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Stop me if you've heard this one before: a group of students are led by a professor into a dangerous area, where creatures lurk. I don't know if I'm extraordinarily unlucky or film-makers today are extraordinarily unimaginative—maybe it's a little of both.

On the other hand, take a look at that title. Tell me someone didn't spend a whole 30 seconds thinking that one up. Talk about generic! And we haven't even started the damn movie yet!

“Dirty Martini Productions,” okay, clever name. Anyway, we open with a woman who's clearly been attacked by something—her face is all cut and bloody. A man appears, similarly scarred, and they both run around screaming that they've “gotta get out of here!” They're out in the woods somewhere. Anyway, something off camera swipes at the woman, the man brings his gun around, but the unseen thing is gone. There's a lot of rapid camera work, but no, no sign of the Whatever. But then something that growls a lot decks the man and drags him off, the woman runs through the forrest. She hides behind a tree listening to growling. Then she gets out of hiding—not a good idea, it seems, since she is then yanked off-camera. To be honest, this first bit is genuinely okay.

We get the rest of the credits over some closeups of hands uncovering stuff at an archeological dig. The music is pretty decent, it reminds me of “Screamers.” Fade to white, and we're at a university. A Professor is walking around, meeting students and generally establishing his professor-ness. And he gets a letter that turns down his grant request. Naturally, he is not down with this. But this is just to establish that he is a Good Professor who never gets any breaks. He won't be selling any kids' lives to save his own skin. At least I hope not, or I'm gonna look bad.

And we cut to sleazy rich guy. He's obviously sleazy, the music tells us that. And he's got a topless assistant lounging in the pool. She is, of course, female. He totally ignores her except to order her around. And he calls Professor on the phone.

“Professor, this is Wilson Friels, do you recognize my name?” As soon as the Prof answered the phone, Sleazy Guy's music cut off like THAT. Both Arachnia and Ice Crawlers were both about students led into realms of monsters, and both had Bad Professors, you know if the trend holds, I think we know now who the bad guy is. Thanks, Wilson!

Wilson offers to take up the grant proposal, which is to go up the Amazon to look for the Calusa Indians. The “only catch” is that it has to be done quickly.

Prof's wife comes home, and Prof wants to celebrate. Prof's name is Marta. He pours a glass of brandy or something, and we cut to Wilson pouring himself a “dirty martini.” Hey, he said the production company. The cut between the two shots is very well done. Wilson asks Topless if Derek is back from the gun range.

Derek asks if there's still no word from Carl or Maggie, who I'm gonna go out on a limb here, and assume these are the folks we saw killed before the opening credits. Wilson says it's been a month, they can't risk anyone “stumbling upon them” or the information they were able to get. So, there's a mystery involved here, it's not just people going off to find Deadly Species and then finding them and being killed by them. “As far as anyone is concerned, we're searching for the Calusa.”

Cut to a guy waking up, obviously late for class or something. No one shoots out of bed that fast unless they're late. And we get our next topless shot. Yes, the guy is topless, yes, but I mean the girl next to him. These two will be going on the expedition, I bet. Yes, they're going, along with two other female students. Six so far, not counting Wilson and Derek, but I'm betting there'll be some wacky boatman or something.

Cut to a huge airboat. It has a lot of seats, like a floating church or something. And they're all stowing gear on board. Bed Guy and Bed Gal are getting some gear when one of the female students shows up (I'll call her Tube Top) and Bed Guy is all, “Can I help you with that?” and Bed Gal is all jealous. Marta hopes “the photographer” isn't a no-show. I bet that's the wacky guy! Which of course won't be wacky at all, but it's like pasley, you gotta have parsely, so the customer can throw it away.

Wilson shows up and acts all cool and stuff (ie, like a jerk). The other female student I'm going to call Red Shirt. Photographer shows up next, his name is Laird. And they're off on their three hour tour. Lots of stock footage, people in the boat, rushing water, a croc here and there. Kind of an okay travelogue, I wonder why they insert shots people talking, though. We can't hear what they're saying. Of course, it's probably not important, just there to establish that this is Serious Business and not a bunch of actors being paid to scream and die.

