Metamorphosis (1990)

AKA: Reanimator 2 (Spain)
AKA: Regenerator (UK)
AKA: Lizard – Die totale Mutation (Germany)
AKA: DNA formula letale (Italy)


Dr. Peter Houseman is a young and brilliant up-and-coming geneticist. His current project: working on a serum that will stop the aging process. But his brash attitude and reluctance to share or publish  any kind of updates regarding his findings have thrown him into a corner. When his benefactors become sceptical of his work and threaten to not only to cut off his funding but also put someone else in charge of his project, Houseman takes matters into his own hands. Against the advice of his assistant, he injects himself with the yet-unfinished anti-aging serum he’s been working on. At first he thinks his experiment was a success, but it doesn’t take long for him to realize that the effects of the serum are causing some disastrous consequences.

Metamophosis_2Sticking yourself with an experimental drug is a bad idea? You don’t say?!

Oh, Italy, when it comes to making a cheap rip-off of a successful American film, you certainly are the king. Or at least you try to be, anyway. I admire your moxie. 

Metamorphosis is an Italian produced sci-fi/horror film with an American cast, a meager budget and a very familiar plot. The poor victim this time? Cronenberg’s remake of The Fly. Not only is the film trying to ape Cronenberg’s successful film, the plot similarities between the two are so similar that at times it feels like they just threw the plot points and some new names into a blender and hoped for the best. But while the film may be perfectly serviceable and follows a familiar formula, it’s clear that the creators didn’t fully understand how the separate elements of the formula they were trying to emulate actually made that film work.

But hey, at least they didn’t try to tie the movie into an already existing film series like they did with Witchery (Spain gets that distinction this time.) 


For starters, let’s get the plot out of the way. If you’ve seen Cronenberg’s The Fly, you’ve basically seen Metamorphosis. A visionary scientist on the brink of a momentous discovery that could change human life as we know it is at risk of having his funding cut. He gets into a relationship with a woman that could further his ambitions. She, in turn, has a guy friend who not only seems to follow her around, but is clearly pining away for her despite her clear disinterest. The scientist makes himself a guinea pig in his own experiment and slowly begins to transform into something not quite human, but can’t tell for a period of time that this is a bad thing. There is a useless bar scene. Dude starts to really transform, kills a jackass, puts his girlfriend (and her son) in mortal danger in order to ‘fix’ himself, while sporadically muttering exclamations of ‘don’t look at me.’ 

Metamophosis_4_1Hey, he asked nicely.

So yeah, it’s basically the same movie, plus more boobs, less coherence, and an ending that was so bad (and looked so bad) that it made me burst into a fit of hysterical laughter. And of course then they made it worse by adding the prerequisite ‘twist’ to the ending that made the final act of the film even more lame, which I didn’t think was possible. I don’t know how I was expecting the movie to end, but it wasn’t like THAT, and instead of being angry I just felt sort of depressed because of how sad and pitiful it was. 

Metamophosis_4Here, have a look at him before everything went to pot.

Then there’s  the acting which is….fine, I guess. One of the actresses was a waitress that was hired right before production, if that tells you anything. So it’s about on par with what you’d expect a movie like this to have: a couple good eggs thrown in with a lot of wooden acting. Sadly the main characters end up being a lot more ‘meh’ than some of the more engaging side characters. The asshole professor who spends most of the movie tormenting Houseman was probably the best of the bunch. That dude played his role to the hilt and clearly enjoyed himself. Though I suspect that some of the issues with the characters likely stems more from the many bouts of cringy dialogue than it does from the actors themselves. Granted, all the bad dialogue in the world doesn’t excuse that mediocre acting, but I concede that one can only do so much with the material given.

Metamophosis_5The kid’s acting was terrible, but I’ll be damned if his glare wasn’t on point.

Metamophosis_6I loved this smug asshole.

Finally, there are the effects which are, well, less than great. Actually, considering the general cheapness of the whole production, most everything related to the visual design of this film leaves much to be desired. While some of the makeup effects related to the first couple phases of Houseman’s transformation are perfectly fine, the rest of the film makes it clear that the production’s financing was never going to live up to the conceptual vision of the film. The first level of Houseman’s ‘transformation’ is achieved with colored contact lenses, much of the film is supposed to take place in a University, but is clearly filmed in a High School, “offices” look more like cubicles, and the good scientists’ final transformation looks like a cheap Halloween costume that looked so ridiculously bad that they had to pour a metric ton of inexplicable mist over it so that you wouldn’t see the zipper in the back. 

Metamophosis_7High tech shit.

Metamophosis_8Pffft….oh, come now….

All of this may have been forgiven, had the movie gone for the excessive ‘gore’ route that many of these inexpensive Italian rip-off films tended to use. But alas, we’re not even treated with that. The film’s got very little blood and a very small body count. So disappointment all around.

Though you do get a moment of body horror…. there had to be a better way to inject this shit.

So is Metamorphosis any good? It’s….okay. It’s a ripoff that plays everything so close to the book that I think Cronenberg could have had a good legal case against them if the whole thing weren’t so… sad. The acting is stiff, the characters are dull, the dialogue is bizarre and the effects range anywhere from decent to hysterically bad. But while I wouldn’t say it’s ‘good,’ I will say that it was amusing. The dialogue is amusing, the horrible acting is amusing, the inclusion of the random Christmas moments is amusing (sorry, Santa) and the ending, that may be the most amusing thing of all. If you like mediocre horror/sci-fi so you can mock how bad it is, then you may come away with the same amusement that I did. At the very least, it’s a good example of how the same general plot that worked great in one film, can then be turned around, reused and mangled into something that doesn’t work.

Metamorphosis is currently streaming on Amazon Prime and (free!) on Tubi TV. I was actually having trouble with the audio on Amazon, so Tubi may be the way to go if you don’t mind the quick commercials.

It is also available on Bluray as part of a double feature with Beyond Darkness (AKA La Casa 5).



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