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Project Viper

A genetically engineered supercreature meant for the Red Planet is loose on planet Earth

*Project Viper
*Starring Patrick Muldoon, Theresa Russell, Tim Thomerson and Curtis Armstrong
*Directed by Jay Andrews
*Written by Curtis Joseph and David Mason
*SCI FI Channel
*Premieres Saturday, April 20, at 9 p.m. ET/PT

By Kathie Huddleston

T he space shuttle Olympus orbits Earth in preparation for the first trip to Mars. On board the shuttle is V.I.P.E.R., a hybrid that combines gene microbiology with computer chips to create a life form that will adapt to any climate, specifically Mars. Its job is to terraform Mars to make it habitable for human life. When something goes wrong and the shuttle crew is killed, the finger is pointed at V.I.P.E.R.

Our Pick: C-

Taking no chances, the order is quickly given to take control of the only other V.I.P.E.R. prototype. Captain Mike Connors (Muldoon) is dispatched to make sure V.I.P.E.R. is secured, but by the time he gets there, two intruders have attacked the research facility and stolen the prototype. Connors kills one intruder, but the other escapes with V.I.P.E.R.

The theft appears to be an inside job, and the team that created V.I.P.E.R. is put under scrutiny. But when the prototype is traced to a plane that has crashed just north of the Mexican border, Connors and the project supervisor, Nancy Burnham (Russell), rush to the crash site. By the time they get there, the remains of the thieves look like oatmeal, and V.I.P.E.R. is gone.

Connors and Burnham head toward the nearest town, only to find the local sheriff (Thomerson) investigating two missing people. What Connors and Burnham know is that the scene of the missing people looks too much like the scene on the plane. V.I.P.E.R. is on the loose, and it's killing anyone in its path.

As Connors, Burnham and her team move in to find V.I.P.E.R., more people go missing and the sheriff knows that something is going on that's killing the people of his town. Connors and Burnham begin to track the creature, but V.I.P.E.R. has plans of its own—and it's hungry.

Just another creature-run-amok flick

There's nothing much special about SCI FI's latest movie, Project Viper. It's not clever, funny or scary, and it doesn't take much to figure out what's going to happen. The V.I.P.E.R. monster is kind of cool once it grows up, but unfortunately, the idea behind the monster, a genetically engineered supercreature that's "too smart to have an off switch," is never really utilized.

Intelligent monsters are always more fun to watch, and while V.I.P.E.R. is supposed to be very smart considering the computer chips and all, it never acts particularly smart. The paint-by-numbers screenplay goes for it all, right down to having a small, isolated town full of munchable residents. It's the same creature-feature material the much better Tremors made fun of so well in 1990.

It'd be nice to be able to say that the actors made the flick watchable, but their characters are walking cliches, and they've been much better in other projects. Russell, Thomerson and Armstrong, all of whom have the potential to be very entertaining, are wasted. Muldoon, as Connors, fares worst of all, because his dialogue is just terrible. He's given continual insults to say in what is supposed to pass for clever repartee with Burnham. At a certain point, it's tempting to yell at Connors to stop being such a smartass.

Considering the probable low budget, the monster special effects are creative and well done. There are some quality monster kills and an effective scene where V.I.P.E.R. is chasing a car. Still, there's little else to distinguish this flick from the dozens of other similar creature features that have been done in the past.

So why watch it at all? If you have a life, don't. However, it's another Saturday night and there's nothing else on television. Sometimes even a bad science-fiction movie is better than no science-fiction movie at all. But mainly, it's just way, way better than SCI FI's Project: Metalbeast. — Kathie

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Also in this issue: Frailty, Human Nature and Disappearance




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