Now, we have our first POV shot, and close up of monster eye. Can't see much, other than the iris is red and yellow and the face appears to be all mishappen.

And the boat lands. Whoa, right near where the POV was! That's pretty good navigating for a movie boat. Wouldn't it be great to see a movie like this where the boat went past the dangerous island, and the rest of the movie was the monsters being all frustrated and angry and blaming each other? No, of course not, that would be dull as some of the things I've watched recently. It's just one of those concepts that people in Hollywood think of all the time, the difference being they don't realize how stupid it is and they make the movie. Now, they probably will make that movie, it'll be a Summer Blockbuster, and I won't see a dime of that action.

Anyway. They disembark and hike through the woods. More nice scenery. I wonder where this was actually shot? Doesn't really look like the Amazon but it's a pretty forest.

They decide to set up camp, and we get some dim comedy.

Wait a minute, Wilson just said he was always fascinated by South Florida. Okay, maybe that's where they are. I coulda swore they said Amazon earlier. Maybe they're counting on you not knowing the difference. Well, if so, it's the first really bad thing about this movie. I'll admit it, so far it's not too bad. We're still in B territory, don't get me wrong, but it's competantly made and is keeping my interest. Of course, we're only 18 minutes in.

Anyway, Wilson says he's an amateur cryptozoologist. I know what it means, you can look it up on Dictionary.com if you don't know. I'll still be here. In fact, I'll put an asterisk here so you can search and find your place again.

*

I'm nothing if not accomodating. Anyway, Wilson talks about the “great healing powers” of the Calusa. And I'm sure we can see his angle for this expedition. A POV stalks the camp while he talks. Derek explains he's a bodyguard, though not in so many words.

Everyone's going to turn in, but then there are monster growls. Marta says a cat, maybe a bear too. Derek says whatever it is, it's completed its hunt and will be leaving. And it's the next morning. A drum roll sounds as folks are walking through the woods. Again, pretty decent music, this time reminiscent of Predator, but with enough individuality so it doesn't sound stolen or anything.

They found Maggie's backpack on the trail. She'd found part of an artefact, which they take. A POV doesn't particularly like this. Prof says the backpack is probably being used as a marker, so it should stay where it is. They continue on their way.

And they find some tents. Probably Maggie's and Carl's I bet, or this cast is going to get even bigger. I mean, we have nine now, and no one's been killed yet. Except before the opening credits, I mean. Wilson clearly doesn't like that they've found the campsite, he doesn't say anything, but you can tell. Everyone's going to check out the area.

You know something? Wilson also reminds me of Jeffrey Combs. Okay, maybe too many people remind me of Jeffrey Combs. Can I help that? I mean, that's like a handicap, I should get to park close to the mall and you should give me money.

Ha, I fooled you! You don't have to give me money, honestly, I was just joking. But thank you, it was a nice gesture.

Wilson finds an Important Bag and goes through it. He finds a canteen and stuffs it into his own pack. It seemed to be empty, I guess he just wanted one and liked this one. And it wasn't important that it was probably drank from by a dead person. Before they died, of course. (It's not a zombie movie, at least I'm betting it isn't. And zombies eat people, they don't drink water. Well, I've never seen them do it, but maybe that's because it isn't cinematic.)

One of the female students (they've changed their clothes, damn it) finds something in the...well, it looks like just a patch of dirt. But folks are saying, it looks like Maggie (Carl too, I bet) found a Calusa settlement. Um, okay. Those Calusas, they liked dirt patches, eh? And they also find a severed leg, which occasions some screaming, so I bet it wasn't part of that whole “look at this Calusa stuff” bit. There's a lot of talk about, should we stay or should we go? Wilson wants to make this the base camp, others want to brave the river full o' crocs and snakes.

In the end, they decide to stay at the camp. I've been watching pretty closely, I guess I missed the part where the boat floated away. Or where it was, um, actually driven by someone else, who, uh, would be back, er, in a few days. No, no, I'm sorry, I didn't miss any of that.

