur side-effects. A valuable lesson, but not one worth sitting through “100 Million BC” for.