Unstable CIA soldier Donald Butler has just returned from a mission to Hungary to retrieve the blood of a werewolf. Butler and his boss, Colonel Miller, plan to use the blood to help create a serum that they hope will produce a legion of super soldiers. But Butler doesn’t like the slow progress the research into the blood is taking. So to speed matters up he injects himself with the last of the werewolf blood. He thinks it’s going to turn him into a self-aware, super-strong, killing machine, but – shock of all shocks – it just turns him into a mindless, killer werewolf and he attacks the research staff before Miller is forced to shoot him with silver bullets. Not one to discard a perfectly good test subject, Miller puts Butler into cryogenic suspension, with the hope that he’ll one day be able to use him properly.
Cut to twenty years later, and a group of government scientists are developing a metal-based skin graft system. The only downside is that the skin has a tendency to turn as hard as steel. The scientists are hoping that once they stabilize the material it will be used for cancer and burn victims. But Miller has other plans and offers up Butler’s body as a test subject. The scientists are initially wary of Miller, but are happy to take him up on his offer. Or, at least they are until they’re nearly finished with the procedure and realize there are three bullets in their cadaver. They take them out, thinking they’re doing the right thing, not realizing that they’ve just inadvertently made a monster damn-near indestructible.
Metalbeast is a low-budget, sci-fi horror film that was released straight-to-video. That kind of description will likely cause a lot of people to wince internally. Hell, it made me wince when I read it and the synopsis. But despite my initial reaction, and some notable drawbacks, I found the film to be far more enjoyable than I was expecting.
No one was more shocked by this than I.
For starters, Metalbeast is blessed with a highly competent cast, including Kim Delaney, Barry Bostwick, Musetta Vander and Kane Hodder. Some of those names might not ring any bells, but for anyone familiar with 80’s-00’s television and movies the faces will likely look very familiar. Much of the main cast appeared in a multitude of various productions, so with the exception of a couple of slightly cheesy side characters, the acting here is pretty solid. Hodder meanwhile, who’s likely best known as the masked killer Jason Vorheese in the Friday the 13th films, brings his usual level of skill to the titular silent killing machine. He lumbers, he menices and he slaughters with his usual flair, no easy task when the production didn’t have enough money to make the werewolf face move. I suspect he was also in the non-Metalbeast werewolf costume as well, but no one is credited for that role.
Probably him though.
One of the main things I was most impressed with was that, despite the film’s smaller budget, the sets and effects were actually pretty well done. Granted, there’s not a whole lot of variation to the sets and the effects they used were minimal, but they used a few tricks and made the most of what they had. It is very much a blessing that the film was made when it was, so everything here is a practical effect and the viewer isn’t subjected to the smathering of crap CGI that similar productions today would surely use. Sure, there’s a couple of very noticeable instances were the slim budget still shows through, like the lack of any facial movement on either version of the werewolf, or the fact that one of the government’s steel security doors that the monster rips through looks like it’s about as thick as a piece of aluminum foil. But for the most part everything looks pretty believable and/or solid.
Your tax dollars at work, folks.
The film’s one major downside is, of course, the plot itself. If you bother to scrutinize any of it for more than a couple of seconds it makes precious little sense. The whole thing feels like it was conceived by an 8-year-old who was only given a GIJoe and a werewolf toy to play with while in the midst of a high-grade fever. Thusly, while all the characters acting may be good, just about all of their motivations and actions resemble little in the way of logical reasoning, and are clearly just an excuse to get from point A to point B.
Yes, I know you’re terrified of the werewolf on the operating table. That’s why we’re going to leave you alone with him without any security. Have fun!
The prime example of this is Butler and Miller. It’s clear that Butler and Miller have a fairly decent amount of knowledge involving werewolves. They know about silver, how one becomes a werewolf, and they know that werewolves turn into mindless killing machines. Yet despite this Butler decides (for some reason we are not privy to) that he will somehow be immune from this transformation. And boss-man Miller is even worse when it comes to the common sense department. He knows Butler is a loose cannon with a bevy of anger issues, yet after he shoots him and sticks him in a cryo tube he’s convinced that Butler is not only going to be happy and grateful to him for (for keeping him alive, one presumes), but that he’ll also be more manageable as a result? I don’t know how long these two worked together, but after spending about 5 seconds with Butler, even the audience can tell that that’s never going to happen. I’m not sure if their decisions are supposed to be due to arrogance or stupidity, but considering these two are supposed to be members of the Intelligence community, they ain’t that bright.
You’re the reason the government needs better mental health screenings.
So is Metalbeast any good? If you want a fun new werewolf movie to watch, then I’d say yes. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not about to say it’s up there with the likes of American Werewolf in London, and the plot is so dumb that sometimes it feels like it only a notch or two above an Original SyFy production, but the movie looks like it set out to be quick and entertaining, and when you look at it like that I think it more than achieved its goals. The music is nice, the acting is better than it deserves to be and, despite the first act being a little slow, the rest of the film picks up after the time skip, and the final act is filled with a bunch of dumb fun. There’s probably not enough blood or nudity to please the gorehounds (and there’s actually very little of both considering the R rating), but if you’re antsy for a werewolf movie or quick late-night flick then Metalbeast may sooth your itch.
Metalbeast is currently streaming on Amazon Prime.
It is also available on DVD.