Anyway, they decide to make the campsite workable. It's kind of funny, both times they set up camp, Marta wants to clean the place and cook the meals. Good thing the feminists didn't see this, they'd have had a cow.

Well, they have perimeter lights and a generator. So they are in good shape. And Laird finds a polaroid of...I'm pausing the DVD here...um, I give up. I can't make it out. But he thinks it's pretty important, he sticks it in his pocket after looking around furtively.

Red Shirt (who doesn't have a red shirt anymore, so I'm going to call her Hat) finds some stuff under a plastic tarp. We don't get to see it, but it's important, since next scene Prof is barking orders about searching “based on Hat's find.” No, he didn't say Hat, but he did call Laird “Clegar.” (Maybe that's his last name.)

Oh, now we see under the tarp. It's a skeleton. With a sword through it, from the looks of it.

Off in the woods, Marta finds a stream. “We can use it for cleaning and cooking.”

“No,” Wilson says under his breath, “this isn't it.”

I'm starting to put two and two together, here. Florida, and a race known for their healing abilities?

The Fountain of Youth? But, I'd thought it but legend! Anyway, no guesses yet (thank you, Shark Attack III!) but let's see how this goes. As I've said before, this actually isn't a bad movie. But who knows what might happen? I've seen a lot of promising movies plunge into garbage. But I'm keeping an open mind so far.

Marta goes through this elaborate series of movements to...write on a stick (and no, that's not a euphemism). But something spooks her. She goes off. No POV though, so false alarm. Later at the camp, Hat polishes an urn (not another euphemism) and says, “Hey, Doc, look at this!” and then, we cut to the jungle. We get a decent look at the upper half of a creature's face. It looks like something off the old Outer Limits show. Like the creatures from “Fun and Games” if you remember that one. If not, it's on DVD, you should rent it.

Prof says that only the Calusa warrior who was pure of spirit could take the “Urn of the Elders” into battle. Which I guess this urn is. I dunno, I'm not a warrior, but I could see that carrying an urn that was really sacred and had to be protected would slow me up quite a bit.

Cut to a grotto at the riverside, where Marta has found something, some weird trees with skulls. Wilson shows up and says she's found “the Gates of Hell.” “Somewhere in there is the secret of life and death.” Marta's pretty skeptical of all this, she marks the tree with red tape, but as she turns to leave, Wilson rips it off.

Anyway, Prof does some exposition about the skeletons (there were two) and the rest of the day's finds. Wilson and Marta explain what they found (Gates of Hell and so on). And there's some talk about legends and such, while a POV looks pretty ticked at all this gab and such, maybe wondering why his ancient culture is all poked over by modern types. I'm just speculating.

“We have a big day tomorrow,” Prof concludes. And I'm going to differentiate our non-Marta females. From here on out, we have Hat, Bed Gal and Short-Haired Brunette (SHB). Bed Guy and Laird have been pretty much non-characters, Prof hasn't done a lot except talk and take the reigns of command, and Derek is the strong silent type. That's in case any of you guys think I'm being sexist or something by differentiating women by their visual characteristics. You see, Marta's blonde, the rest are brunettes. But aside from Wilson and Derek, the men are kind of reddish-haired. So there's stereotyping to go around for everyone. Now, this movie's not getting any shorter, shall we move on?

SHB says she wants to “rinse off” and she wants Bed Guy to be there for safety. Anyway, she strips off her clothes, playfully tosses them at him, and sits in the river to wash. Bed Gal shows up and is all pissed. Bed Guy goes off to apologize, which is just the opportunity the POVs have been looking for. They rush SHB and we have one less character to differentiate.

“Hey doc, what's that?” It's a towel someone used to mop up some burgundy. I'm sorry, blood is not that color!

Derek goes off to track SHB and finds a huge non-human footprint.

Bed Guy is in deep trouble with the others because he left SHB when Bed Gal got pissed. Bed Gal says nothing. Ooohhhh, so nice of her!

Hat has some kind of diary she thinks Prof should read. What—right now? It's Maggie's journal. As he starts reading, we flash back to Maggie writing. She senses something wrong. As if a million voices suddenly cried out, and were just as suddenly...um, no, no, that's a different movie. Sorry! Won't happen again. Much.

The main thing they learn is that Maggie was working for Wilson. It's instructive to watch as Prof reads, what Maggie writes. Prof says “Day 7” and Maggie's handwriting looks like “Ehy P.” Now, I don't have the best handwriting in the world, but then, I'm not in a movie, am I? (If I am, I don't want to know about it, because I know what happens to people like me in movies.)

“Last night it killed both assistants,” Maggie writes, noting that she's “really frightened.” You know, a word of advice. Sure, when something attacks you it's a good time to leave, but really, if it KILLS other people around you, that's ALSO a good time to leave. Trust me on this! Writing in your diary by lamplight is very important, I know that, but getting out with hide intact is important too. I do not understand why anyone would hang around where members of the party are being killed. Heck, you're in Florida—you could find civilization or Miami if you just trekked long enough.

Let's try perspective: Imagine you're rich, and are keeping a diary, and have just written “Jeeves the butler and Flora the cook have been murdered today. Ho hum, what? Best to get these entries into the old book before the old midnight chimes, eh? Tomorrow, have to look for those old antiques Aunt Calusa has stashed about. Deuced things are rum hard to find. Pip pip, cheerio, Maggles.”

Anyway, Marta confronts Wilson about all this, he won't say anything though other than “Mistakes were made.” Not his exact words, mind.

Anyway, he gets a photocopy of a photo, which he shows to everyone but us. It's some creature mentioned in some old Spanish journals, and also shown on some of the pottery the crew has been digging up. Wilson guesses that it's “some kind of mutated gator.”

Still some talk about “You should have let us know about this,” to which Wilson says it's just a myth, should I warn you about a myth?

Wilson hits on Hat. Wilson, I'm no ladies man, but it seems a bad time. And Hat pulls out a big knife. Wow, I was right!

It's now night, and Hat (no longer wearing hat) can't sleep. A shadow passes over the tent. But now it's morning. And Hat (no longer with hat) has decided she is outta here. She's going to take her chances with the river. Okay, does anyone think this is a good idea? Does anyone think this idea will work?

Didn't think so. Neither does anyone else in the party, by the way. Sure, leaving sounds like a good plan, but not on one's own. In a horror movie.

Prof goes off to see if he can change her mind, but we all know where this is going. The strange thing is, Hat was (after Marta) probably the brightest of the women. She was able to figure out some of the pictures on the pottery, and she found the skeletons and the diary. She seemed pretty competant. But now she's wandering off in the woods where there are unknown creatures. That isn't smart. And, well, no surprise, a Deadly Species attacks her. So much for Hat. The Deadly Species, by the way, are looking a lot more like those creatures from the “Fun and Games” Outer Limits episode, now that we've (briefly) seen a bit more of them.

Anyway, Derek is setting up some kind of warning system at the camp, and meanwhile, Prof finds Hat's backpack, which has blood on it. And just to put the icing on the cake, he sees her severed head, too. Which ought to send several messages, first and foremost: don't leave the camp alone, no matter what. Two: whatever this is, it isn't a simple carnivore, they wouldn't leave the head. They have some kind of intelligence, albeit a rather nasty one. Three: Hat is pretty much dead, no need to set up a search party. Four: Prof, get back to camp, pronto.

Back at the camp, a POV is watching Bed Guy set up some kind of surveylance thingy. Bed Gal sneaks up on him, and is all mad cos he was scared. Women, eh? Can't figure 'em. Now, there's a fairly heavy rain going on. And Derek has set up his laptop to watch the surveylance things...in the rain. It is raining on his laptop. That is not a good way to treat your laptop, just in case you're looking for laptop advice here. Laptop advice: do not set up and operate your laptop in the rain. Thanks for reading!

Prof shows up, still bloody from Hat, but maybe from something else? He's too dazed to say anything.

Later that night, Bed Guy is watching the laptop to make sure everyone's safe. Prof shows up to apologize. Bed Guy says that's OK, and suddenly the perimeter alarm sounds. But I'm betting it's one of those Predator misdirection things. Maybe. Anyway, Laird goes off because he has to get the picture. And somehow the Deadly Species cut the power. “How could they cut the power? They're animals, man!” No, no one actually said that. But you recognize the line, right?

So, Derek and Wilson and start firing into the woods, basically kind of wildly. Does that ever work?

Anyway, Prof is all mad that the creature is probably scared off, miles away by now. “This is supposed to be a scientific expedition, not one of your goddamn big game hunts!”

Prof...shut up. You've got two people dead on your “scientific expedition.” It's obvious you guys are in trouble. Stop being The Big Moral Guy, you just look stupid wearing that costume.

“You're going to need my guns, Professor,” says Wilson, “so don't lecture me.” Only the fact that Wilson is the Obviously Venal Material-Minded Villain keeps this simple fact from trumping Prof's Overweening Morality and Respect for the Nature that is Killing Them All. But only in the movies.

Derek gives Bed Guy a 9mm gun, he (Derek) is obviously a nice guy and all. Later that night, Bed Guy is having trouble staying awake and all. Nice montage. But he's still watching the laptop. Bed Gal shows up to be with him. She doesn't want to be alone. And she starts initiating romance. And we get the wailing sax music and all, close up of hands, you know the drill. No nudity, though we had plenty of that earlier. And yes, you expected it as much as I did, while this is going on, a Deadly Species shows up, peeking around a tree. But Derek shows up and spoils the show. But not for long! Bed Guy and and Gal go off to have a bit more fun. And a Deadly Species attacks! It claws Bed Guy, but Bed Gal shoots it with the pistol, good for her! But yeah, Bed Guy is dead, though also filled with some kind of poison that may be infectious. Prof touches him and reacts as if burned.

Next morning, Wilson seems to think it's all under control. We're told Bed Gal needs medical attention. Prof and Marta are all mad, “those kids were under our care!”

Wilson counters their concerns by noting that the creature was shot in the face last night, and has probably slunk off to die. Prof asks, “What makes you think there was only one of them?”

Wilson, exasperated, says, “This is not some kind of Deadly Species...it's a freak of nature, a mutant! And I'm going to kill it!” Hey, now we know where the title came from!

Prof looks at his arm nervously (the one that touched Bed Guy).

Marta asks Prof what are we going to do? He says, stay here. She lays into him, about how everyone's been killed and all, so they can't stay here.

“We can't get off the island for another three days,” he says. Okay, I must have missed something about that boat. I apologize to everyone.

Anyway, Marta damns him, and says that he's starting to sound just like Wilson. For stating the obvious? Well, I guess so. Kind of unfair, though. Like if I said, “Two plus two equals four,” you might respond, “Damn you, you bastard! NIXON said the same thing!” “Yes, but--” “No buts, you bastard!”

Anyway, Prof promises Marta that they'll be okay. Laird shows up and says that Derek and Wilson are gone. Prof wants all the cameras gathered together. And we cut to Derek and Wilson. They find another big footprint, but are worried that there isn't any blood. A POV watches them. Kind of a shame, really, Derek was a decent guy, and Wilson I'll bet couldn't help being a villain, despite that correspondence course he took a few years back.

Back to the camp, Laird has set up the cameras all around the camp. And Wilson and Derek show back up again. After some banter, the main thing we learn is that Prof's arm—where he touched Bed Guy—is giving him some problems. He won't admit to them, though. I guess he'd rather endanger everyone than admit there's a problem. What will this mysterious weakness do? Maybe turn him into a Deadly Species! Well, it could happen.

Marta and Prof try to comfort Bed Gal. She's in total shock mode. Etc.

Oh, Marta suggests that she and Bed Gal “get some air” and Bed Gal says, “I really have to go,” and she goes off by herself in the dark woods, and a Deadly Species attacks and kills her. The guys shoot into the woods. Prof collapses, and Marta finally knows that he's been poisoned by the Deadly Species via Bed Guy. They talk about this poison in some depth. Prof notes that the alarm didn't sound when the Deadly Species killed Bed Gal.

There's some emotional confession stuff between Prof and Marta. Not terribly interesting, but I guess someone thought we needed it, so I'm noting it here.

Anyway, Marta goes off to confront Wilson about everything. Wilson, after a bit of banter, decides to spill it all. He admits that what they're looking for is the Fountain of Youth. Remember, I said that earlier. Well, I hinted at it.

Anyway, Prof shows up and has some drawings on his neck, that I guess are supposed to indicate the poison in his blood. He tells Marta to get to the airboat and save herself. But he admits the Fountain is real. Marta can “save [her] hide, or save [her] husband.” She gives in but keeps a gun. And she grabs the urn from earlier and goes off with the others to the Magic Spring. Wilson, Derek, Marta and Laird (hey, the characters with names!) go to look for the Fountain. They find it, I guess, and Wilson fills the canteen he found. (Good for him he took it earlier, I guess). “Gentlemen, this is the day man becomes immortal!”

Well, that's a cue if ever I heard one, and sure enough, at least two Deadly Species appear and, you know, look all menacing and stuff. No, there are four of them! One of them knocks Derek down, another picks up Wilson and throws him so that he lands on a tree stump, which goes right through his chest. He drops the canteen into the water, and Marta goes to retrieve it. (My theory at this point is that it's the only thing that can save her husband.) Another Deadly Species seems to make sure Derek is dead, and Marta screams her head off while several Deadly Species kind of, well, stand in front of her and look like bad makeup effects. (The quick cuts earlier were more effective.) But she runs off.

And Laird is still around, and the two of them run through the jungle...and they run into some Indians. One of them grabs the canteen and throws it away. But Prof is on the shoulder of another one (who looks like an Greek philosopher) and he seems kind of cured. The Greek guy takes the urn, and he and the Indians go to leave. “The water reversed the effects,” said Prof, and when Greek-looking guy leaves, Prof asks, “Just who are you?” and Greek guy flips a coin at him. “Here's a quarter, call someone who cares!” he laughs. No, I just made that up. Actually, it's Spanish dubloon or something. Greek guy is (I'm guessing here) if not Ponce de Leon, then someone who sailed with him.

All the Indians fade into the landscape (like Predators, though I'm sure that's not the intent).

We cut to Laird looking Pensive, and Marta looking Thoughtful and Prof looking Deep in Thought. They're all wondering what they can tell the outside world? And Prof suggests that they say that a make-shift raft overturned, and the others were killed. The three of them must never reveal what really happened. “We owe the Calusa our lives, they deserve to be left alone.”

“We'll just ignore the creatures.” (A paraphrase.) They all agree.

Cut, to someone on a cell phone, listening as a voice describes the benefits that the Fountain of Youth should provide. The voice adds, “Our men should be there shortly.”

The listener wheels around, revealing Laird. “Are you crazy?” he says, “After what I told you?” And cut to black. And our cast listing. Great ending! The best part here, a definite A ending.

And there is a credit for “Airboat Captain” so I guess I missed that bit. Sorry folks, but what the heck did you expect when you started reading this? The secret of eternal youth? Ha, like I'd let THAT slip....

Ouch, bad rock ballad over the end credits. That costs points, sorry. Ouch, even more points—it was written by the director! Yikes-a-roni. Apple gets a credit for all the sound work.

So: not bad. Some cliché stuff, especially in the stock characters and the actions like I-think-I'll-go-off-in-the-words-by-myself. The acting is decent, some of it's actually pretty good, and the scenery is gorgeous. The creature attacks are well-handled and the mystery is kept going pretty well. Some directorial short-comings (the characters see stuff which we don't). On balance, I'd say it's a pretty decent B movie. I'm not sure how high my recommendation would be to you though—if you see it in the rental shop, don't act like you've found the Fountain of Youth or anything. Rent it if you've seen the stuff you wanted to see. Thanks, and remember to be safe while boating.